Dante' Jackson's long awaited visit to Ann Arbor will finally occur this weekend when the Wolverines host the Indiana Hoosiers in the regular season finale. While it doesn't appear that his mother will be able accompany him on the visit, he will be joined by McClain athletic director Pat Stevens, and head basketball coach Rick Van Matre. Jackson values the influence of those two mentors and feels they have had a great deal to do with his development. While that may be the case, both Stevens and Van Matre give the young man himself a great deal of the credit.
Jackson's selflessness and maturity are evident every time he steps foot on
the court. Stevens saw further proof of that when Michigan head coach Tommy
Amaker made his second trip to Greenfield in February. On a night when it would
have been easy to focus on himself and Amaker's presence, Jackson made sure
the spotlight stayed on his teammates.
"He knew Tommy was there before the game," Stevens recalled. "The kids came off of the floor with five or six minutes to go to go back upstairs and do last minute stuff. He ran smack into 'TA' as he was coming off of the floor, so he knew he was there. Dante' does a good job of not letting things like that affect him. He does a really good job of keeping the focus on his teammates. We started all seniors that night. Dante' did not start. It was our last home game and we traditionally start all of our seniors on senior night. Dante was the first guy off the bench cheering for people and rooting people on. It was very special to see how he handled that. He is the kind of teammate everybody wants."
Van Matre is equally taken aback by what he sees as a genuineness that is often times lacking in many of today's young athletes. "Dante' is just unbelievable," Van Matre said. "He is a true leader. He's tremendous with the other kids, he's very unselfish, and he's very hard working. He is very mannerly. The thing that really impresses me is whether it's a seven year old kid or a 70 year old lady, he always has time for them. He doesn't big time anybody. He is not that kind of kid. He is a very personable kid and I think a lot of that has to do with the way he has been raised."
Both Stevens and Van Matre have been around Jackson long enough to see him mature into the young man that he is today. They often make reference to what they perceive to be an outlook on things that is beyond his years. One clear example of that is how he reacts to sometimes not being mentioned in the same breath with other top Ohio players like Daequan Cook, David Lighty, and Jon Diebler. The lack of recognition of his array of skills just doesn't faze him. He is much more concerned with helping his team win. When asked why Jackson isn't more acclaimed in the Buckeye State, Van Matre expressed some confusion over the issue himself.
"I really haven't watched those kids closely enough to know exactly how Dante' stacks up with them," said Van Matre. "What I do know is Dante' is a special kid. If you put him in a situation where the game is on the line, I guarantee you that he'll play. Every time you move the level of competition up, he moves his competitiveness up…and he's an unbelievable competitor when the game is on the line. So I wouldn't trade him for any of those kids."
GoBlueWolverine will have more on Jackson in the coming days, as well as in next month's issue of GoBlueWolverine the Magazine.