Justin Jackson's Journal

Future Tar Heel Justin Jackson updates his path to Chapel Hill with regular journal entries at InsideCarolina.com leading up to his enrollment. In his newest entry, he discusses the end of his senior season and his trip to see UNC's NCAA Tournament game.

Holding Our Heads High
Posted by Justin on March 26, 2014

A lot has happened over the last month or so since I talked to everyone. I think the word "finality" probably best describes it.

Earlier this month, my high school career came to an end. There were a lot of emotions involved with my final game. First, let me say how proud I am of my coaches and my team as we won a state title in Texas for the second-straight year.

People think that because it's home school basketball and home school teams that we don't work as hard and that we don't practice with the same energy and heart as other types of schools. I can tell you that is just not true.

In the national championship tournament I thought we played really well all the way through. In the actual championship game we played, maybe, our best game of the season.

Honestly, in our heart we felt like we won. We lost to the same team who beat us last year. Now you never want to use officiating or the circumstances of the game as an excuse, but one player on the other team shot 32 free throws by himself.

It's tough to know that we gave our all in a game we felt like we should've won, only to have it taken away from us. Still, I'm happy with the season we had and, as I mentioned, am very proud of my teammates and coaches.

I fouled out of my last game – something I didn't do that often in my career – and I can remember my emotions as I walked off the court. It was sad knowing it was the end, but there was also a part of me that couldn't hold my head down.

Every time I stepped on the court, I felt like I gave it my all. Not only that, I felt like off the court I tried to set a great example for everyone watching in the home school community and outside of it. It definitely was frustrating, but I could only be so upset.

Even after all that, I don't think it hit me that my high school career was over until a few days later. The morning we were supposed to have practice during a normal season, I was mentally prepared to go but then realized it was over.

After a moment of sadness, I got excited because the next time I put on a jersey in a game that counts it'll be Carolina blue.

I saw a lot of Carolina blue this weekend in San Antonio. Not long after the tournament games and sites were announced, my mom mentioned driving out there and watching the team play.

Of course we all wanted to go, so we headed out to watch the team play Providence on Friday. This one was a little different because we didn't talk to the coaches or players or go to the locker room. We didn't really do anything with the team, so it was just us being fans more than anything.

The game got me pumped, that's for sure. Just being so close to being at UNC, and so close to the court, I wanted to put on a jersey and play.

It was, hopefully, a good preview of what I'll be experiencing in the NCAA Tournament next year. It was an also an eye-opener. In the tournament you have to play every game as hard as you can, because even teams who might not seem as good can get hot and steal a win.

I'm glad the guys came out on top because it was crazy watching Bryce Cotton. He put on a show, but we got the victory.

We weren't able to attend Sunday's game because my brother, Jonathan, had an AAU game. After he finished, we rushed over to a Buffalo Wild Wings and watched most of the first half. We ate real quickly then drove home and watched the last five minutes at home.

The result hurt us, though obviously not as much as the players and the coaches. The team played really hard and in that kind of pressure situation anyone can make mistakes.

However, they blew people's expectations out of the water this season, which is really good. A lot of people counted them out of going to any tournament at the beginning of the season, let alone winning 12 straight games and beating a bunch of great teams.

After the game, me and my dad were talking and he was saying he wished we could've been there and that maybe something would've turned out differently. Then again our car ride home would've been terrible, so maybe it was for the best.

When I got home from a study group Monday, I logged onto Twitter and saw that Marcus was returning to school next year. That makes me really excited. He's a great player and a great guy off the court. He always makes everyone around him better and I'm really looking forward to playing with him.

We have a chance to be really good next season. People get crazy on Twitter and social media with their expectations, especially for us freshmen. But if we go in there, work as hard as we can and just get better for the team, then I think we can make a really long run.

My last two games before Carolina are coming up in the next few weeks. On Saturday, we'll fly to Chicago to start practices for the McDonald's All-American Game. I've heard how intense those practices are and I'm looking at it as just another chance to get better. It's also cool that I'll be able to spend some more time with Joel and Theo.

After that, we head to the Jordan Brand Classic in Brooklyn. It's in mid-April.

Hopefully I'll see some of you at one of the two events.

Talk to you next month,

- Justin

Previous Entries
Feb. 25, 2014 - The Craziest Environment
Jan. 10, 2014 - Road Trip to Carolina
Nov. 13, 2013 - Signing Day
Oct. 15, 2013 - Home-Schooled
Sept. 3, 2013 - Summer 'Vacation'
June 6, 2013 - Gaining A Future Teammate
April 17, 2013 - AAU Ball
April 1, 2013 - UNC Basketball Camp
March 13, 2013 - My First Week As A Tar Heel

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