Years ago, when the dream had yet to fully crystalize in his mind, Demetrius Jackson made a heartfelt pledge.
“I promised my mother that I would buy here a new home,” recalled Jackson Tuesday on the campus of Notre Dame.
“That’s one of my goals and hopefully someday I’ll be able to accomplish that.”
Jackson took the first step toward achieving the privileges that come with a professional basketball career when he decided Tuesday with Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey and announced Wednesday his intention to enter the NBA draft and bypass his final year of eligibility with the Irish.
“It will be a dream come true,” Jackson said. “It’s been my goal for such a long time. To be able to reach that goal is an amazing feeling.
“After speaking with Coach (Mike Brey) yesterday, we came to a decision together. He’s really been a great mentor for me. Talking with him definitely helped me come to a decision.”
Jackson becomes the first junior to leave Notre Dame for the NBA with a year of eligibility remaining since Troy Murphy made himself available for the 2001 draft. Murphy was the 14th overall pick of the Golden State Warriors.
A year later, Ryan Humphrey was tabbed in the first round as the 19th overall pick by the Utah Jazz.
Jerian Grant was selected with the 19th overall pick a year ago by the Washington Wizards, and then dealt to the New York Knicks.
“As a competitor and wanting the best for myself, it definitely matters,” said Jackson of the importance of being a first-round selection. “That’s my goal and I’ll work for that.”
Jackson said the injury to Irish football player Jaylon Smith had no bearing on his decision to enter the NBA draft. He said he decided to go ahead and find an agent and proceed with his desire to enter the draft as opposed to going to the mid-May combine in Chicago and leaving the decision open-ended.
“Just the positive feedback and I thought it was the best thing for me,” said Jackson of his decision. “I just wanted to take the opportunity.”
Jackson said he’d use the next couple weeks to say his thank yous around the campus and choose an agent some time during that span. He’ll decide his course of action in terms of workouts/strength-and-conditioning through his agent. He declined to specify which agencies he’s considering.
Jackson will immediately remove himself from classes at Notre Dame and will not complete the semester.
“I’m going to talk to our academic advisor to work on a plan to finish up,” Jackson said.
When asked how much schooling he needed to complete his undergraduate degree, Jackson said, “I’ve still got a long way to go.”
Jackson said Notre Dame’s NCAA tournament runs the last two years played a role in hastening his decision to begin his professional career. He said he was pleased to have helped change the way Notre Dame basketball is perceived in the local community.
“We’ve changed the culture of post-season play,” Jackson said. “When I was in high school, people talked about how Notre Dame would lose in the first round every year.
“People don’t say that about us anymore. We’ve really been able to accomplish great things and make history.”
Jackson expressed his gratitude to his foster family – the Whitfields – for helping him grow as a person.
“As a foster kid, going through different foster homes, trust is definitely difficult,” Jackson said. “To come into a home where I could be myself, be comfortable and be loved by a great family definitely helped me gain trust.”
Jackson expressed appreciation for the opportunity provided him by Notre Dame.
“To be part of such a great family, to be able to experience and grow here and learn, it really meant a lot to me,” Jackson said.
Jackson kept coming back to thoughts that occurred to him while growing up and dreaming of becoming a professional basketball player.
“When I first picked up a basketball, I didn’t really see myself making it to the highest level,” Jackson said. “But I kept working toward that goal ever since I set it at a young age.”
Asked what a 10-year-old Demetrius Jackson would think if he were standing in the back of the room, watching a much older and wiser Jackson announcing his decision to become a professional basketball player, he said: “A 10-year-old me would probably be crying back there with tears of joy.”