Ask most high school sophomores where they want to go to college, and you might get in return a blank stare as opposed to an actual answer with any certainty. However, ask Dante' Jackson what school he wants to go to, and he will narrow it down for you pretty well.
The 6-5 sophomore guard from Greenfield (Oh) McClain has the world on his shoulders in the South Central Ohio county of Highland. There are very few people in his hometown that don't know who Jackson is, and few who wouldn't want to be him.
Through it all, though, Jackson manages to keep a level head and a polite smile. Even amidst all the success for Jackson, who averages 24 points and 11.7 rebounds per game, it's still about the team.
That team of his is 21-2 on the season and bracing for the biggest game of the year to date Sunday at 2 PM at the Convocation Center in Athens against Logan Elm. The winner ends up back in Athens for the regional semifinals.
"Oh yeah, it's a huge game," Jackson exclaimed Thursday night. "This is the type of game you play for. It's going to be great."
When Jackson, who has had season highs of 37 points (twice), 19 rebounds, and 15 assists, does talk about personal success, it's not about the overwhelming statistics. It's not about the fame, and it's not even about the fact the likes of Ohio State, North Carolina, Kentucky, Michigan, Cincinnati, and Michigan State would like to have him.
It's about the little things that make him a winner that he is.
"I probably take the most pride in my defense actually," Jackson said. "I'm not the most athletic guy out there, I'm not the best player out there, and I'm probably not the quickest, but I try to be the absolute best defender that I can be."
"Our coach has always said that he wants us to try to play tough defense and get easy baskets off of turnovers, so that's always my goal when I'm playing defense," he added.
In addition to averaging a double/double, Jackson has the sort of stats that show how well rounded his game really is. You might say it's a testament to how much a team player he is.
On the season, Jackson averages 6.9 assists, 3.2 steals, and nearly a block per game. He also shoots 57% from the field.
If there's any one weakness, it might be his shooting. He recognizes that, and seems determined to improve.
"I've been working on my shooting a lot," he acknowledged. "I've been working on stepping out and shooting the three a lot more. I've been working on that a lot. Also, I want to get a little stronger. I want to be the type of player that is a threat to shoot from anywhere on the floor, and I also want to be strong enough to match up with anyone I play against."
Whatever Jackson has done to this point, it's been good enough to get him this far.
Jackson has already garnered interest from so many of the top programs in the country. One of them, Ohio State, is in his backyard, and he's made a living watching the Buckeyes on television and in person.
Last Sunday against Wisconsin, Jackson was sitting with freshman commitment B.J. Mullens of Harvest Prep, watching the Buckeyes from behind the bench.
"It went pretty well. Other than losing the game, it was a lot of fun," Jackson recalled of his trip to Columbus. "It was really good to see Mr. Havilicek get honored at halftime. He really deserves it. I got to go into the locker room after the game. The team was really down and upset about the loss."
Ohio State heads up the large list of teams Jackson is considering early on.
"Right now I'd say it's Ohio State, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Michigan is right up there, and Xavier as well," Jackson named off. "N.C. State, Arizona, Clemson, Miami (OH), and a lot of others are in there too."
Of all those schools, only Xavier has officially offered a scholarship thus far. That's something even Jackson realizes will change very soon.
As for favorites, Jackson isn't timid when it comes to naming them.
"Honestly, it's probably going to come down to OSU and Kentucky," Jackson predicted of his final decision. "Ohio State is the hometown team and Kentucky is a great program also."
That's a rare prediction to be able to make for most sophomores. Then again, Jackson isn't like most. The folks at McClain High School sure don't mind.