In the latest installment in his "Forgotten Legends" interview series CHN writer Jon Teitel spent some time with Centenary great Willie Jackson, the school's all-time leading scorer while also ranking second in rebounding. Aptly nicknamed "The Legend" by players when an assistant at his alma mater, Jackson is now the head coach at Loyola College Prep in Shreveport, Louisiana.
Jon Teitel: Your nickname is "Legend". Who gave it to you, and how do you like it?
Willie Jackson: The nickname was given to me by some of my players when I was an assistant coach at Centenary. I like it because it showed me that they respected what I had accomplished during my college career and what I tried to teach them.
JT: You went to Sibley HS, where you won 100 straight games over a 2-year span and won a state title in 1980. How were your teams able to be so dominant, and what did it mean to you to win a state title?
WJ: We practiced hard, played well as a team, and respected each others' skills on the basketball court. We grew up together and went to the same junior HS, so we knew each others strengths/weaknesses. Winning a state title felt GREAT! I knew that all the hard work that I had put in during my younger years had paid off. It was a very exciting time, as the whole town was behind our team. To this day, people still talk about that state championship team.
JT: In 1983 you led the conference in scoring (24 PPG) and rebounding (9.1 RPG), which has only been done by one other player since then (Florida Atlantic's Mike Bell). What was your secret to scoring, and what was your secret to rebounding?
WJ: My secret to scoring was being resilient, having a never-quit attitude, spending countless hours in the gym, and having teammates who relied on me to make shots. My size was also a factor, in that I was able to bring big guys out to the perimeter. I could also post up smaller guys, and if they played a zone then I would shoot the ball from deep. As for rebounding, I was tough, blocked out well, and was able to anticipate where the ball was going to go.
JT: You are the only three-time conference POY in Atlantic Sun history. Do you think anyone will ever match that feat, and how were you able to remain so consistent over the length of your career?
WJ: You have to remember that I played before they instituted the three-point line. I am sure that someone will match that feat because there are a lot of good basketball players in the conference who can play the game. However, it is going to have to be a four-year letterman who is consistent and remains injury-free. I was able to remain consistent because I was injury-free, and I had an attitude of doing my best every time that I hit the court.
JT: You are still the all-time leading scoring in Atlantic Sun history. Did you realize at the time how prolific a player you were?
WJ: I really did not, to be honest. A lot of people told me how great a player I was, but I was very humble about my talent and took it in stride.
JT: You finished your career as one of only 10 players in NCAA history with 2500+ points and 1000+ rebounds (Harry Kelly, Oscar Robertson, Elvin Hayes, Larry Bird, Michael Brooks, Dickie Hemric, Calvin Natt, Bill Bradley and Elgin Baylor). What does it mean to you to be in such prestigious company?
WJ: It is truly an honor to be among those names, as several of them are Hall of Famers, so I am extremely happy just to be mentioned in that company.
JT: In the summer of 1984 you were drafted in the 4th round by Houston (four spots behind Rick Carlisle). Were you thrilled to realize your dream of getting drafted or disappointed that you did not make the team?
WJ: I was excited to be drafted, but also disappointed that I did not make the team because I thought that I had a decent showing in camp. I can remember sitting in Coach Bill Fitch's office on the day I was cut. He told me that he was going to have to let me go because he needed veteran guards around the young big guys that he had (rookie center Hakeem Olajuwon and second-year center Ralph Sampson). It was a rainy, stormy day in Houston and I was flying home on Continental Airlines. I can remember praying to God to please not let me be cut and die all in the same day. Thank goodness only one of those two bad things came to pass!
JT: In 1989 you were inducted into the Louisiana Basketball Hall of Fame. Where does that rank among your career highlights?
WJ: We have a lot of great basketball players from the State of Louisiana. All you need to do is look at the list (which includes Joe Dumars, Karl Malone, Pete Maravich, Shaquille O'Neal, Robert Parish, Bob Pettit and Willis Reed). I was inducted in 1989 in my first go-round as a young man, but over the years I have grown to understand the significance of being inducted at such a young age. It ranks very high on my list of accomplishments.
JT: You currently work as head coach at Loyola College Prep in Shreveport, where you are the winningest coach in school history. What makes you such a great coach?
WJ: I instill in my players the importance of preparation, trust in your teammates, and having a winning attitude.
JT: When people look back on your career, how do you want to be remembered the most?
WJ: I want to be remembered as a good person, a winner, and someone who people could trust both on and off the court.
Jackson is also on Jon's list of best players in Summit League history.
Centenary: Willie Jackson (1984) 2535 PTS (#1), 1013 REB (#2), 205 STL (#2), 112 BLK (#1), 3-time conference POY
IPFW: Sean Gibson (1993) 1765 PTS (#1), 965 REB (#1), 137 STL (#5), 60.7 FG% (#1), conference POY
IUPUI: Carlos Knox (1998) 2556 PTS (#1), 204 STL (#1), 208 3PM (#3), 83.3 FT% (#5), 3-time All-American, national POY
North Dakota State: Ben Woodside (2009) 2315 PTS (#1), 640 AST (#2), 176 STL (#5), 228 3PM (#3), 82.4 FT% (#4), conference POY
Oakland: Carvin Melson (1973) 2408 PTS (#1), 1204 REB (#1), All-American
Oral Roberts: Caleb Green (2007) 2503 PTS (#3), 1189 REB (#2), 53.9 FG% (#4), 3-time All-American, 3-time conference POY
South Dakota State: Mark Tetzlaff (1985) 1931 PTS (#1), 1132 REB (#1), 60.7 FG% (#1), All-American, NCAA D-2 MOP
Southern Utah: Jeff Monaco (2001) 1568 PTS (#2), 547 AST (#1), 225 STL (#1), 256 3PM (#1), 87 FT% (#1), conference POY
Mo. Kansas City: Michael Watson (2004) 2488 PTS (#1), 357 AST (#3), 173 STL (#2), 391 3PM (#1), 79.9 FT% (#3)
Western Illinois: Joe Dykstra (1983) 2248 PTS (#1), 89 FT% (#1), 3-time All-American, 2-time conference POY