James “Boo” Jackson has come a long way since he was a freshman at Eastern Michigan University in 2000.
Jackson is playing for the Los Angeles D-Fenders of the National Basketball Association Developmental League – the Triple-A of the NBA.
It’s been a long journey for the forward who turns 28 on Wednesday, and he said he’d like for it to include a stop on an NBA roster.
“Always that’s the main goal,” Jackson said. “As long as I’m still doing what I love to do, I can’t complain.”
He was a partial qualifier academically, which caused him to be unable to play for former EMU coach Jim Boone in 2000-01.
As long Jackson earned his bachelor’s in four years, however, he would be granted a fifth-year of eligibility. And he did so.
He double majored in communications and theater arts as an undergrad and worked toward a master’s degree in his granted season in 2004-05.
“He was an overachiever, and I mean that in a good way,” said Boone, who coaches Tusculum (Tenn.) College, about Jackson on and off the court.
Boone said he recruited the then slender, lanky Jackson at a basketball camp in Pittsburgh, where he played high school ball.
Boone said Jackson was more of a perimeter player until he “fell in love with the weight room” at EMU.
Jackson blossomed as a junior and senior, when he averaged 10 points and eight rebounds in 58 starts.
He was no longer an outside player and spent most of his time inside the arc. He missed all five of his collegiate 3-point attempts.
That inside-to-midrange game has continued in his first season in the NBDL. Prior to Sunday’s game, Jackson was averaging 13 points and five rebounds in 23 minutes off the bench in seven games.
He led the D-Fenders, who are affiliated and share facilities with the Lakers, with 21 points in a loss Friday.
The D-Fenders are 5-3 after defeating the Idaho Stampede, 123-112, on Sunday. Jackson had seven points and three rebounds.
Prior to singing a one-season contract, which is the norm in the NBDL, Jackson played professionally in more than 10 countries – including Venezuela and Germany – following his collegiate career.
“It was almost something I was supposed to do,” he said. “I got to travel and see things.”
But Jackson said he couldn’t pass on the chance to play in the U.S. again, though, and Los Angeles was a perfect fit. He made the team during a summer try out.
And when his basketball career ends, he’s left in Hollywood to fulfill a different goal – working in the movie industry.
The NBDL spans from November-April and has 50 games. Jackson spends his offseasons playing in summer leagues and running a basketball camp for kids.
“James is a very diverse young man,” Boone said. “As good a basketball player he was, he was a better person.
“I’m just really happy he’s doing so well and made everyone so proud. He’s one of my favorites.”