In April 2016, the Loyola men’s basketball program (7-2) signed a player from McLennan Community College to a national letter of intent, after the player averaged 15 points and seven rebounds per game.
Fast-forward to December 2016, and the signee has already made quite the impact on the men’s basketball program. The junior forward has accumulated honors such as the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) Newcomer of the Week and MVC Co-Player of the Week, and was named to the Paradise Jam All-Tournament team, all in just three weeks.
Who is this player, and what’s the key to his success?
His name is Aundre Jackson, and his junior campaign is putting his name on the MVC radar. Through nine games, Jackson has turned into a strong weapon off Loyola’s bench and in the starting five after taking over for the injured Donte Ingram. The Kennedale, Texas, native leads the Ramblers with 17 points per game and is second on the team with five rebounds per game.
Scoring in double digits in every game so far, Jackson took off during the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands in mid-November. He averaged 17.3 points per game during the three-game tournament, which was enough to land him a spot on the all-tournament team.
Jackson’s skill and athleticism didn’t stop in Paradise. He came back to Chicago even stronger and had a near-perfect game against San Diego State University, shooting 11 for 12 to achieve a season-high 24 points.
Despite Jackson’s success, head coach Porter Moser didn’t place Jackson in the starting lineup until he was forced to as a result of Donte Ingram’s sprained MCL.
Jackson said his success didn’t come without hardship. The exercise science major said he started playing basketball at a young age, and through the years, he had to learn how to adjust his playing style because of his size.
“I’ve always grown up smaller than everybody, so I’ve just learned to maneuver in the post,” said Jackson.
Standing at 6-foot-5 and weighing 230 pounds, Jackson has no problem dominating the paint despite being shorter than most other big men. Jackson replaced graduated senior Montel James, who played Jackson’s position last season for the Ramblers.
Jackson said he has a lofty goal for this season: to leave his mark on The Valley.
“I want to be known in this [conference],” Jackson said. “I’d love to make the First-Team All-MVC, and I want to be Newcomer of the Year.”
Head coach Porter Moser said his plan for Jackson throughout the recruiting process was to make sure he gets playing time. Because Jackson is a junior college recruit, he has just two years to develop compared to four years for a first-year recruit.
Moser compared Jackson’s shooting ability to that of 2015 graduate Christian Thomas, who averaged 10.5 points and 5.3 rebounds per game during his time as a Rambler.
“He’s going to remind you of Christian Thomas, as an undersized guy,” Moser said. “He has a tremendous ability to get angles and put the ball in the [basket], and we’re still trying to find new ways to get him the ball down [low].”
Couple the ability to maneuver with a .571 three-point percentage, and it seems as though Jackson is all set to put up consistently big numbers this season. But, according to Moser, those numbers can be even bigger if Jackson improves one part of his game.
“To be able to take two dribbles and get to the rim quick, I think that’s the area where he hasn’t scored a ton,” said Moser.
Junior co-captain Ben Richardson said it was nice to have someone like Jackson transition to Division I basketball with so much confidence. Richardson said he isn’t surprised by the box scores or the impact Jackson has had on the team.
“We’ve all known it was coming since the summer,” Richardson said. “Just to have him come in and play with such confidence his first year has been really big.”
The men’s basketball team is scheduled to be back in action when it takes on Wright State University on Dec. 7. Loyola is scheduled to close out its four-game homestand against the University of Milwaukee on Dec. 10.