SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Frank Jackson fits the mold of an elite basketball player.
The Duke commit is draped head-to-toe in all black – black Lone Peak jersey, black undershirt, black leg sleeves and a pair of black Nike Kyrie 1’s, a shoe model designed specifically for former Duke point guard Kyrie Irving. The 6-4 combo guard can intimidate an opposing defense at first sight, and he’s even more of a terror on the court.
He’s listed as a guard, but Jackson plays all over the court. Against St. Francis (Alpharetta, Ga.) at the 2016 HoopHall Classic in Springfield, Mass., he demonstrated the skills which make him such a feared opponent and one of the top players in the country.
He’s more than just a guard.
Jackson opened his scoring on Saturday with a bang. He intercepted a St. Francis pass and stormed his way down the court for a ferocious dunk early in the first quarter. His impact was felt long after the slam, pouring in 49 points over the course of the double-overtime thriller which ended in a 94-92 victory for St. Francis. Jackson was named player of the game for Lone Peak.
“I’d rather have the win,” Jackson explained. “But I know my guys trust me, and I trust them. They trust me with the ball.”
Jackson explained that the game plan against St. Francis was simple – play defense and get boards. He led his team in rebounds (nine) and steals (three). Four of his rebounds came on the offensive end, as he consistently fought to keep the possession alive.
He plays both on and off the ball on offense, and he never stops moving. Whether it’s fighting in the paint for a rebound, getting his hand in the passing lane for a steal or fighting through screen after screen to get open for a shot, he’s always the most active player on the court.
“I just try to play all aspects of the game,” Jackson said. “To be a great player you’ve got to do those things: you’ve got to get rebounds, you’ve got to play defense. I’m still working on those things, but that’s my focus.”
As the game became more competitive, Jackson refused to shy away from the competition. With 3:05 remaining in the fourth quarter, Jackson danced around a screen and drilled a three-pointer to tie the game 65-65. He drew two fouls late in the fourth, and slashed to the hoop for a game-tying layup with 4.2 seconds left in the fourth, sending the game into overtime.
Jackson is Duke-bound this fall, and he only plans to advance and grow until then.
“Just keep improving my game, just getting better and better every day. I’m excited to get out there next year.”
Jackson wasn’t the only player who shined on Saturday. St. Francis’ Kobi Simmons led the Knights with 34 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists. Like Jackson, his play only elevated down the stretch. Late in the third quarter, Simmons nailed back-to-back three pointers, the second of which gave St. Francis a 43-42 lead. He scored 25 points in the second half alone.
“This is my fourth year playing for Coach Catlett,” Simmons said. “So when my whole team looks at me and says ‘let’s get it going’ I’m going to get it going, I’m going to bring the game back and then we’re going to go back to smart decisions.”
Much like Jackson, Simmons has the ability to be all over the court. At six-foot-six, he has size and length on his side, but his quickness to be the first one up-and-down the court may be his biggest asset.
“I feel like that game has brought me very far since the summer. Getting back on defense, blocking shots and rebounding. I’ve been committed to rebounding. I try to do everything for my team, and for a personal goal as well.”
While he often falls into the role of lead scorer, Simmons is constantly trying to get his teammates involved. His passing skills were on showcase against Lone Peak. From bounce passes to behind-the-back dimes, Simmons created the best shots for his teammates.
Simmons said he sees himself as a point guard at the collegiate level, even with his off-ball skills.
“The right play is always important,” Simmons explained. “I’ve learned that, my game has been growing and growing. I have great players around me on my team. Just making the right play, I know they’re going to finish.”