Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

June 27, 2012

BSC’s Jackson teaches techniques

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — A new basketball camp arrived on the scene this week, but it’s not all about getting the big ball into the hoop. Camp director Jamaal Jackson, the head men’s basketball coach at Bluefield State College, sees a bigger picture.

“I’ve always liked being involved with young people, helping them and teaching them some life skills along with basketball,” he said. “I use basketball as a vehicle to teach them some other life skills.”

Teamwork, motivation, determination, and the ability to work under pressure are skills “that you not only have to deal with in the sports field, but in life in general,” he said.

There are around 32 children taking part in Jackson’s first camp in the Ned Shott Gym on the BSC campus. During a lunch break earlier this week, Jackson took time to talk about carrying on a family legacy of helping children.

He said, “My mother’s a longtime social worker. My father is a retired teacher, and he’s been coaching the whole time — he still coaches high school. So, I think it’s just been instilled in us, if we’re in a position to help somebody, we do it.”

“I love working with these young kids. They’re happy every day. Not only are they learning about basketball, but they’re having a good time.”

Sidney George, 13, of Northfork said, “My mom wanted me to get out of the house, and to get active and have fun. And learn new things.” By Tuesday he had already started learning more about how to execute the “pick and roll” on the basketball court.

He said he was enjoying the week with the other campers. “They’re fun. They’re cool,” George said.

Jackson has been co-director of basketball camps at two institutions where he was an assistant coach, Stillman College in Alabama and Kentucky State University. He has also been on the staff at several Five-Star Camps and for eight summers has been an instructor at the camps of former NBA point guard Kenny Smith.

“From my freshman year in college, I’ve been working as many as I could,” Jackson said. He quoted a mentor, Jim O’Brien, who told him, “If you’re serious about coaching, the best way to make contacts and network is to work summer basketball camps. That’s  where you pick up not only skills, but the knowledge.” Jackson said, “It’s turned out to be true.”

He feels satisfaction when he sees a former camper he’s worked with on TV, he said. “Some kids I even stay in contact, now, through Facebook and other means. I follow a lot of kids that I’ve worked with,” he said.

“I feel like I had something to do with [their success]. Of course, God gave them the talent and everything.

“A lot of times coaches like to take the credit, and say ‘I did that,’ or ‘I taught him how to do that,’ but I like to feel that ... even if I had a minute, little, one thing I said to him throughout the week, I like to think I had a hand in that [success] some way.”

Now, he is getting the opportunity to ramp up his own mentoring for some young men about how to teach and to coach.

Vincent Rogers, who will be a senior this fall on Jackson’s Big Blues squad, is on the camp staff. So is Devontae Royal, who finished up his eligibility earlier this year and will be a student assistant in the upcoming season “while he finishes his degree,” Jackson said.

A third assistant is 6-foot-8 Christian Jugah from Nigeria, who has transferred to Bluefield State and is expected to join the team this fall.

Jackson said, “I love my guys. They’re still at the age where they can move around, and stand on this hard court for six hours a day for four days.

“If they want to get into coaching, this is where you start at. You’ve got to learn how to coach. Some kids, they’re wired up, so you’ve got to learn how to calm kids down, and keep them on task. You’ve got to learn how to teach a skill, teach fundamentals.

“Plus, I want to give these kids somebody to look up to. They can come to games throughout the season, and they can point to the court and say, ‘I know him. He’s my coach!’ That’s a big thing for them.”

George said the camp staff members “help us a lot. They’ve taught me new things, that I never knew.”

The McDowell County resident said he had attended camps before, “but to me, it’s a lot different” at the BSC camp. “At other camps, they try to do things to get us strong. Here they teach you new things.”

Jackson said it was “six or seven years ago” since the last similar camp at Bluefield State.

Though no one knew what kind of enrollment to expect, Jackson said, “I was hoping for some good numbers. From the word around campus, the numbers are bigger than what was anticipated.”

“Our camp recruits itself. I publicize it, I put out brochures and things like that. But the way we recruit through camps — the kids who came this year, they’ll go tell their friends that they had a good time, they learned basketball.

“Their parents will go tell their friends, ‘My child had a good time.’ Parents want their child to be safe [and to] be treated right. So they feel if their child was safe and treated right, they’ll continue to come. They’ll tell their friends, it was a good, quality camp, it recruits itself that way.”

He hopes to double the enrollment next year, “and each year we look to grow,” he said. “Eventually, we may have to be turning away kids. I hope that’s not the case.”

The cost of the camp was $60. He said, “The kids from around our region, we’re not a lot of upper-class kids. I want everybody who wants to participate, to give them a chance. I had to have some kind of registration fee, just because I’ve got to pay my staff and cover our overhead, but we’re definitely not getting rich off the camp.”

He is exploring ways to drive down the cost even further.

“The more sponsors I can get, the lower the registration fee is,” he said. “Hopefully, eventually I’ll get enough sponsors that I can run a free camp. That’d be great.”

He is currently getting help from Kwik Kafe and Zides Sporting Goods, he said.

Jackson is also getting plenty of support from his family. Helping out at the gym this week were his wife Mary, his uncle Sherman Dean and his father, Jesse Jackson.

“He’s the REAL Jesse Jackson,” Jamaal Jackson said with a chuckle. “No relation to the Reverend.”

— Contact Tom Bone at

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