Darnell Jackson, a 6-foot-9, 235-pound power forward from Midwest City High School in Oklahoma got his first taste of AAU basketball this weekend during the Nike Memorial Day Classic in Bloomington, Indiana. The Athletes First team is loaded with talented players and Jackson appears to be the focal point of this year’s squad.
The State of Oklahoma prohibits AAU basketball teams from participating in any AAU events until the school year in complete. While most of the AAU teams around the nation have already played in a handful of events, Athletes First is just getting started.
While they are clearly at a disadvantage, it did not show this past weekend at the Nike Memorial Day Classic. Athletes First advanced to the Elite Eight of the tournament, but got beat by the Martin Bros., the team that ended up winning the 17 and under championship.
Big man Darnell Jackson was a big part of Athletes First early success. He showed great improvement from a year ago and appears to be headed in the right direction.
Jackson was much more aggressive on both ends of the court, which was an element that was lacking last year. He ran the floor extremely well for a big man and has great footwork. He moves well without the ball, rebounds with authority and does a good job of shielding off his defender on the offensive side of the ball.
Jackson did not score many points this weekend, but the opportunity for him to do so was there. When he receives an entry pass and has position in the paint, he must use his upper body strength to put the ball in the basket.
Athletes’ First head coach Kermit Holmes spent a few minutes with RivalsHoops.com and gave us the latest update on his star forward.
“I have no idea if Darnell is visiting Oklahoma today (Wednesday) or not,” Kermit Holmes told RivalsHoops.com. “I know that Kansas and Oklahoma are the two frontrunners.”
Earlier this week it was reported that Kansas was the lone leader for Jackson’s services. Bill Self seems to be a coach that many of the top players in America really like. As for Jackson, he is no different.
“Bill Self has been down three times to see Darnell,” Holmes said. “He’s been down as the Illinois coach and he’s been down as the Kansas coach. Kansas is definitely one of the frontrunners for Darnell.”
If there is one individual that knows about Jackson and his abilities, it is Coach Holmes. He has coached him during the AAU summer circuit and now he is coaching him in high school.
Jackson transferred to Midwest City High School and Holmes is the assistant coach at that very school.
“Darnell transferred to Midwest City high school, so I’m one of his coaches during the school year,” he said. “I’ve had him for the past three summers and he just keeps getting better and better. He has taken a back seat to some other players the last few years, but he is going to be the focal point this summer.
“We’ve had players like Sheldon Williams, Keith Smith, J.R. Giddens and Jeremy Case in the past,” he added. “We’ve got another solid team this year with Jackson, Quentin Chaney and Clent Stewart, but Darnell will definitely be the focus of this team.”
The future looks bright for Coach Holmes and the Athletes First program. They have some extremely talented freshman and sophomores that are ready to play now.
Once the entire Athletes First team has a firm grasp on the system, they will be a highly successful team.
“I think we were the only team in Bloomington that hand not played a game before we arrived for the tournament,” he said. “Most of the other teams had played in other events, but this was our first.”