Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
-Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there were 1.5 million home-schooled children in 2007 (the most recent year for available statistics) in the United States. Last year, Justin Jackson became the first home-schooled young man ever to make the USA Basketball U16 team.
The 6’7″ wing from Spring, Texas has been a bit of a trailblazer for the growing homeschooling movement. In 2011, Justin won the Maravich Award, which is given annually to the best home-schooled basketball player in the United States. This year, Jackson was honored with the Sullivan Award, which is bestowed upon the top home-schooled player who has already won the Maravich Award.
Jackson plays for the Homeschool Christian Youth Association, which is a Houston organization of home-schooled kids that gather to play sports against other programs. Along with Danrad “Chicken” Knowles, Jackson, an efficient and potent wing, helped lead his HCYA Warriors to a 37-13 record, including wins in January at the Flyin’ To The Hoop Tournament in Ohio, where the then-sophomore was named to the All-Tournament team. Later in the season, in front of thousands of spectators, HCYA went on to win the undisputed national championship of homeschool basketball by defeating the Oklahoma City Storm 63-50 to capture the National Gold Ball, homeschool basketball’s highest team prize. Following the season, MaxPreps named the Texan to its Sophomore All-American team.
At home, Jackson, the oldest of four, is nurtured by his parents Lloyd and Sharon, who met as students at Blinn College in Texas, where his mother played basketball and his father was on the track team. Twice a week, Justin attends classes locally to strengthen his education. Jackson, a cerebral, pious, and poised young man, earned a 4.0 grade point average while taking a challenging class schedule that included Calculus.
Last summer, Jackson teamed up with Duke recruits Jabari Parker, Theo Pinson, Tyus Jones, and Jahlil Okafor to help lead the USA Basketball 16U team to a gold medal at the FIBA Americas 16U Championship in Cancun, Mexico. Jackson averaged 10.4 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 1.4 steals per game, while his team went undefeated throughout the tournament.
This year, Jackson, a rising junior, has been the leading scorer for a balanced Houston Hoops 17U AAU team in Nike’s EYBL. The Texas sharpshooter has shot 54.2% from the field, including 41.3% from beyond the three-point arc, and 82.4% from the charity stripe. Houston Hoops, the AAU organization which helped develop incoming Duke guard Rasheed Sulaimon (an AAU teammate of Jackson’s last season), has won fifteen of its twenty EYBL games and looks to be major contender for next month’s Peach Jam Championship in South Carolina.
I recently spoke to Justin about a plethora of issues, including his faith, experience winning a national title, playing with USA Basketball, being a role model for home-schooled kids, and Duke’s interest in him.
How do you feel you’ve played so far during your AAU season with Houston Hoops?
I feel like, individually, I’ve played really well. Our team has done pretty well. We’ve lost a heart-breaker or two, but, individually, I think I’m playing pretty well.
How do you compare it to the competition you face on your high school schedule?
In high school, I’m obviously one of the key guys for my team. I feel like I’m a key part on this team, but we have so many good players. So, I just have to come out here everyday and work as hard as I can and everything will come from that.
For the sake of the audience, can you explain both your affiliation with Homeschool Christian Youth Association and how you currently go about home schooling?
Yeah, sure, as far as the HCYA team, all of the home-schoolers in the Houston area come try out for our team and then, just like a normal school, they break them into the varsity and the JV and the other levels. Then, for the actual school, I go to private tutoring on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
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