Jackson shifts to hoops
The UH football player is on the basketball team, too, still banging against bigger guys
Though Marquez Jackson's mornings are a lot more peaceful these days, the afternoons can still be pretty rugged.
Jackson has gone from taking shots from defensive backs during the Hawaii football team's morning practices to trying to make them on the court with the Rainbow Warrior basketball squad. And although he's traded in his pads for now, the 5-foot-8 guard still often finds himself banging around with bigger guys during the team's workouts.
"The game is a lot more physical (than high school)," Jackson said after the Rainbows' 3-hour session yesterday at the Stan Sheriff Center. "Even though it's basketball, it's still physical."
Jackson is on leave from the Hawaii football team until the spring, freeing up his fall and winter to concentrate on playing basketball.
Jackson began the fall semester as a redshirt freshman with the Warrior football team hoping to win some playing time as a backup slotback or returning kicks. But when head coach June Jones brought up the possibility of playing basketball as well, Jackson jumped at the opportunity.
"It actually wasn't on my mind," Jackson said. "At the end of my freshman year I thought about trying out, but I didn't think I'd have an actual chance. As soon as I got back (associate basketball coach Bob) Nash and Coach Jones had talked about it, that's when it came about.
"Basketball has always been my first love -- I played basketball my entire life. ... I just thank Coach (Riley) Wallace, and Coach Nash and Coach Jones for giving me a chance."
Jackson last played organized basketball in 2005 as an all-state performer at East Hall High School in Gainesville, Ga., where he helped the team to two state championships.
But football proved to be his path to a Division I college scholarship. He didn't play the sport until his junior year of high school and caught 52 passes for 848 yards as a senior, earning all-area honors.
Jackson's quickness on the court was part of the reason Jones offered him a scholarship, and Jackson signed with UH in the spring of 2005. He redshirted last season and knew playing time would be tough to come by this season as part of a young and talented group of slotbacks led by sophomores Davone Bess and Ryan Grice-Mullins.
"It's hard to get time in the slot, we're really deep," Jackson said. "I was going to be a punt returner, but Coach told me I probably wouldn't be getting that much time."
When he started working out with the basketball team during the Rainbows' preseason conditioning program, it meant some long days for Jackson. Football practices run from 7 to 9 a.m., with classes filling the next 4 hours. He then reported to the gym for basketball workouts from 3 to 5 p.m., followed by study halls at night.
"It was a hectic schedule, but it was all in order," he said. "I could manage it."
Now that he's concentrating on basketball, Jackson is working to learn the Rainbows' system while adjusting his game to the college level.
"It's certainly different from high school," he said. "You have to pick up the speed and you have to be more physical because I am the smallest person on the court most of the time, but I make up for it."
"He works everyday, he's trying to learn, he's quick," Wallace said. "He's got to learn to use his quickness against bigger, stronger guys and when he does that then you might find some time for him to help out, to break a press or do something like that.
"You can tell he's played. When he gets away from a guy stronger than him, he makes good passes, or he knows where to look."
Jackson remains on a football scholarship and would like to try doing double duty with football and basketball again down the road. For now, at least he can set his alarm a little later.
"I can sleep in a little bit 'til 9:30 now," he said.