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Slam Dunk
Valencia's Lonnie Jackson is Breaking Records and Building a Reputation
February, 2010 - Issue #64
Lonnie Jackson
Lonnie Jackson
Anyone who thinks boys basketball players need to leave the Santa Clarita Valley to get noticed by college programs needs to swing by Lonnie Jackson's house and take a look inside his family's mailbox sometime, or listen to his ringing phone and watch as he does his best to keep up with all his e-mails.

Major college programs are more than noticing him. They're smothering him.

Valencia head coach Rocket Collins says he has received letters inquiring about the junior guard from seven different Pac-10 Conference teams: UCLA, USC, Stanford, Washington, Washington State, Arizona and Arizona State. Jackson says he's also received letters, phone calls or e-mails from Kansas, UC Santa Barbara and Pepperdine.

Arizona State has been the first to make a scholarship offer. More will follow.

"It gets annoying sometimes," Jackson says of the constant overtures. "But it means a lot to me. My goal has been to get as many offers as I can get so I can have a lot of choices."

With the way Jackson has performed, he figures to have plenty of options.

Rivals.com has taken notice of his potential, putting Jackson on its top 150 list for the class of 2011. At 6-foot-3 and growing, he has the height to play guard at the next level. With the numbers he's produced while with the Vikings, he has proven he has the skills.

The Vikings have never had someone with his knack for putting the ball in the basket.

In a win over Grant High on December 8, Jackson set the Vikings' single-game scoring record with 38 points. He played just 18 minutes, sitting out the game's entire fourth quarter.

"If it was close and he played more, it could have been 50," Collins says.

Jackson, having broken Valencia's single-season scoring record with 23.1 points per game last year, has been even better this season. Through Christmas, Jackson averaged 26 points per game, his 18-point performance in the opener his only sub-20 point game. Jackson, for the second year in a row, is also Valencia's leader in assists and rebounds.

The guard hasn't failed to reach double-digits in scoring since he was a freshman. Only once in his sophomore season did someone other than him lead the team in scoring.

"Teams are probably going to grab him, bite him, do whatever they can to slow him down but he's going to score," Collins says. "What I like about him this year is he'll have games where he'll score 25 points and I won't even notice because he doesn't need to shoot every time to get his points. He doesn't need to be the center of everything to lead us in scoring. He can be productive in it in a lot of different ways. He can shoot the three, drive to the basket, get offensive rebounds and when his shot is off, he's like Kobe (Bryant). He's smart. He'll get to the free throw line and he's a great free throw shooter."

Jackson shoots the way he does because of the way he works.

He's not easily satisfied. His take on his performance after his first four games, a 3-1 start in which he averaged 23 points: "I wasn't shooting the way that I should be shooting."

"I always feel like I can get better," he says. "My favorite thing in the world is an empty gym. Me and my dad, we'll get in there and go to work. Practice makes perfect. I believe in that. Every time I'm in a gym with a basketball, I treat it like it's a real game."

Jackson's father, Lance, is a former Taft star and college basketball player. He markets the Shotmaster, a training device worn as a harness that builds muscle memory by forcing players to shoot properly and cut out bad habits. Among teams that have used it to train their shooters are the San Antonio Spurs and University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers.

Naturally, it's a big part of the Valencia junior's training as well.

"Every time I work with my dad, I'll take the first 100 or 200 shots with the Shotmaster on, making sure I'm consistent and shooting the same way every single time," Jackson says. "I just want to be the best that I can be. I've been that way since I was a little kid."

Is the work worth it?

Based on the rate in which he's chasing down Valencia High records and the amount of drool he's creating from college basketball coaches, it seems pretty safe to say that it is.
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