KANSAS CITY — When Donovan Jackson signed with Iowa State, he was under the impression that Naz Mitrou-Long was graduating and that Monte Morris was going pro. Fellow Milwaukee native and his longtime recruiter, T.J. Otzelberger, was also still on the staff.
On April 8, 2016, so much changed.
Jackson learned that Morris was coming back just like the rest of us – through an internet video.
A special message for Cyclone Nation! pic.twitter.com/jsKr1pt6wW
— BigGame (@MonteMorris11) April 8, 2016
“I saw that and then my phone blew up,” Jackson said. “Everybody was asking me if I was going to de-commit. I was overwhelmed. The coaches called me and I was like, ‘Man, this isn’t what I signed up for.’”
At the time, Jackson was being selfish, which was totally appropriate. It’s his life, his career. When you are one of the top JUCO guards in the country and only have two years to play at the next level, you have every right to be selfish. To accomplish your personal goals, you need to play immediately.
A backcourt loaded with Morris, Mitrou-Long and Matt Thomas was sure to put minutes at a premium for “Donny Jack” during his first year at Iowa State.
“I thought I was going to be wasting my time,” Jackson said. “But my mindset has totally changed.”
Jackson put a lot of trust in Steve Prohm, who swore that he would make this work.
It’s cool to see how this has worked out for all parties involved. Jackson went from being disappointed that Morris was coming back to being roommates with Iowa State’s all-time leader in assists and steals.
“Monte called me after he announced that he was coming back and we had a long conversation. He talked about how we were going to be playing side-by-side,” Jackson said. “At that time I wasn’t trying to listen to what he was trying to say. We started living together and then my whole mindset started to change and now I just pick his brain about the game.”
It’s a darn good thing for Iowa State that Jackson stuck it out too. Loaded backcourt and all, the Cyclones have needed him in rout to a 12-6 conference season that tied Iowa State for second in the Big 12.
After a slow start, the Iowa Western (previously Milwaukee) product says that things finally “clicked” for him in a win at Oklahoma on Jan. 21. Jackson played 25 minutes in that double overtime win – the most he’s played in a Big 12 game all year.
Since that game, Jackson is 18-for-33 from 3-point range (55 percent).
There is no way the Iowa State would have won at Kansas without Jackson, who had 10 clutch points in the win.
“I thought that everybody was going to be gone and I would come in here and rock out,” Jackson said. “I’m glad that they stayed here. I’m learning a lot from these guys.”
It’s been a solid first year for Jackson – a first year that will more than likely pay off next season when his role will be catapulted into team leader and more.