Dec 26, 2012
After a one-year hiatus, Quentin Jackson returns as coach of Raleigh’s Word of God Christian Academy — making its sixth consecutive appearance in the HighSchoolOT.com Holiday Invitational.
Led by Washington Wizards point guard John Wall, the Holy Rams won the Holiday Invitational championship in 2007 and followed up the effort with second-place finishes in 2008 and 2009. However, after leading the team to a fifth-place tournament finish in 2010, Jackson wants to make sure Word of God gets off to a good start.
“We’re honestly looking to get out of the first round,” he said.
The talent-laden Holy Rams boast at least four seniors expected to play high level college basketball next year. Point guard Josh Newkirk (Pittsburgh) and small forward Shane Whitfield (Lehigh) have committed, while Dont'e Reynolds and Jaquon Brownridge are still fielding offers.
“It’s just a good balance,” Jackson said of his talented squad. “Our practices are very competitive and you can accomplish a lot of things because they are so game-like.”
Jackson said his prior relationship with Newkirk, one of only two players remaining from Jackson’s 2010 squad, has made coaching this year’s team easier.
“He bought in from Day 1 and the rest of the guys have followed him,” Jackson said. “Familiarity comes from playing games together, but what (the Holiday Invitational) does, is put (the players) on a stage that is similar to a college environment. It’s a big-time stage.”
While many teams use the Holiday Invitational to prepare for conference and post season contests, Jackson looks at the three games as a continuation of a season-long test.
“If you look at our schedule … you’re not going to play many teams in the country that are better than (the schools we’ve played),” Jackson said. “We play some big games prior to the tournament, and what I try to do is create an environment where the big lights don’t come into play.
“We try to create a schedule where every game has that type of environment.”
However, he doesn’t believe his team’s tough early schedule and the fact Word of God is making its sixth straight appearance in the Holiday Invitational necessarily makes the Holy Rams the favorite.
“I don’t know if we have an advantage – even if (the other schools) haven’t played in this tournament, they have played in some big time tournaments around the country,” he said. “We want to play like an underdog.”
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