Dec 27, 2013
The HighSchoolOT.com Holiday Invitational is no stranger to top talents. This year’s field is no different with 11 of the top 30 players nationally in their respective classes. What is different, however, is how one of the top players got to the stage.
The No. 8 ranked prospect in the nation – No. 1 at his position according to ESPN – has all the pedigree to be attending a private academy or a high school hoops factory. But UNC signee Justin Jackson is home-schooled and plays for a program called Highschool Christian Youth Academy based in Houston, Texas.
"People think of homeschool kids as people who just stay at home in their PJ's," Jackson said Thursday before taking the court at Broughton High School. "We have to go out there and show them that homeschool kids can play ball too."
HCYA head coach and director of the program, Mike Decker, said that Jackson may be treading some uncharted waters.
"This is the first time, to my knowledge, (a homeschooled player being this highly recruited) has happened," Decker said. "I've been doing this for 20 years, we've had several kids go D-I and were very good basketball players, but to get this kind of notoriety, he's the first one."
Taught by his parents until middle school, the prep prodigy now takes co-op classes with other homeschool kids, in addition to dual credit courses at a nearby community college in Houston - all while maintaining a flawless 4.0 grade point average.
"Not many people do it, it's not for everybody," Jackson said.
Jackson’s school workload dwarves the amount of practice time he and his fellow homeschool Christian Youth Association teammates are granted. Together they're only allotted two sessions a week together, four hours tops. So honing his on-court skills requires even hours of personal time piled on his plate.
"He's very graceful," Decker said. "He plays hard on both ends of the court. If you haven't seen him play, you'll be very surprised."
Graceful and grace-under-fire. In front of a crowded HSOT Invite house, Jackson dropped 36 points on Word of God in a blow-out win over the tournaments defending champions.