Jonathan Jackson uses one word a lot when he talks about the future of the Crossett girls’ basketball program — “excited.”
“I am excited and I can’t wait for basketball season,” he said Monday. It was the first day of school in the Crossett School District, but he was already looking forward to Nov. 16, when the junior and senior girls teams will play their first game, hosting Lakeside.
Jackson has taken the girls basketball coaching job, following the four-year tenure of former coach Shanae Govan Williams, who is now coaching at Magnolia High School.
“I am excited for the simple reason that I have forgotten more basketball than most folks ever know,” Jackson said. “I am going to do my best. I am setting my goals, we are going to to get it started early and get them, (the players), excited.”
Jackson comes to the Crossett School District from an assistant coaching job at Arkansas Baptist College.
The Little Rock native is a 1991 alumnus of Philander Smith College and has a graduate degree from Henderson State University.
His experience as a player began at Hall High School in Little Rock. He was a two-year letterman at Philander Smith. He also spent 10 years as a player on a semi-pro exhibition team, the Arkansas Express.
He got his start coaching with Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball, and then got a job offer at Arkansas Baptist, which at that time was a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA); he was the coach during the 2003-2004 season when the Buffaloes won the U.S. Collegiate Athletic Association’s (USCAA) Division II national championship. That year he was named the USCAA Coach of the Year.
After several years at Arkansas Baptist, he went to Henderson as an assistant coach and earned a graduate degree in 2005. Later, he returned to Arkansas Baptist, where he worked with legendary coach Corliss Williamson. He served as an assistant coach at Episcopal Collegiate School in Little Rock.
Jackson followed Williamson to the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, assisting there from 2009 to 2013. After that, he returned to Arkansas Baptist, which by that time had joined the National Junior College Athletic Association.
“When I went back, I helped back and forth with the girls,” he said. “That is what shifted me to the girls, but because of that I have been a coach in the NAIA, (junior college), Division II and Division I.”
Jackson said he thought that the Crossett position seemed like a good opportunity when he first heard about it.
“I have been trying to get into a school district, and had applied for a couple of jobs, but this school caught my attention,” he said. “It is a young program, and this arena has only been built three years.”
When he says it’s a young program, he’s not joking. Five seniors graduated out of the girls’ team last year, and the team Jackson will lead courtside will include five ninth graders, four tenth graders and one junior.
The coach said he doesn’t want to make promises about what they’re going to do, but his focus is going to be on basic, fundamental basketball — right down to right hand dribbling, left hand dribbling, and passing.
“My plan right now is to play man-to-man, full court,” Jackson said. “We are outside, but I am trying to get these girls’ legs where they can run up and down the floor.”
By the start of school, the team had already been working out for three weeks. Jackson said he’s not looking to create some kind of miracle season, but said, “I am getting these girls ready. I am going to bring some college basketball to these girls.”