Shacamra “Shay” Jackson is the last remaining player from the Clayton State NCAA Div. II national championship team. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)
MORROW — For Shacamra Jackson there is some added pressure not only because she is one of three seniors on this season’s Clayton State roster.
As the last link to the Lakers’ 2011 NCAA Division II national championship team, Jackson’s role as a leader is greatly magnified.
“Coach (Dennis Cox) told me that this is my year,” Jackson said. “It is not any added pressure that I can’t handle. I’ve been here four years, and I know what it takes to get there.”
Her knowledge of a deep playoff run and her skill sets is what Clayton State coach Dennis Cox is hoping to help lead the Lakers back into the NCAA tournament. The defending Sun Belt Conference champions were the league coaches’ favorite to repeat.
Jackson, who is nicknamed “Shay” by her teammates, has been a solid performer for the Lakers so far this season. She is leading the team with a 15.6 points per game average and also averaging a team-leading 7.7 rebounds per game. In 11 games this season, Jackson has blocked 39 shots.
Last season, the 6-foot-1 forward/center was named the Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Year.
“It is my senior year, and I have to step up and play as hard as I can,” Jackson said. “I have to make the best of my last year here, and I’m doing whatever it takes to make it happen.”
“She is our leader,” he said. “We are absolutely relying on her to instill our philosophy into the younger players. She has to remind and teach everyone what it took for us to become a champion. We don’t have the depth we had for that championship team, but we are counting on everyone to do their part.”
While Jackson is being counted on heavily by the coaches and her teammates, she is not alone in helping lead the Lakers, who are 8-3 overall and 3-1 in the Peach Belt heading into this evening’s conference contest against visiting Young Harris.
Junior forward Yishica Sims has been a big addition. After sitting out last season after transferring from Broward College in Florida, the Jackson native is averaging 12.6 points per game. Alabama State transfer Andrea Benford has also been a big asset to the team.
“We have two good players that are really helping a lot,” Jackson said. “I had to step up big last year, and go all out. We graduated a lot of good inside players from last year’s team.”
Last season, Jackson teamed with Kayla Mobley and Shannon Smith to give the Lakers a formidable presence inside the paint. Mobley was named NCAA South Regional MVP after the team’s win to send them to the Elite Eight.
“Shay makes our defense so much better,” Cox said. “She has become a much more consistent scoring threat for the team. In the past, we have been more of a perimeter team, now are more post-oriented. We are starting to rely on her more for her scoring as well as her defensive skills.”