The Montclair State men’s basketball team currently has a 14-6 record, and they are on a five-game win streak. Much of their success this season has come from the newest member of the 1,000 career point club, junior guard Mike Jackson.
Jackson comes from Jersey City, New Jersey, and stands at 6’3. He had a decorated high school career as he also hit the 1,000-point mark for Marist High School before transferring to Union City High School to complete his career.
Jackson gained knowledge from many coaches along the way and has always understood the importance of coaching.
“I was at Marist High School in Bayonne for two years, then I transferred to Union City under coach Morano,” Jackson said. “He just gave me a green light, so I scored my 1,000 career points in Mount Marist in my junior year and it’s the same as here now. As a junior again, at Montclair State, to be under coach [Justin] Potts and coach [Sean] Rossi, to kind of be coached hard, and it isn’t easy. I liked to be coached, so I came here under coach Potts and coach Rossi. They said we’re going to coach you and be on you. And I just built into the system and I love it.”
Making his friends and family proud, Jackson hit the 1,000 mark against New Jersey City University. The moment was surreal for Jackson and it was more special to him because he did it in his hometown in front of everybody.
“They were on me for that, they were like are you going to score it here back at Jersey City or go back to Montclair State and do it?” Jackson said. “I wanted to do it at Montclair [State] but you know how coach Rossi and coach Potts said to ride by the whole dawn and not play the game like they would’ve known about it.”
Jackson knew it was important to stay true to himself in terms of his play but also credits his coaches and teammates for helping him get this far.
“So I just stayed locked in, played my game and I got it,” Jackson said. “That was amazing and I have to give all credit to coach Palazzi and all the behind-the-scenes where he rebounded for me and 1,000 shots and all the coaches being behind and just getting in and getting multiple shots up and I have to give credit to my teammates, I couldn’t do it without them.”
Jackson leads the team in scoring with a career-high 18.5 points per game and has emerged as one of the top players in the entire New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC). The junior has mastered his routine, he keeps school at the forefront, however, it is straight to the gym when he is done.
“I keep my grades up,” Jackson said. “Then immediately after I just get into the coach’s office and watch film and get on the court to get 5-1,000 shots a day with coach Palazzi and Henry. So I appreciate coach Palazzi for rebounding for me. Just maintaining the routine every day of the week and that’s how my numbers increase and stay efficient.”
Kyree Henry, junior guard and one of Jackson’s best friends, has had a front-row view of Jackson’s development since he arrived at Montclair State. They were roommates freshman year, and Henry has seen all of the behind-the-scenes.
“He’s grown a lot since freshman year,” Henry said. “He’s a fantastic player on the court and off the court he’s an even better person. It shows if you put the work in, results will show in for itself. I’m proud of him. Mike is a hard worker on the team and he’s going to bring guys in to go to the gym to keep on working.”
Early on during their careers at Montclair State, playing time was sometimes hard to come by, especially as freshmen. Henry recalls Jackson always trying to be involved and asking questions.
“He wasn’t playing as much as he wanted to, he was just asking,” Henry said. “He stayed locked in and always asked questions, he asked how he would get minutes. It’s a season where there’s going to be injuries, suspensions and anything that happens, he just stayed locked in and waited for his time.”
Jackson mentioned that his upbringing and his family, who supported and encouraged him no matter what served as his inspirations. Jackson’s love for the game of basketball originated from his relationships with his family and those in the neighborhood where he lived.
“It’s just where I come from, it’s just hard to make it out from Jersey City,” Jackson said. “The projects, you know, it’s very hard to come out of, [because] you see a lot of bad things around you and young kids get sucked into it and they don’t have a father figure or like nobody to push them. So for me to not be following in that footsteps, and following what’s going on is a blessing and first generation to come to Montclair and go to college. It’s a blessing for me and I appreciate my family and friends, everybody for keeping me out of the streets and keeping me with a basketball in my hands and staying on the basketball court. It’s a blessing and I give it all to them.”