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Jackson at Work Behind the Scenes for Fullerton : Titans: The junior forward’s impressive numbers are easily overlooked in the glare of the spotlight on teammate Genia Miller.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Little of this was Claudette Jackson’s idea, but most of it is her doing.

The community college women’s basketball championship at Golden West College last year--she was a very big part of that.

Cal State Fullerton’s season this year, and that appearance in the Top 25--she probably has more to do with that than most people realize.

And that 3.5 grade-point average, best on the Titan team--that’s all hers.

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Back in high school, Jackson didn’t see college basketball in her future. Matter of fact, she didn’t particularly see college in her future.

“I never thought about it,” Jackson said. “When I first came out of high school (in Northern California), I’d never heard of Fullerton. It never crossed my mind to go to college and play basketball.”

Fullerton Coach Maryalyce Jeremiah planted the seed. She wanted Jackson to bring her athletic ability to Fullerton, where Jeremiah could do what she has done before, most notably with Genia Miller--turn talent into basketball ability.

It turned out that Jackson couldn’t be admitted to Fullerton, Jeremiah said, because she lacked a necessary math credit.

“We really encouraged her not to give up on college,” Jeremiah said. “We encouraged her to go the JC route.”

That’s what Jackson did, and when it came time to pick a college after finishing her Golden West career, Jackson found it a cinch. She picked Jeremiah’s school.

“I just felt like I owed it to her for believing in me,” Jackson said.

If so, Jeremiah is getting a fine payback.

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“I can’t say enough about her,” said Jeremiah, adding that Jackson’s GPA earned her an award for the team’s highest grades.

“Her basketball skill improved those two years unbelieveably,” Jeremiah said. “We knew her second year at Golden West she could play.”

This year, Jackson has been a quiet part of Fullerton’s success.

Miller’s numbers dazzle and blind. Who sees the others’ around hers?

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Jackson has the kind of numbers that will get a player attention most places, during most seasons.

A 5-11 forward who can play outside as well as inside, she has a 16.4-point scoring average, third best in the Big West Conference, and averages nine rebounds, fifth best in the conference. The one game this season that Miller didn’t lead the team in scoring, Jackson did, finishing with 27 points with 14 rebounds against New Mexico State.

But with Miller’s All-American quality numbers--No. 1 in the nation in scoring and such--Jackson’s are easy to overlook.

Jeremiah hopes they aren’t when the all-conference selections are made.

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“I hope she makes all-conference somewhere,” Jeremiah said.

Jackson doesn’t crave the spotlight--she turns it on brighter, toward Miller.

When Fullerton honored Miller, a senior, on the occasion of her final home game, Jackson had written a poem, unprompted.

“It was emotional,” said Jackson, a junior. “On the surface it doesn’t seem like we’re even friends. I have so much respect for her awesome play. It’s like playing with Cheryl Miller. Going up against her, I’d be really scared. Having her on my own team is a neat feeling.”

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Miller is clearly the centerpiece of the Titan team, but when Fullerton plays Fresno State at 3 today in Long Beach Arena in the first round of the Big West Conference tournament, Jackson has one thing she might be able to teach Miller about.

Jackson has won a championship before.

“It gives me a little more experience,” Jackson said. “I know how every game you’ve got to play your best.”

Women Tip Off Today: Big West Conference women’s basketball tournament begins in Long Beach Arena. C15

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