Jackson Slugs It Out for UC Santa Cruz

Basketball has played an enigmatic role in the life of UC Santa Cruz swingman Eric Jackson.

Jackson considers the game strictly an avocation. A standout at North Hollywood High in the 1989-90 and '90-91 seasons, Jackson was recruited by Santa Clara, but he chose to pursue academics at Santa Cruz.

A biology major at an academically challenging school, Jackson is planning a medical career. He nearly quit basketball altogether, sitting out last season to focus on his studies and debating whether he should come back. He did.

And the way he has operated on the court thus far this season--averaging 21 points and 10 rebounds a game--Jackson might consider a detour to Europe or the Continental Basketball Assn.

This is certain, the 6-foot-3 junior was a sight for sore eyes when he returned to the Banana Slugs.

"He's our best all-around player," Santa Cruz Coach Duane Garner said. "It hurt not to have him last year. He does everything well."

Jackson sometimes wonders if he made a mistake by turning down Santa Clara--especially when he realizes he could have been in a Bronco uniform in the 1993 NCAA tournament. Santa Clara pulled a stunning first-round upset of Arizona, the No. 1-seeded team in the West Regional.

"(Former Santa Clara Coach) Carroll Williams sat me down and said I could play there," Jackson said. "He gave me a letter of intent and said he wanted a decision in a day or two. I was really pressured. I prayed upon it and I chose UCSC. Sometimes I wonder why. Santa Clara is Division I. Sometimes I wonder how my game would be now."

Jackson helped North Hollywood reach the City Section 4-A Division championship game twice and averaged 18 points and 16 rebounds his senior year.

But his senior season was cut short because of a broken wrist and big-name schools stopped calling.

"I was so disappointed in my senior year, I didn't think basketball was going to be a big part of my life," Jackson said.

But Jackson has never acclimated himself to Santa Cruz. The atmosphere is "weird and eccentric," he said. But Jackson has sought refuge in school laboratories and medical research centers that are as highly regarded as those at Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Jackson plans to study medicine after getting a degree in biology. Medicine might be his true passion.

As a boy, Jackson told his mother he wanted to be a doctor. By the time he got to high school, however, his interest had waned.

But his interest was sparked once again at North Hollywood, a magnet school for zoology.

"I realized I do want to be a doctor," said Jackson, who wants to specialize in pediatrics and organic chemistry research.

But with his love for basketball surging again, Jackson is thinking about pro ball for the first time since high school.

"I'm not going to play in the NBA, but I might be able to play somewhere," he said. "I love the game. And I don't think my game is complete yet."

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Homecoming: Former Granada Hills High standout Jermoine Brantley was right down the street from his old high school Thursday night when Nevada Las Vegas played at Cal State Northridge. Brantley, who graduated from Granada Hills in 1991, made the UNLV squad as a walk-on.

Brantley, a 5-10 junior point guard, has not scored, but he has made all five of UNLV's trips and played in two games. After Granada Hills, Brantley played one season at Columbia (Calif.) College, then last season at College of Southern Idaho, where he averaged 10 points and six assists.

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Around the country: Senior guard David Langley (College of the Canyons) hit a reverse layup with two seconds left to lift Division II Quincy (Ill.) to an 83-81 victory over Cal State Dominguez Hills in the championship game of the Westmont tournament last week. . . . Langley had 16 points in the game and was chosen to the all-tournament team. . . . Langley averages 17.5 points, three assists and four rebounds a game. He shoots 48% from the field and 42% from three-point range. . . . Teammate Rasaan Hall (Crespi) helped Quincy advance to the final by scoring 16 points in a 76-73 victory over Westmont. night. He averages 13.7 points per game and 51% from three-point range. . . . Quincy freshman forward Matt Steffe (Hart) came off the bench to get 16 points and nine rebounds in 17 minutes in a 103-72 victory over Missouri Baptist on Tuesday night.

Freshman guard Mark Sebek (Nordhoff) had 32 points, seven assists and nine rebounds in Division III UC San Diego's last three games. . . . His brother, Tim Sebek, a junior guard, had 16 points and nine rebounds in a 108-62 victory over Dominican.

In women's basketball, Arizona senior guard Jacinda Sweet (North Hollywood) averages 13.1 points and 3.9 rebounds a game, and freshman reserve forward Michelle Giordano (Buena) averages 4.1 points and 5.1 rebounds.

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