Richard Brian / Special to the Sun
Wednesday, June 17, 2015 | 2 a.m.
Colby Jackson led Clark High to a pair of state championships, was the Division I-A Southern Region Most Valuable Player last winter as a senior, helped the Chargers win more than 100 games in four years as its starting point guard and was typically the best player on the court each game.
Yet, when it came time to be recruited to play college basketball, Jackson’s suitors were limited. That’s what happens when you are just 5 feet 9 inches and 165 pounds.
“It was really frustrating. Some schools, they would rather take height over talent and try to develop the player,” Jackson said. “Heart over height, I believe.”
Jackson, after weeks of uncertainty once the season ended in late February, finally found his college home in the most unlikely of places: Canada.
Jackson at the beginning of June signed with the University of Alberta. After getting travel paperwork in order, he visited the Edmonton, Alberta, school last weekend.
University of Alberta has reached the Canadian Interuniversity Sport tournament — its version of the NCAA Tournament — the past four seasons. In 2013-14, it won the Canada West Conference championship and a CIS National Bronze medal. The level of competition is comparable to low Division I or high Division II in the United States, said Clark coach Chad Beeten.
“They are one of the better universities in Canada for basketball,” Beeten said.
The program has a few Las Vegas ties to open the door for Jackson’s recruitment.
University of Alberta assistant coach Kent Johnson was formerly the head coach at Sierra Vista High in Las Vegas. Jackson’s older sister, Jeanette, was a star at Sierra Vista before shining in college at Prairie View A&M, and Jackson was a regular at her high school games, meeting Johnson for the initial time when he was in middle school.
Also, former Bishop Gorman player Czar Robotham, another undersized guard, has excelled for University of Alberta. Jackson will have a chance to follow suit.
“A lot of teams missed out on a great player because they were scared off with his size,” Beeten said. “That’s the nature of the world. Colby and I had a talk about it for a while. All he could do is play the best he can and try to lead us to as many wins as he can.”
Jackson, who averaged 13 points and seven assists per game as a senior, also had a scholarship offer from Prairie View A&M and interest from schools such as Weber State and Cal-State Bakersfield. He nearly picked Prairie View A&M, where his sister is one of the best players in program history and holds multiple records.
“That was real tempting,” he said.
But Johnson had recruited Jackson since the fall and finally coordinated for him to have a workout in front of University of Alberta coach, Barnaby Craddock. Jackson felt a better fit in Canada.
Going away to college will have a different meeting. He was the first in his family to travel out of the country, and, of course, will have to be prepared for the cold Canadian winters. During his recruiting visit in June, temperatures were still in the low 50s.
“Coming from the Vegas summer to that, it was pretty cold,” he said.