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January 11, 2013

New Mount Clemens boys basketball coach brings solid pedigree

By Jason Carmel Davis
C & G Sports Writer

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The Mount Clemens High boys basketball team is looking for a state title under new coach Jermaine Jackson, pictured during a 81-59 win at Clawson High Jan. 8. Jackson had a 13-year professional career.

MOUNT CLEMENS — Senior guard Jeremy Landers said he and his teammates on the Mount Clemens High boys varsity basketball team ask their new coach a slew of basketball-related questions on a daily basis.

That might seem obvious, but the questions take on a different tone since that coach is former pro ballplayer Jermaine Jackson — a Detroit native and graduate of the University of Detroit-Mercy.

“Coach says there’s no stupid questions, so we ask him all kinds of things,” said Landers, the reigning MVP of the Macomb Area Conference Gold Division. “It’s kind of crazy having a coach who played in the NBA. He’s been to the top, and he’s trying to show us what it takes to get there.”

Over the course of his pro career, Jackson had stints with the Detroit Pistons, Atlanta Hawks, Toronto Raptors, Milwaukee Bucks and New York Knicks. He’s also played in leagues in Spain, Italy and Mexico, among other places, winning an Italian Basketball Cup with Pallacanestro Treviso in 2004.

Jackson, a graduate of Detroit Finney High, said it wasn’t his plan to coach the Bathers, who were 5-0, 1-0 MAC Gold at press time. Mount Clemens finished the 2011-12 season at 15-6, 10-2.

Jackson has been a part of the community for some time, opening up the Jermaine Jackson-Cairns Community Center this past summer. He said he was approached about taking the position and relished the chance to help the players. Mount Clemens is currently on a run of three straight MAC Gold Division titles.

“My title might be basketball coach, but this goes beyond basketball,” said Jackson, who, after going undrafted in 1999, went on to have a 13-year professional career.

“You help a lot of the kids with life issues. It’s almost like a ‘replacement guy.’  I serve as a coach, a father to some, a friend and a mentor. Some of the kids in the school, and even on the team, are in bad situations, so I try to do anything I can to help.”

Jackson, a 2010 Detroit Titans Hall of Fame inductee, said he does all he can to help his players learn the game. He plays one-on-one with them every chance he gets. His collegiate and professional background lends itself to some intense practices, too, according to Landers.

“We go all out. Coach wants us to be in great condition, so we’re always running,” Landers said. “There’s no slow-run drills here. We go hard from the time we get here until we’re done.”

“I’m not running high school drills. We’re running college and professional drills,” said Jackson, who earned Horizon League Player of the Year honors and led U-D Mercy to a league title in 1998-99. “This isn’t a high school practice. What we’re doing keeps us a couple steps ahead of the competition.”

Landers and junior guard TaRayle Cates form a strong backcourt that has paved the way for the Bathers to outscore opponents by 16.6 points per game. A strong, man-to-man defense is key to the team’s offensive output.

In practice, Jackson has his team run offense against different zone looks because that’s what opposing teams will play, he said.

“They’ll play zone because they can’t guard us man to man,” Jackson said.

Only in his first year, Jackson has great aspirations for his team. He said the goal is a state championship.

“That’s why we all play,” said Jackson, who played for Perry Watson at U-D Mercy and for Lenny Wilkens while in Toronto. Wilkens is second on the NBA’s all-time wins list.

“I try to model myself after coach Watson. He taught me so much, and I’m just trying to bring it to my players. We’re not too concerned with winning division and league titles, because you can win those and lose early in the playoffs. Then what?”

Landers said he welcomes Jackson’s lofty goals.

“We want to beat (defending Michigan High School Athletic Association Class C state champion) Flint Beecher,” said Landers, whose team fell in the district semifinals last season. “I think we can do it. If we play as well as we can and listen to coach, we can do it.”

Mount Clemens next hits the court for a MAC Gold tussle with Sterling Heights High, set for 7 p.m. Jan. 17 at Mount Clemens.