Rickea Jackson has been the centerpiece of Detroit Edison’s dynasty in girls basketball, helping the program win consecutive state championships while being ranked No. 7 nationally this season by USA Today.
The 6-foot-3 Jackson is a strong contender for the Miss Basketball award, which will be announced March 18 leading into the girls basketball finals March 21-23 at Calvin College.
Jackson showcased her talent in an MLK Day showdown at Pewamo-Westphalia, a team it defeated 46-44 in the Class C state title game in 2017, and 50-39 in last year’s state semifinal. The teams will not meet in this year’s state tournament with Edison deciding to move up and compete in Division 2.
Jackson scored 25 in last year’s semifinal win and took over right where she left off in the holiday showdown, setting the tone by scoring 17 first-half points, making four 3-pointers to open up a 35-23 halftime lead on the way to a 54-39 victory.
Jackson, who finished with 23 points in the win over Pewamo-Westphalia, was a member of The Detroit News Dream Team last season. Edison is The News’ No. 1 team with a 12-1 record, its lone loss to Columbus Africentric, which is ranked No. 3 nationally.
Jackson, who will play at Mississippi State next season, was named a McDonald’s All-American last week. She will play in the McDonald’s game March 27 in Atlanta.
Jackson, the state’s first McDonald’s All-American since Detroit Country Day’s Madison Williams in 2010, is averaging 20.5 points and eight rebounds.
Edison coach Monique Brown has pushed Jackson hard since she arrived in high school.
“My mom and Coach Brown had known each other for many years, since they were teenagers,” Jackson said. “They played basketball together at recreation centers. My mom (Caryn Shinn) went on to play at Kansas.
“Coach Brown taught me a lot mentally and physically, made sure I got in the gym and worked on my game.”
Brown thinks Jackson deserves serious consideration for Miss Basketball.
“Sure, we want her to win Miss Basketball, but it’s all about working hard for that next level,” Brown said. “The biggest improvement that I’ve seen from last year to this year is the confidence that she has and the ability to consistently knock down the 3-pointer.”
Jackson will be Mississippi State’s first McDonald’s All-American. When Jackson’s mother called Mississippi State head coach Vic Schaefer to inform him of the news Thursday he was taking his daily run in Gainesville, Fla., prior to the game against the Florida Gators.
“I’m running down in front of the Aloft Hotel screaming like a little kid in a candy store because she’s (Jackson's mother) calling to tell me she made it,” Schaefer told the Mississippi Clarion-Ledger. “You’re just excited for her, and excited for my staff knowing how hard they worked in the recruiting process. And, I’m excited for my fans because they ‘re going to really enjoy watching that kid play here for four years.”
Jackson will have plenty of competition for Miss Basketball, including 6-1 guard/forward Julia Ayrault of Grosse Pointe North, 5-9 point guard Moira Joiner of Saginaw Heritage, 5-7 guard Alyza Winston of Muskegon and 5-11 point guard Jeanae Terry of Wayne.
Ayrault, who will play at Michigan State next year, is averaging 19.9 points, 7.6 rebounds, 5.1 steals, 3.8 blocks and 3.4 assists for No. 10 Grosse Pointe North (11-1).
“Julia is being a great senior leader, working hard, getting everyone involved and raising the level of play of all of her teammates,” said North coach Gary Bennett.
Joiner, who will be teammates with Ayrault at MSU, is averaging 22.1 points, eight rebounds, five assists and 4.5 steals for defending Class A state champion Heritage (10-0), which is ranked No. 2.
Winston, who will join Ayrault and Joiner at MSU, is averaging 26 points, three assists, three rebounds and three steals for No. 18 Muskegon (8-3).
Terry, who will play at Illinois, is averaging 21.6 points, 9.3 rebounds and 8.6 assists for No. 6 Wayne (10-1).
Grand Valley-bound combo guard Daisy Ansel of Comstock is another candidate. She is averaging 30 points, eight rebounds, four assists and four steals.
Flint Carman-Ainsworth guard Destiny Strother (Marquette), Okemos guard Laya Hartman (Northwestern) and Detroit Country Day guard Jasmine Powell (Minnesota) are other players who could get Miss Basketball consideration.
Edison’s boys soaring too
It was Showdown Saturday with a pair of big matchups – defending Class C state champion Detroit Edison knocking defending Class B state champion Benton Harbor off its No. 1 ranking with a 77-68 win at Edison’s Hardcourt Challenge.
It wasn’t a fluke as Edison (10-4) led 37-32 at halftime and built the lead up to 61-44 heading into the fourth quarter.
Carlos “Scooby” Johnson, a 6-foot-6 junior who recently received an offer from Michigan, had 27 points and 20 rebounds for Benton Harbor (14-1).
Senior Brian Taylor, who returned from an injury last week, scored 25 for Edison, while Raynard Williams had 23 points and 10 rebounds and Bryce George 15 points.
It went down to the final seconds in the battle between No. 4 U-D Jesuit and No. 8 Flint Beecher in Flint with U-D Jesuit coming away with a 70-69 victory when Beecher could only convert one of two free throws with four seconds left.
Beecher has an outstanding backcourt in 6-0 junior Jalen Terry (30 points), who has an offer from Michigan State, and 6-2 junior Earnest Sanders (20), who combined for 50 points in the loss, rallying their team back from a 16-point second-half deficit to take the lead in the fourth quarter.
Brown-bound 6-4, 215-pound Daniel Friday led U-D Jesuit with 21 points, seven rebounds and three blocks, making 10-of-13 shots from the field.
Royal Oak off to best start
Brian Sopata has been head coach of Royal Oak’s girls basketball program the entire 13 years of the high school’s existence.
Sopata has guided Royal Oak’s to its best start, carrying an impressive 12-0 record into its OAA Red Division showdown for first place with No. 3 Southfield A&T (12-1) Tuesday night at Royal Oak.
Sopata felt Royal Oak had a chance to have a special season after going 19-3 and winning the OAA White Division championship last season.
“Last year we had a nice season, knocked off (Birmingham) Marian during the regular season and then they ended up getting us in the district final at their place,” said Sopata.
Royal Oak could possibly have another district final with Marian, which is 11-0 and No. 5 in The News’ Super 20 rankings.
“We have five of our top seven scorers back from last year’s team,” including four-year varsity players Samantha Potter and Jessica Adams, said Sopata.
Potter a 6-foot-1 point guard who signed with Northern Michigan, averages 14 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. Adams (5-11) averages 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Royal Oak also has three-year varsity players in guard Nila Coney (10 points) and Anna Ross. Sophomore guard Sara Soraghan has the ability to take over a game, scoring 25 against Pontiac Notre Dame Prep last Friday.
“We have a lot of balance, which is great," Sopata said. "Our strength is the way we defend. We’re holding teams to the mid-30s. We’ll press and we’ll certainly get up and down the floor, but I think we’re at the best when we’re locked in defensively.”
Sopata is proud of how Royal Oak’s program has progressed.
“When we started this 13 years ago we were playing in the lower divisions and really just trying to be competitive,” Sopata said. “Now, every night we’re playing quality teams, quality opponents. It’s been really rewarding to compete up at the top division.
"I think playing against Clarkston, playing against Stoney Creek, playing against Bloomfield Hills gets you better for down the road.”