Detroit Edison's Rickea Jackson accepts the 2019 Michigan Miss Basketball award at a press conference in Detroit. The Detroit News
Detroit — Rickea Jackson has come a long way in a short time in terms of her development, a reason she was named Miss Basketball in Michigan on Monday afternoon.
Jackson, a 6-foot-3 senior, helped lead Detroit Edison to Class C state championships during her sophomore and junior seasons.
Edison moved up to Division 2 this season and is the favorite to win another state title this weekend at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, with Jackson leading the way.
Edison — 24-1 and ranked No. 1 in The News' Super 20 and No. 5 nationally by USA Today — will play a state quarterfinal against Goodrich (14-10) Tuesday night at St. Clair County Community College in Port Huron.
If you want to compare Jackson to a former college and WNBA star, Swin Cash of UConn and the Detroit Shock would be it. Jackson is able to handle the ball and go coast-to-coast after a rebound, find a teammate with her great passing skills, drive and score or make the 3-pointer.
Jackson is averaging 22.1 points, eight rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.9 steals this season and will play next year for national runner-up Mississippi State. She already had been honored by being named a McDonald’s All-American earlier this season and will play in the McDonald’s All-American game in Atlanta later this month, as well as the Jordan Brand Classic.
So, how did Jackson find out she won Miss Basketball?
“They told me, surprised me on my birthday (March 16) with a birthday card,” Jackson said of her mother, Caryn Jackson, and Edison head coach Monique Brown. “I thought it was just a birthday card, but it said ‘Congratulations, you are the 2019 Miss Basketball.’ I just started crying and they were just happy for me.
“Just to see my name up there for one of the four finalists, that’s when it really came to me, like ‘I want this award now.’ I played against two of them (finalists), Alyza (Winston of Muskegon) and Moira (Joiner of Saginaw Heritage). They are really great players, both point guards who are crafty and fast.”
Jackson received 2,939 points in voting by Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan (BCAM) members to become the first player from the city of Detroit to win the award since Markita Aldridge of Detroit King in 1990.
“I put in countless hours in the gym, 3 a.m., twelve at night, 5 a.m. so just to be able to know that I worked hard in the gym and sacrificed so much, and it’s just paying off as you can see in this award,” said Jackson, who then talked about becoming the first player since Aldridge in the city to win it. “That’s very special. I’m all about creating legacy, creating history so to be able to continue to create history is amazing.”
Caryn Jackson was an all-state basketball player at Detroit Murray-Wright who played her college ball at Kansas. Jackson didn’t push her daughter into basketball, but was thrilled when she decided to pick up the ball.
“One week before her 12th birthday she started playing and from the day she started playing she picked the game up immediately,” Caryn Jackson said. “She was just a natural. She didn’t know anything about the rules, but whatever you told her, she’d listened to it, and continued to develop that way.”
Jackson said she sent her daughter to Edison for the academics, but it certainly didn’t hurt that her friend, Brown, was the head coach at the school.
“Monique and I have been friends for more than 30 years, competing against each other and with each other in sports,” said Jackson, who played with Brown in the Detroit PAL program.
“I sent my daughter to Edison because of academic purposes," Jackson said. "It’s a great academic school and I needed a school to challenge her, to push her academically, but once I realized she was going to be pretty good in basketball, I thought Monique could develop her. We just got in the gym and tag-teamed Rickea, and it’s proof in the pudding that if you work hard and just trust the process you’ll be good.”
Rickea Jackson has a 3.2 grade-point average.
Brown recalls when Rickea Jackson told her she wanted to be an All-American in the seventh grade, she told her to get in the gym. Then, after her freshman year, Jackson played AAU ball for the Michigan Crossovers, playing up an age group and returned as the No. 7 player in the nation.
“I just think about all of the work, think about the day we started,” Brown said. “Ninth grade going to 10th grade she went in the summer and did really, really well, came back and they said she was No. 7 in the country and I said where did that come from? That’s when we started thinking maybe we really have something here. Just countless hours in the gym, so many talks on the ride to home and back to the gym, and just to see her get this award is unbelievable.”
Brown said legendary Detroit Country Day coach Frank Orlando — who retired last week after owning more wins (797) and state championships (13) in state history — said Jackson was the best girls basketball player he’s seen, meaning she could arguably be the top player in state history.
Sure, Rickea Jackson had fun celebrating the award with her mother, coaches and teammates Monday, but she wants to head for Atlanta later this month and for Mississippi State later this summer with the title of three-time state champ.
“There’s definitely a bigger target on our backs, so we definitely have to play our game and come out harder,” Jackson said.
► Rickea Jackson, Detroit Edison: 2,939 points
► Moira Joiner, Saginaw Heritage: 1,988
► Julia Ayrault, Grosse Pointe North: 1,826
► Alyza Winston, Muskegon: 1,707