Shierelle Jackson would have been a proud mama.
Her daughter, Shalane, knows she is.
Shalane fulfilled one of her mother’s wishes Wednesday when she signed a letter of intent to play basketball for San Francisco State.
The East Union senior is going into her fourth season as a varsity player, but it will be the second that she will be without her mom. Last December, Shierelle Jackson passed away at age 36.
It was a trying time for young Shalane, whose tenacious play and infectious happy-go-lucky attitude came and went over the course of the 2010-11 season. And yet she persevered with the help her dad, Louis, and other close family members to reach a benchmark moment in her life.
“It was extremely tough and I think my stats showed it,” Shalane said. “I kind of disappeared a little bit last season, but in a positive way it helped me to push harder and become stronger. I got this scholarship, and I know it’s what she always wanted.”
Jackson also received scholarship offers from Notre Dame de Namur University of Belmont and Menlo College of Atherton. Schools from as far north as Washington and as far east as Minnesota also showed interest.
Jackson said she first caught the eye of San Francisco State coach Dr. Joaquin Wallace at out-of-state tournaments while playing for the Modesto Magic Amateur Athletic Union team in the offseason. But it was at a San Francisco State-hosted camp over the summer that clinched the scholarship.
“Basically from there, coach hasn’t stopped calling me since,” Jackson said.
Shanice Jackson, Shalane’s older sister, is pursuing her master’s degree at San Francisco State, so the transition to college life should be a bit easier. Shalane plans on majoring in business.
The Gators are a member of the NCAA Division-II California Collegiate Athletic Association, which is also home to Turlock’s Cal State Stanislaus. That should make for easy trips for her family. And at least twice year she’ll be reunited with former Manteca High rival Sharon Washington, now a freshman at Chico State.
Also at San Francisco State is Stephanie Vanni, a former multi-sport standout (including basketball) at Sierra High who plays for the Gators’ soccer team.
Jackson said her aggressive play and versatility were what drew Coach Wallace to her. A natural wing, the 5-foot-9 Jackson has played in the post for East Union because the team has lacked size the last two years.
Jackson helped the Lancers claim Valley Oak League championships her freshman and sophomore years when the team went a combined 50-9. She averaged 8.5 points and eight rebounds as a freshman, and 9.8 points and 9.2 rebounds her sophomore year.
Playing with and against older girls earlier in her high school career forced her to develop quickly.
“It has helped me a lot,” she said. “I feel like now the game is a lot slower. My freshman year the game seemed so much faster.”
Last season, East Union went 20-7 with Jackson checking in with nine points and 11.1 rebounds per game. It was supposed to be her big breakout year, but her heart and mind weren’t always with her on the hardwood.
Nearly a year removed from her mother’s passing, Jackson is entering the new season with renewed vigor. She worked on conditioning and becoming a well-rounded player.
Jackson looks to continue East Union’s tradition of success while leaving behind her own mark in the history books. She is currently No. 10 on the all-time scoring list with 746 and should move up several spots by season’s end.
“You’ll probably see a totally different player,” Jackson said. “You’ll see a big change (from last year), I think.”
Shirelle Jackson would have been a proud mama.
Always has, and always will be.