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Zaccheya Jackson signs with SAU Tech

Lady Bearcat overcomes injury to play college hoops
Tuesday, May 14, 2024
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Leader photo by Matt Belinson Ruston High senior Zaccheya Jackson signs to play college basketball at Southern Arkansas University Tech on Tuesday.

Zaccheya Jackson is a textbook example of how much can change in a year.

After being sidelined with a torn ACL for most of the 2022-23 season, Jackson, now a graduating senior at Ruston High, bounced back in the biggest way possible by signing with Southern Arkansas University Tech to play college basketball Tuesday afternoon.

Jackson was second on the Lady Bearcats in scoring (12 ppg) this past season, while averaging 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals - earning All-District honors - as she helped Ruston on to the quarterfinals. Feats worthy of praise are doubled given Jackson's injury adversity, but they don't come as a surprise to Meredith Graf, Jackson's high school coach at RHS.

Graf, who watched Jackson develop from young but eager freshman to confident and leading senior, expressed pride in Jackson's courage and commitment in the face of unfortunate circumstances. Not many athletes rebound from injury like Jackson showed. But then again, Graf believes there aren't many like her.

“In college, truly the difference is your mentality," Graf said, turning to Jackson as she spoke. "Everybody is equally talented and everybody’s got a lot of ability. But it's really the ones that work the hardest and the most mentally tough, those are the ones that rise above at the next level. I know for a fact you're going to do that. That’s who you are.”

Jackson, surrounded by family and teammates Tuesday, said SAU Tech felt like a familiar home like she's had at Ruston. And she's ready to get started.

“They felt like family," Jackson said of SAU Tech. "I liked the atmosphere there, the coaches were great, and the players too. They were very welcoming and everything felt welcoming.”

SAU Tech is a Division II program located in East Camden, Arkansas - competing in Great American Conference.

When asked how she could reflect on where she was over a year ago, rehabbing on the road to recovery, to now on her way to the next level, Jackson's eyes began to water. While she didn't shed tears, Jackson couldn't hire emotions towards the moment. This step didn't happen out of luck.

“It’s been great," Jackson said. "It’s been a lot of hard work, like coach Graf said about the health and me during my injury, bouncing back and just being able to have this opportunity even after the injury, it makes me very proud of myself. “It feels like I have a lot of people behind me, supporting me.”

Graf shared multiple qualities she feels have prepared Jackson better than most for the opportunity to play college basketball, including a fun-loving personality built around pranks and underrated wit. But perhaps most importantly is her unmatched ability to outwork others.

“She went through something that most athletes, if they’ve ever gone through this, she went through a major injury two years ago, and through that it’s obviously a physical challenge you have to battle through that, but it’s really the mental and emotional side of that that is really difficult," Graf said.

“She’s always been a hard worker," Graf continued. "From the time I’ve had her as a freshman all the way through her senior year, that’s one thing I’ve never had to worry about with Z was she was going to work really hard. She gave her all every day and she sacrificed and locked in."