Almost famous

When Altron Jackson came to South Florida four years ago, few people knew his name.

That’s not to say Jackson was exactly an unknown commodity. After all, he starred at Riverview High School in Sarasota and was rated by ESPN as one of the top 100 prospects in the country. Jackson averaged 29 points and 10 rebounds a game as a senior, leading the Rams to the state semifinal game.But Jackson was no Dajuan Wagner. He was 99th on that ESPN list, not exactly a blue chip recruit. He wasn’t even the biggest-name recruit on coach Seth Greenberg’s slate. That honor belonged to B.B. Waldon, who was a third-team Parade All-American and ranked 29th on that same ESPN list.

I remember seeing Jackson when he was a ballboy for Riverview on his brother’s high school team. He sometimes seemed to be paying more attention to the game than some of the guys riding the bench. His alert eyes bounced in unison with the action.

I didn’t even know his name then.

He ambled his gangly 6-foot-6 frame onto the USF campus as a freshman, barely making a splash. Jackson showed a smattering of potential on the offensive end (8.9 points per game); Waldon averaged nearly 17 points in his rookie campaign and nabbed most of the publicity. But Jackson went for 22 in the Conference USA Tournament, gaining confidence as well as playing time as the season wore on.

By his sophomore year, he was the first player off Greenberg’s bench. And when he came into the game, it was like a bolt of lightning zapped the floor. With his seemingly endless arms waving like a propeller at the top of the 1-3-1, Jackson was a human headache for opposing point guards.

And he began to display his infectious, high-energy personality, sometimes raising the roof of the Sun Dome himself as he screamed at the fans to get as excited as he was about the game of basketball. He’d flash a million-dollar smile and pick your pocket in the same breath.

People started to know his name.

He won C-USA Sixth Man of the Year as a sophomore, then again as a junior. Despite averaging more than 18 points both seasons, Jackson kept coming off the bench. He never complained publicly, preferring to go about his business. To say Jackson simply accepted his role would be untrue – he defined it.

Tuesday night everything came full circle for Jackson. He passed DeMarco Johnson as C-USA’s all-time leading scorer. No one in the history of the conference has scored more points – ever. And he did it with little fanfare, without the ESPN camera crews or national media in attendance, similar to the way he stepped onto this campus four years ago.

And now, everybody knows his name.

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