It has been a weird year alright? This time in 2021, we were looking at Carroll and Jalen Jackson both as contenders, but they were doing it together.
12 months later and their paths converged again on Friday night when Jackson walked into Charger Fieldhouse for the first time wearing orange and brown and led his Northrop Bruins to a 71-51 win.
In that year, Jackson and his family have done all of the things that felt unusual to us. His sisters, now both Bruins themselves, have had to stand on the other side of the court from Carroll. Jalen, he opened his senior season squaring off against Marty Beasley, his coach at Carroll, now at DeKalb. Friday felt more unusual for the rest of us watching and probably for Jackson and some of his former Carroll teammates too.
It also made for really intriguing storylines, even if the outcome of the game went about the way that Bounce and many others expected.
JALEN JACKSON CONTINUES ELITE YEAR
In the area, there has been a big focus on two senior guys: Homestead’s Fletcher Loyer – who just surpassed 2,000 career points this week – and Connor Essegian, who has broken every school, county and conference scoring mark. Maybe because of the success their teams versus that of 11 win Northrop, they get more of a focus. But the torrid pace that Jalen Jackson has been pushing has been something special to witness too.
The word elite is a tough one. If you use it too much, it loses its fire; if everything is “elite,” then nobody is elite. But in a world where Jackson should be mentioned in the same vein as future D1 area cohorts Loyer and Essegian, it is ok to also call him elite.
Earlier in the week, he posted 32 points in a potentially SAC altering win over Concordia and because games like that have become such common hat for Jackson, he gets to be victim of an “expected isn’t exciting” school of thought from too many. Which is frankly unfortunate because there is nothing about Jackson’s game that isn’t exciting and he put a stamp on that thought in Friday’s win over Carroll.
He dunked, he worked the midrange with his own brand of precision and he knocked down deep shots. You name it, and Jackson did it. He scored how he wanted and when he wanted. In the first quarter, he was outscoring Carroll himself 16-10.
Jackson finished with another 32 points with 11 rebounds to boot on Friday night. He remained unstoppable throughout the game and it was a sight to behold again. As we really barrel down the stretch of the season, it is time to keep a consistent energy about Jackson who is well on his way to an Indiana All-Star nod; one just as deserved as any other spot they may hand out on that team.
CARROLL’S REBUILD WILL BE FINE
Carroll has one win. It took them 10 games to get there. Even if they win all of their remaining regular season games, this will be their worst record in 17 seasons.
That doesn’t mean that it is their worst season in that long and it certainly doesn’t mean that all is lost for Carroll. In fact, I think that Charger basketball will be just fine. It isn’t too often that a high school basketball program gets a complete reset, even with a coaching change. Not only has Carroll gotten that under Ryan Abbott’s leadership, it is actually one that will do them good if people are patient.
You don’t just graduate everyone and lose your best player to transfer, then still compete at the top of the SAC. We saw that kind of situation with North Side a few years ago. But with buy in will come success again. The Charger program kind of had a similar situation when Marty Beasley replaced Rob Irwin at the helm years ago. It wasn’t easy, but Carroll still found a way back to the top. What the Chargers did after Beasley’s surprising exit was important in their step: they hired Abbott, a winner who knows how to mold teams. Whether everyone likes it or not, he deserves some credit for Eastside’s current championship caliber year for his building of that program.
So will players, parents and supporters be patient now? It is easy to want to say that Carroll is never going to be the same now but I don’t believe that to be the case at all, even after Friday’s loss.
Through various times Friday, they showed an acumen for being patient with their offense, spreading the floor and taking their time. But Carroll also showed very early they were willing to get into transition too and show more than one speed, showcased first by sophomore Jaxon Pardon grabbing a rebound and taking it coast to coast for a successful layup against a contesting defense. Pardon, who has had a really strong season, worked hard to assert himself on Friday and because of it and the profile of the game, raised his own profile with his aggression at getting to the rim and willingness to work hard.
That kind of positive story is what will continue to help build Carroll back up. Pardon is part of a sophomore class, also including Cannen Houser and Hansen Haffner, that has shown they will really be a guiding light in Carroll’s resurrection.
Too was I impressed with the way that junior Andrew Sinish worked the baseline and found ways to constantly be involved. Carroll is getting critical experience and figuring it all out, so while this season hasn’t be their best record wise, you can see the pieces are there and the Chargers, in the long run, are going to be just fine.
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