Derek Jackson came to Kent State six months ago with a defensive reputation that preceded him.
But in his first game with the Golden Flashes Friday night, the junior guard showed he could be counted on just as much for his offensive abilities. Jackson scored a game-high 18 points to lead Kent State to an 84-48 season-opening victory over visiting Ohio Northern.
For a Flashes team that will need offense from every starter on the court night in and night out after losing its top two scorers from last year’s squad, Jackson’s well-rounded effort that included two assists and three coast-to-coast baskets off four steals in a team-best 22 minutes likely induced a sigh of relief by many of the team’s supporters.
The 6-foot, 175-pound native Clevelander was a standout player at Benedictine before passing on Kent State out of high school to play with the Chippewas - another Mid-American Conference school.
But after two seasons at CMU, Jackson left the program when former head coach Ernie Zeigler was fired, then sat out a required season last year under NCAA transfer rules before enrolling at Cuyahoga Community College. After getting his grades in shape at Tri-C, the redshirt junior joined the Flashes in April.
Friday, Jackson held Ohio Northern’s top scorer – senior guard Branden Rushton (who averaged 15.1 points last season) to six points on 3-of-9 shooting in 27 minutes.
Despite KSU head coach Rob Senderoff not wasting any time in mixing in different combinations of reserves, the Flashes pushed their lead to double digits with 8:06 to go in the half and never looked back.
The 10-point cushion was punctuated by an emphaticone-handed dunk by Jackson, who paced his new team with nine points and two steals in 13 first-half minutes to help Kent State cruise to a 41-20-halftime advantage.
As impressive as Jackson’s debut was, returning starters senior forward Darren Goodson (11 points, six rebounds) and junior point guard Kris Brewer (team-high eight rebounds, seven points, four steals and two assists) also had solid performances.