ALBANY — As a freshman for UAlbany men’s basketball, Amsterdam native Marcus Jackson probably doesn’t have very much say as to how head coach Dwayne Killings will fill out the Great Danes’ non-conference schedule for the next couple of years.
But, if Jackson could get any say at all, there’s one dream matchup he’d love to set up — a clash with Connecticut, where his older brother, Andre, is set to enter his junior year with the Huskies.
“I need to catch him at this level,” Marcus Jackson said Tuesday after UAlbany wrapped up its first preseason practice. “They’ve got to schedule us.”
The on-court family reunion won’t happen this year — UAlbany’s non-conference slate includes the likes of St. Joseph’s UMass, Providence and Virginia, but no UConn — so, for now, it remains a dream off in the distance.
And other than that bit of wistful schedule speculation, Marcus Jackson is focused solely on the present.
The 6-foot-3 guard transferred from Amsterdam to Albany Academy as an eighth-grader, making the switch at the same time as his older brother. A complementary player on multiple Federation championship-winning Cadets teams that regularly churned out Division I prospects, Marcus Jackson didn’t get his chance to lead the way until his senior season.
That was a season compacted by the COVID-19 pandemic into a six-week stretch that saw Jackson average 27.9 points, eight rebounds, 9.2 assists and 5.7 steals per game. He then spent a post-graduate year at Cushing Academy, a college-preparatory school in Massachusetts, and committed to UAlbany this past March.
He joined the team as a preferred walk-on, meaning he’ll have a path to a scholarship starting with his sophomore year, and he’s already impressed Killings with his on-court tenacity.
“Marcus, I said this in practice a couple times, going for a loose ball, you’ve got to be careful because Marcus will give everything he has to get it,” Killings said.
That intensity is something Marcus Jackson’s been noted for since his Albany Academy days, when his defense-first mentality was the first thing to earn him minutes under then-Cadets head coach Brian Fruscio.
Jackson said he’s always taken pride in giving the same effort on the practice floor that he does during games.
“Every time you step on the floor, you represent the people you arrive with,” he said. “For me to give my all, it’s not just for myself, but coach Killings, the rest of the staff, my teammates.”
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That high-intensity, high-effort mindset is something that the other member of the Great Danes’ freshman class, Jonathan Beagle, has known about Jackson for quite some time.
Beagle is a 6-foot-9 Hudson Falls native who spent his last two high school seasons at St. Thomas More School in Connecitcut, and spent a summer playing AAU basketball with Jackson on the Albany City Rocks.
“Marcus is my guy,” Beagle said. “We played City Rocks a year ago, and that’s one kid that I always say I’ve never met anyone as competitive as him. He’s going to open a lot of peoples’ eyes.”
Killings is excited to see both local products perform for the Great Danes.
“Obviously, there’s a pressure on them to perform, because they’re local kids, they want to play up to the standard that they have for themselves and, obviously, please the people around them,” he said. “But, I think they’re winners, just with how they go about their day, how they function as people. They’re competitive. I love both of their competitive spirits.”
After his year in Massachusetts, Jackson is embracing that he’ll be spending the next four years back in the Capital Region, 30 minutes down the Thruway from where he grew up in Amsterdam and just minutes away from the Albany Academy gym where he made so many high school memories.
“It’s surreal, honestly, coming home and being able to represent this area, and kids from this area that want to play at the Division I level,” he said. “I want to take every opportunity I get and make the most of it.”