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Antonelli: Albany Academy's Jackson an unselfish star

Antonelli: Albany Academy's Jackson an unselfish star

Amsterdam native nears scoring milestone
Antonelli: Albany Academy's Jackson an unselfish star
Andre Jackson gets ready to dunk during Thursday's practice in Albany.
Photographer: Erica Miller

Sometime Saturday morning, Andre Jackson will enter into the Albany Academy basketball record books as the seventh player in school history to reach 1,000 career points. That milestone may be a big priority for many of the talented players in the area and beyond, but for the 6-foot-7 University of Connecticut-bound senior, it's just another number — albeit one that helps the Cadets win games in bunches.

Jackson and the Cadets will be in Springfield, Massachusetts, to take on Delaware's Sanford at 9 a.m., with Jackson currently sitting on 999 career points. When he reaches the milestone with his first bucket of the game, Jackson will be honored with a brief ceremony, then go back out and focus on what he's been doing since arriving on the Albany Academy campus as a skinny freshman — making the players around him better.

“Hopefully, Andre gets his first basket on our first possession of the game because if it happens in the second half, we’ll be in trouble,” Albany Academy head coach Brian Fruscio said with a chuckle.

Now filled out at 190 pounds, Jackson is the kind of player whose value is more evident by seeing him in person — or one of the many viral highlights he's created with his high-flying style of play — than by studying his points line in a box score. The idea of an elite, Division I-level recruit who has been a high-profile player for years waiting until midway through his senior year to hit 1,000 points isn't exactly run-of-the-mill. By contrast, Joseph Girard III of Glens Falls reached his 1,000th career point as a freshman before finishing with a state-record 4,763 career points.

“Because of our style of play, I’m not worried about putting up super crazy numbers,” Jackson said following Thursday’s practice at Albany Academy. “It’s an honor to play here. I’ve always been a passer and not one to force a shot.”

With Jackson, it’s all about being unselfish. That trait was instilled by his mother Tricia Altieri. A former boxer, Altieri has kept Andre and younger brother Marcus, who starts at point guard for Albany Academy, on the right path to success both on and off the court.

“Andre has always loved to give and has always been unselfish,” Altieri said. “I believe that trait has gotten him this far.”

The stories of Andre’s generosity in and around the Amsterdam area, as well as within the Albany Academy community, are no secret.

Last summer, Jackson competed in the Nike-sponsored Peach Jam in South Carolina and was given a rare Nike sneaker made specially for the few invited participants.

What he did with them made Mom as proud as anything he's done on the court.

“We came home from the tournament and Andre went to the courts in Amsterdam where he met a boy who did not have any sneakers to play in,” Altieri said. “He came home, got his new elite sneakers that he just got, brought them back to the court and gave them to the boy.”

On the court, Jackson acquired his thirst to distribute the basketball in eye-catching fashion after watching "The Pistol: The Birth of a Legend," a biographical film about the 1959 eighth-grade basketball season of Pete Maravich and his relationship with his father Press Maravich. Jackson watched the film with family friend Clyde Clymer after refusing multiple times.

“Clyde asked me to hang out and watch some basketball movie and I said 'No' for five, six days,” Jackson said. “Even when I agreed, I still didn’t want to watch it, but that movie changed the way I thought of the game of basketball. I fell in love with how Pete Maravich played the game.”

Fruscio has mentored Jackson and has been his biggest supporter since the Amsterdam native arrived at Albany Academy. Early on, a number of college coaches came to Academy to spend hours evaluating upper classmen recruits Hameir Wright or August Mahoney, but in the background was Jackson who wowed them with a solid skill set combined with his eyebrow-raising athleticism.

“One of Andre’s best attributes is his passing,” Fruscio said. “His passing is what makes him a winner, and that combined with his ball-handling ability translates into the next level — and levels after that.”

While Fruscio is one of Andre’s biggest cheerleaders, no one roots for him more than younger brother Marcus, who was named MVP of the Empire Invitational at Fordham last weekend. Pictures on social media show a jubilant Andre hugging Marcus, and enthusiastically pointing to his younger brother to put the spotlight on him.

“I really look up to Andre,” said Marcus, a 6-foot-3 junior who has already received a scholarship offer to play at Marist. “He’s always looking out after his teammates and is a great leader overall.”

That quality will be on display Saturday morning before a sold-out crowd at Springfield College. At some point, perhaps within the opening minute, Jackson will score his career's 1,000th point and the game will pause to recognize his achievement. He'll smile and appreciate the moment — but not as much as one that comes later when he sets up one of his teammates for their own starring moment with a dazzling pass.

That was Pistol Pete's way in yesteryear, and those are the footsteps in which Jackson wants to follow.

Reach Paul Antonelli at [email protected] or @bypaulantonelli on Twitter.

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