Jackson: 'It was a very difficult decision'

Jackson: 'It was a very difficult decision'

Demetrius Jackson just smiled.

The point guard from Marian (Ind.) High School in Mishawaka didn’t flinch, grimace or ignore the topic.

Even though it probably wasn’t the No. 1 subject the McDonald’s All-American point guard wanted to talk about.

But the former Illinois men’s basketball recruiting target who had the Illini in his final two before he chose Notre Dame last September doesn’t shy away from discussing his decision that led him to South Bend instead of Champaign-Urbana.

The underlying theme?

Illinois wouldn’t have factored into the picture without coach John Groce.

Jackson said he talked to former Illinois coach Bruce Weber and former Illinois assistant coach Jay Price once or twice, but it was the hiring of Groce that really piqued Jackson’s interest in Illinois. And Groce’s musical talents played a part.

“He’s just funny and a great all around guy,” Jackson said of Groce. “He’s not just a great coach. I remember on my official visit, we were driving around in the car, and he just busted out singing Usher and stuff like that. It’s hard to explain. He just sends off a good vibe that makes you feel positive. He kind of brightens your day.”

Jackson said the relationships he built with not only Groce, but Illinois assistant coach Jamall Walker and Paris Parham in his brief courtship with Illinois made it harder for him to commit elsewhere.

“I was very comfortable with those guys,” Jackson said. “It was a very difficult decision. When you’ve got a great coach who you can have fun with, your players are going to play hard for you. I knew whatever happened with my decision, he’s going to have a successful coaching career at Illinois.”

Jackson — who finished second in Indiana’s Mr. Basketball voting — went on to have a superb senior season at Marian, averaging 28 points, six rebounds and 4.3 assists for an 11-10 Marian team.

Jackson said he received backlash on Twitter for about five months after his decision for choosing Notre Dame instead of Illinois.

“It’s still here and there, but not too much anymore,” he said. “It was just whenever something happens to Notre Dame that’s bad or something that happens to Illinois that’s good.”

Jackson said one of his close friends is a big Illinois fan, which didn’t influence his decision.

“He’s got family in Champaign, and he comes to Chicago a lot,” Jackson said. “He would always be like, ‘Dude, if you go to Illinois, that’d be sick.’ Just stuff like that. He didn’t try to pressure me into a decision. He was just being a great friend and said, ‘Wherever your heart is, just go there.’”


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Moonpie wrote on April 04, 2013 at 10:04 am

So, this can be summarized to, Groce's great, but I chose ND.

Bwp 5P wrote on April 04, 2013 at 11:04 am

No......It can be summarized as.....Moonpie is a jerk!

blmillini wrote on April 04, 2013 at 11:04 am

It is unbelievable and classless that Illinois fans would be ripping him on Twitter.  I'm one that thinks the best days are those when Illinois wins and Notre Dame loses but show to send messages to a kid that picked Notre Dame over Illinois... have a little class because you make Illinois fans look bad.

IlliniMike05 wrote on April 04, 2013 at 2:04 pm

Classless? Yes. Unbelievable? Not really. That's what dumb people do on Twitter. Social media's awesome but it's given every idiot with a smartphone the chance to be a douchebag anonymously. If he'd picked Illinois he'd probably have gotten it even worse from ND fans that thought he was headed there all along.

Disciple_Of_Battle wrote on April 04, 2013 at 11:04 am

He should say, it was close . . . until ND gave my best buddy an undeserved football scholly . . . then I decided to go with ND.  Have fun being underdeveloped by a lesser coach in Mike Brey.  His teams continue to underachieve on the biggest stages. 

illinidoc wrote on April 04, 2013 at 6:04 pm

Didn't you learn not to call people names?  And what is wrong with Moonpie's summary?  It seems pretty accurate to me.

griff507 wrote on April 04, 2013 at 7:04 pm

Why is this "story" even on this site? No body cares what this kid thought. He made his choice and moved on. It is past time for Illini nation to move on also. Who cares how close we came, he went elsewhere!

Hey Matt, if you need to fill space, tell us more about the kids that PICKED the Illini, not a kid who didn't.

chief illiniweg wrote on April 05, 2013 at 9:04 am

Totally disagree. This is a recruiting blog. Matt should cover ALL angles of Illini recruiting, not just the good news.

I for one like that he explored why a recruit didn't choose the Illini. Helps us understand how the process works better. And it is especially relevant when Matt gets Jackson to talk about the difference between our previous coaching staff and the new group.

So many posters here whine about what UI athletics/coaches can't do, and will never be able to do. Read what Matt writes here to see progress being made!

I take some hopefulness that we will see a breakthrough (hopefully in the '14 BB class with an Alexander and a Lyle) and we can point to a story like this to see how Groce and his guys were able to do what Weber and his crew couldn't...

And Moonpie -- please Dear God -- stop wasting your time on this site and our time with the same comments every story, every day. We get it, you don't like Loren or the NG. We got that about 1,000 posts ago in fact. Let's have a dialogue/discussion at least. I mean I never agree with Daisy but at least he/she states his/her case and cites numbers and instances/examples for his/her opinion...There, have needed to vent on that for 2 years...

griff507 wrote on April 06, 2013 at 8:04 pm

Sorry Matt, One person thought this was a "story" worth reading. Keep up the good work.

minwyhe wrote on April 09, 2013 at 11:04 am

Why would an all star talent ever want to go to Illinois?  A change is necessary in the mental framework of the team.  Until Groce can instill a winning mind set and begins to show the team can compete on a national level like Notre Dame does, Illnois cannot begin to attract the 4 star talent.  Most kids want to play bball at the pro level and will go to a school where there is name recognition and publicity even tho most will not make it. 

IlliniMike05 wrote on April 10, 2013 at 10:04 am

This is one of the most insanely stupid comments I've read on here (non-Moonpie, non-Daisy edition; those two live in their own stratosphere of stupid beyond comprehension) possibly ever. For so many reasons.

1. How has Groce not already instilled a winning mindset? He took a team- minus a lottery pick center- that lost 12 of their last 14 in the process of quitting on the previous coaching staff last year and immediately changed the culture for the better in every aspect of the program. They were within one incredible step-back 3 and one awful call of going to the Sweet 16, beat two No. 1 seeds and a No. 2 seed, and most impressively rebounded from a horrible start to Big Ten play when the same adversity sunk them last year. That necessary change? It's already happened.

2. What, exactly, has Notre Dame done to compete on a national level that Illinois hasn't? Like, ever? I'm not talking just the last few miserable years under Bruce. Brey's done a nice job of making them consistently competitive, but since beating Illinois to go to the Sweet 16 in 2003 Notre Dame hasn't gotten out of the first weekend again and missed the NCAA tournament in four of the last 10 seasons. From '04 to '09 they only made the tournament twice. That's the kind of run that got Bruce fired here. Notre Dame has never been among the national elite as consistently as Illinois was from '99-'00 to '05-'06 for that long of a period of time. You aren't talking about Kentucky, Kansas or UNC. You're talking about Notre Dame. This is so stupid already and I'm only halfway done.

3. Of course most kids want to play professionally. That isn't a point to make in an argument. It's a simple truth everyone with common sense intuitively knows. What, exactly, does Mike Brey have in his resume to point to in terms of producing NBA players?

4. Illinois has never failed to get 4-star players. Dating back to just 2009 through the incoming 2013 class, 12 4-star recruits have signed with Illinois (with two of them being 5-star recruits by various services). Groce already has the serious attention of quite a few 5-star recruits, after nearly signing Jackson before he even coached a game here.

Pick a new user name. You've already embarassed yourself with this one.