U-High to host Lakeview in girls playoffs

When University High point guard Di’Mond Jackson suffered a torn ACL in late May, she was told to prepare for the worst-case scenario.

Doctors told Jackson she would likely miss a major portion of her senior season at the least. The 5-foot-8 senior has written her own storyline and leads top-seeded U-High (28-6) into the Class 2A girls basketball playoffs.

Jackson and the Cubs host No. 32 Lakeview at 6 p.m. Monday and are among a large number of teams in the Baton Rouge and New Orleans areas set to tip off their playoffs.

“I remember right when I got hurt thinking there’s no way I was going to miss any part of senior year,” Jackson said. “It was too important to me to play and be part of this team.

“Right after the surgery, I couldn’t feel my knee, and at that point, I thought I was weak. Sometimes, you don’t know how strong you until are you’re pushed.”

Jackson was playing for the Kenner Angels AAU team when the injury happened. While the Angels went on to win a national title, Jackson went to work on rehab with UHS athletic trainer Melissa Sorrells after LSU physician Dr. Brent Bankston performed surgery June 19.

“I think the thing impresses me the most is her strength,” UHS coach Bonita Johnson said. “I’ve had Di’Mond with me since she was a seventh-grader and have watched her grow and develop.

“A knee injury can change how you look at yourself and it brings some people down. Di’Mond never had any doubt or hesitation about coming back. She doesn’t even wear a brace.”

Sorrells agreed.

“Di’Mond has one of the best work ethics I’ve ever seen in an athlete coming back from a knee injury,” Sorrells said. “In fact, there were times when I had to try and rein her because she wanted to do so much.”

The process started when Jackson returned home from surgery. Her second-floor bedroom was supposed to be off limits, but within days, Jackson was back in her room.

In many ways, the Cubs are Jackson’s team. She is averaging 14.9 points and 9.3 assists per game, is U-High’s lone senior and is the only remaining player from a 2010 team that was the 2A runner-up to second-seeded St. Thomas Aquinas-Hammond. UHS lost to eventual champion John Curtis in the semifinals last season.

Despite the injury, recruiting interest in Jackson has picked up. The fact that Jackson carries a 3.7 grade point average and is looking at a pre-med major doesn’t hurt.

For now, recruiting is the last thing Jackson thinks about.

“It’s really come full circle,” Jackson said. “We’re the No. 1 seed just like we were when I was a freshman. We have another chance to finish. My message to my teammates is you have to be focused and play every game like it’s going to be your last.”

Title tracks

Second-seeded St. Michael the Archangel (29-4) in Class 4A and No. 23 Capitol High (12-15), of Class 2A, were the last Baton Rouge teams to win state titles in 2009.

SMHS won back-to-back titles in 2008 and 2009. Capitol was the 3A champion in 2009.

Top-seeded Albany (24-8) and No. 2 Baker (21-5) were recent 3A runners-up. AHS was the 3A runner-up last year, while Baker was the runner-up in 2010.

3-point winners

St. Joseph’s Academy’s Olivia Abadie and Catholic High’s Phillip Ieyoub will represent the Baton Rouge region in the statewide 3-point shooting contest next month in Shreveport.

Abadie, a sophomore, was one of six competitors at Saturday’s regional event sponsored by the Louisiana High School Basketball Coaches Association at Catholic High. Ieyoub was one of 17 boys competitors.

Regional champions from across the state will compete at halftime of the Louisiana High School Coaches Association’s all-star games set for March 16 at Centenary College.