Video Spotlight - Tonner Jackson

LANGLEY, British Columbia - The best basketball-related decision Tonner Jackson ever made was to wait.

The now 6-foot-7, 225-pound guard from White Rock, B.C. came to Trinity Western University in the fall of 2008 but, soon after arriving, he decided to redshirt in his first year.

And for the now second-year player from White Rock Christian Academy, it was the smartest move he could have made.

“I knew I personally wasn’t physically strong enough or mentally strong enough to perform at the level I wanted to be able to perform at,” Jackson said. “I was thinking if I don’t play this year, I have a way better opportunity to get better. I can spend way more hours in the gym in terms of lifting weights and shooting and my stress levels will be kept down too, which will be positive for my mental health too.”

Jackson played just nine minutes worth of competitive basketball in three preseason games that year before pulling on the red shirt. But although he didn’t see the court that year, in the long run, it could well be the most valuable year of his TWU career.

“It was definitely one of my most motivated years in terms of getting better even though I couldn’t see my success tangibly in terms of playing time or hitting shots in games,” Jackson said. “But I was just so motivated to lift every day and shoot every day because I wanted to get to a place where I could be contributing in my first and second years.”

And contribute he has.

Since slinging on Brian Banman’s old number five to start the 2009-10 season – a number Jackson admired in his first-year because of the player who donned it – Jackson has seen his game grow exponentially. In his first year playing, he went from averaging five minutes per game at the start of last season to averaging 25 minutes per game by the end of last season.

And while injuries to some of his teammates played a part in his increased role, it was his first year of weights, shooting and watching the veterans that set him up for an impressive rookie campaign.

“Banman was particularly a big influence on me because he was a fundamentally good basketball player and very calm and collected kind of guy,” said Jackson, who also recalled Michael Brouwer, Jon Schmidt and Jamie Vaugh as key leaders he learned from. “Banman had his emotional spurts on the court but behind that he was very level headed and that’s someone I looked up to, but the same goes for the other guys.

“Whenever we’re practicing or have games, I’m always reflecting on how those guys played and how those guys dealt with situations that I’m dealing with more now.”

After a bit of a slow start to this year, Jackson has now averaged 11 points in his last four games coming into this weekend as he continues to become just more and more comfortable on the floor.

At the beginning of last year he was a nervous wreck on the court. But after a year of seasoning, one in which he was forced to step into a key role in the lineup, he’s starting to figure it out.

And he’s no longer affected so much by nerves.

No. Now he’s affected by an engrained desire not lose.

In the final game of the season last year, the Spartans were playing UBC on the road in what would turn out to be their season finale.
When the fourth quarter horn sounded and the final score reflected a 90-83 advantage for the Thunderbirds, the Spartans season was officially over.

Jackson had played 30 minutes in the game and, with 17 points, only trailed Jacob Doerksen’s 23 points in team scoring. But those points didn’t mean a thing.

“When we did lose to UBC, it was really moving for me to see our fifth-year guys leaving when I cared so much about them and I felt we had so much potential to be a good team,” Jackson said.

“I was very emotional after that game. I was shedding a few tears because it came down to the wire and I was playing the whole third and fourth quarter. It really stuck with me how I don’t want to be there and I want to do whatever I can, not to be there. That’s a huge motivating factor in terms of pushing myself.”

Motivation was never an issue for Jackson. And while it’s clear he knows how much waiting can be a good thing, when it comes to team success, he’s already getting antsy.

Last Updated: 2010-12-21
Author: Mark Janzen