Spartan Spotlight - Tonner Jackson

LANGLEY, British Columbia - It is said that the older you get, the wiser you become. For Trinity Western guard, Tonner Jackson, wisdom came in way of a renewed perspective on life.

Now in his fifth year at TWU, but just third year of athletic eligibility, the White Rock, B.C. product has become a mature and consistent leader for the Spartans men’s basketball team.

However, the 6-foot-7, 220-pound Jackson will admit that it has taken time for development to take place, and credits much of it to a decision made two years ago.

“I began talking to some friends early in my third year about the possibility of attending the Laurentian Leadership Centre in Ottawa during the 2011 fall semester,” Jackson said. “I just wasn’t into basketball like I once was and I needed a change.”

The Laurentian Leadership Centre is a residential internship program, which houses TWU students for a four month period as they take various interdisciplinary courses and get the opportunity to participate in any of a wide variety of internships, most notably within the political environment.

After months of discussion and thought, Jackson decided to take a year off of basketball, choosing to work during the fall semester of school, before going to Ottawa in January to begin his time at the LLC.

“I think it hurt the team to hear Tonner was taking a year off,” said Spartans men’s basketball coach Scott Allen. “But it is about the athlete and what is best for him, so we respected his decision, and I think, looking back, it was the right decision.”

For Jackson, he has no doubt he made the right choice.

 “My time at the LLC made me realize how much I really enjoy my studies,” said Jackson, who interned with Citizenship and Immigration Canada. “I love political studies and I love philosophy, and it really accentuated that. I also realized that these things can last me a lot longer than basketball can, in terms of a career, but also in the fulfillment they bring me.”

It was that moment of realization that helped change the way Jackson approached his return to the student-athlete life.

Jackson rejoined the Spartans for the 2012-2013 campaign, and it didn’t take long for the refreshed and refocused guard to make an impact.

Putting up 15 points and eight rebounds in an exhibition game against Eastern Washington and then dominating the Bishop’s Gaiters in another preseason tilt with a 29-point and 12-rebound game, Jackson proved he was back in a big way and that a year away from the sport perhaps even aided his game.

“The break was something that really helped me,” Jackson said. “I had been playing competitive basketball for about 16 years, so I needed time to relax and get away from the court, which has allowed me to come back fired up to play.”

Jackson’s comeback story, however, was altered late in the preseason, as he began dealing with back pain. Ever the determined competitor, Jackson played through the pain in TWU’s season opener against UBC and scored 20 points and pulled down five rebounds in 31 minutes of play. However, the Spartans lost that game 91-84 and, as it would turn out, that night would be Jackson’s last on-court appearance of the first semester.

The pain in Jackson’s back sidelined him for two months, which was an unfamiliar reality.

“I have never really been injured in my time at Trinity Western,” Jackson said. “So to be out with a bad back was pretty devastating, to say the least, considering that I had taken a full year off and was ready to get back to it.”

But it was what he learned during his time in Ottawa which brought him through the months of injury and rehabilitation.

“It was definitely not the end of the world for me,” Jackson said. “It gave me an opportunity to focus on my studies, something I had gained an appreciation for, as I worked hard to rehab and get ready for the second semester.”

With the second semester now well under way, a healthy Jackson has once again proven his importance to the success of the Spartans.

Last weekend, in front of a Calgary Dinos crowd of 1100, Jackson put up a career-high 36 points and nine rebounds, helping his team erase a 15-point halftime deficit and nearly complete a remarkable comeback. Ultimately, the Spartans rally fell short as TWU lost 93-92 put Jackson’s name prominently back on the Canada West map.
 
But while points and rebounds are what show up in the box score, Jackson brings a whole lot more to the Spartans than just numbers.

“He is ready to be a leader, and so far has stepped into that role well,” Allen said. “Past players in this program have taught Tonner what it means to be a Spartan, and how to represent Trinity Western day in and day out. Now it is his turn to pass that on to our younger athletes, something I can already see him actively doing.”

With an emphasis on the student-athlete dynamic, Jackson has become a role model not only on the court, but in the classroom. This past semester, he earned a stunning 4.15 grade point average.

But don’t think he pushes basketball to the backburner.

“I still take basketball very seriously, and I am glad I came back,” Jackson said. “It stretches you physically, mentally and emotionally, and I think I would have regretted those things if I didn’t play as long as I could.”

As the second semester continues to unfold, it will be Jackson’s leadership and on court performances that will give the Spartans a chance at victory on Friday and Saturday nights. As for the rest of the week, one can count on him to be leading by example academically and pursuing excellence as a well-rounded student-athlete.

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Last Updated: 2013-01-25
Author: Jarrod Offereins