After visiting Mississippi State once, Rickea Jackson knew she had to take a second visit.
Detroit Edison’s Jackson, 6-feet-3, is the No. 1 player in the state and ranked No. 9 in the country by ESPN. She is the most heavily recruited player in the state in decades.
The second trip to Starkville, Miss., is the one that did the trick.
“The first time on my official visit I had that feeling already,” she said Friday. “I wanted to give the same opportunity to all of the schools. So I waited and took unofficials to South Carolina, Rutgers and Mississippi State. The second time around I just knew for a fact that Mississippi State was the place for me.”
Before the student body in the Edison gym, Jackson showed a video of her committing to Mississippi State and she entered the gym wearing an MSU Bulldogs shirt, accompanied by a bulldog on a leash.
Ultimately, Jackson’s decision came down to South Carolina, which has the No. 1 recruiting class in the country, or Mississippi State.
“I wouldn’t mind being part of it that class, but I wanted to go where I knew I would be comfortable, not because of a ranking,” Jackson said. “It’s just like a family atmosphere there. It was a feeling that was not anywhere else. It felt like home. I was so comfortable.”
Last season in leading Edison to its second straight Class C state championship, Jackson averaged 21.9 points and 10 rebounds.
Edison coach Monique Brown believes this season we will see an even better version of Jackson and she struggled to pick out her best attribute.
“It used to be rebounding, but now she’s so versatile,” Brown said. “I’d say it’s getting to the basket and finishing. Her jump shot has improved tremendously. I haven’t seen anybody’s jump shot improve in a year or so as much as hers has.”
Another selling point for Mississippi State was the opportunity for Jackson to improve and expand her game under coach Vic Schaefer.
“Coach Schaefer is a major developer, as you can see with Big T,” she said, referring to 6-7 All-America Teaira McCowan. “As a freshman she was not that good and look at her now. She is amazing. I feel like he will help to polish every that I have, especially my defense because they are a defensive team.”
Actually picking one school became tougher and tougher as the recruiting process wore on. It got to the point that she had a difficult time speaking to the college coaches.
“I almost cried myself to sleep every night,” Jackson said. “Only because I built so many relationships with different people and I felt like telling them no, it just broke my heart because at the end of the day I had to tell them I wasn’t coming there.”