Kearny’s Jackson coming of age at right time

After spending a few years at Church Farm School, a private all-boys institution in Pennsylvania, Javon Jackson wanted to come back home.

However, home for his family was now Kearny, having moved from Newark.

“I only knew a few people when I transferred to Kearny (High School),” Jackson said. “I was going from a small school to a big school. It was a little different for me.”

Apparently, so was the brand of basketball that is played at Kearny, under head coach Bob McDonnell.

“He had a bit of an attitude problem when he got here,” McDonnell said. “He had to accept that he was joining a program and had to do things the right way.  If he did that, then he could be eligible to play, but not before.”

“I was hoping to play when I got here,” Jackson said. “I met with Coach McDonnell and he wasn’t happy with the way I was acting. I knew I had to change things in order to play my senior year. He wanted me to be more about the people around me, not just myself. I had to adapt to his way. It was tough to do and it took me a whole year, but I started to understand.”

Jackson became more of a team player and that pleased McDonnell.

“He played over the summer and into the fall,” McDonnell said. “He started to become the leader that I thought he could be. He became a better team player, helping the younger players. I had a good idea of what he could do.”

As soon as Jackson turned his game around, both on and off the court, he began to see the light.

“I realized it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be,” Jackson said. “I knew that I could have a good year if I did the things he wanted.”

It’s been a revelation for the Kardinals, who have a 3-2 record in the early going of the season, including a win over Nutley in the consolation of the Charlie Dolan Holiday Tournament Thursday afternoon.

Jackson has been a god-send to the Kards, averaging better than double digits per game.

He scored 12 points against North Bergen, added 18 points against Ferris, had 19 points against Memorial in the opening round of the Charlie Dolan tourney and tallied 17 in the win over Nutley. The 6-foot Jackson also grabbed four rebounds in each of the aforementioned games.

For his efforts, Jackson has been selected as The Observer Athlete of the Week for the past week. He is the first honoree in the winter scholastic sports season and the first honoree in 2017.

McDonnell is more than pleased with Jackson’s contributions.

“I’m happy because he’s given the team a new dimension,” McDonnell said. “He’s picked up the tempo and the team’s intensity tremendously. He helps everyone now, including the coaching staff. He has a great outside shot and can get to the basket. He’s been dishing the ball off and playing good defense. He’s really picked up his game.”

Jackson said that it just took some time for him to get accustomed to his new surroundings.

“Coming from a small school like Church Farm to a big school like Kearny was a little tough,” Jackson said. “But it feels really good to have it happen. It took a little while, in this case a whole year, but it’s been worth the wait.”

Jackson said that he has been working hard on his game.

“I’ve been focusing on my jump shot,” Jackson said. “It gives me a little bit of an advantage and the confidence I need to know that I can make the shots. Everything is going well.”

McDonnell admitted that he didn’t think a change was possible.

“No, I didn’t see this coming, not when I first met him,” McDonnell said. “But he realized that he is an exceptional athlete. He turned things around.”

Jackson is hoping to play in college, much like his friend from high school at Church Farm Tyler Ofray, the leading scorer at Rutgers-Newark.

“He’s like my big brother,” Jackson said. “I’d love to play in college.”

If Jackson stays the course the rest of the way, there’s no doubt he could play on the next level. He’s made the right decision by listening to his coaches.


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Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer

Sports Writer Jim Hague was with The Observer for 20+ years — and his name is one of the most recognizable in all of sports journalism. The St. Peter’s Prep and Marquette alum kicked off his journalism career post Marquette at the Daily Record, where he remained until 1985. Following shorts stints at two other newspapers, in September 1986, he joined the now-closed Hudson Dispatch, where he remained until 1991, when its doors were finally shut.

It was during his tenure at The Dispatch that Hague’s name and reputation as one of country’s hardest-working sports reporters grew. He won several New Jersey Press Association and North Jersey Press Club Awards in that timeframe.

In 1991, he became a columnist for The Hudson Reporter chain of newspapers — and he remains with them to this day.

In addition to his work at The Observer and The Hudson Reporter, Hague is also an Associated Press stringer, where he covers Seton Hall University men’s basketball, New York Red Bulls soccer and occasionally, New Jersey Devils hockey.

He’s also doing work at The Morristown Daily Record, the very newspaper where his journalism career began.

During his career, he also worked for Dorf Feature Services, which provided material for the Star-Ledger. While there, he covered the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets.

Hague is also known for his announcing work — and he’s done PA work for Rutgers Newark and NJIT.

Hague is the author of the book “Braddock: The Rise of the Cinderella Man.”