Michael Jordan. LeBron James. Franklin Jackson. Each one earned McDonald’s All American title. Jackson won it for the state of Utah. In fact, Jackson just became the sixth Utahn to take home the honor. After committing to Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, the graduating senior continues to make headlines. He just won the Slam Dunk Contest at McDonald’s All American Games in Chicago last week.
How did this all begin? Some years ago, Jackson verbally committed to play for Brigham Young University-Provo Men’s Basketball team. It wasn’t until he climbed the national ranks for high school athletes that he decided to forgo BYU.
Sports has always been a focal point in the Jackson family. Alvin Jackson who served as a Utah state senator played sports at the collegiate level and supported his son’s games in basketball, football, and baseball. When Frank was young, they both were inseparable. “He went with me everywhere. He ran errands with me. I was always the parent that went on fields trips with him because I owned my own business and we spent a lot of time together,” Alvin says.
They shopped together mainly because “he was a pain at home. He is a very competitive kid and high maintenance and wants his way, and sometimes it is best not to have him at home with his other siblings because there is always could be some friction.”
Alvin knew early on that Jackson was always athletic. During family trips to the beach, Jackson would show off his skills on the bogey-board. One spring Alvin and Frank toured the southeastern seaboard attending different games. It was during experiences like these for him to teach his son. “When we were out together, it was always an opportunity for me to teach what kind of values, my wife and I wanted to instill in him. How to be a good loser if you do lose?” Alvin said.
Alvin says in high school, the time arrived for him to let Franklin go. He hired some trainers to work with him and now he says he just gives bits and pieces of advice. Alvin says he fortunate to be an assistant this past summer as an assistant AAU coach. “We have sacrificed and done all that we can to put him in a position to be successful and he has met the challenge. He has been a great kid. I expect big things from him,” Alvin says. “He is kind to everyone. People come up to him now even as a high school senior asking for autographs to take pictures with him. That brings joy to his parent’s heart because we are more concerned about what he is like as a person off the court than on the court.
Lone Peak High School plays a crucial role in Frank’s trajectory to the NBA. During his sophomore year he was averaging 18 points per game. During his third year he takes the reigns after two senior players move on. Alvin says his son had to learn how to be a leader. “It has been an interesting process for him. They had a good season, not as successful as previous season. Frank learned a lot about leadership that year,” Alvin recalls.
When Frank as a ninth grader made a verbal commitment to attend BYU on scholarship they were open. “We were wide-eyed, bushy tailed, didn’t know what to expect what they were going to do. Frank felt good about it and made the decision,” Alvin explains. But as a junior, Frank’s skills are obvious. “There are some other schools out there respecting the BYU commitment, but getting a sense that this is interesting. Franklin is probably getting better than he thought he would ever be,” Alvin says.
Towards the end of that summer, Jackson’s friends at a special summer guard camp for top guards in the country hosted by Chris Paul questioned his BYU decision, saying he can do “so much better than that.” After a successful year of playing, Jackson de-committed and began accepting offers and home visits from top recruits include Duke, Stanford, and the University of Utah.
Frank comes from a big family—he is third child for Alvin and Juleen Jackson (a Utah native) who lost two sons in infancy. Although Jackson’s parents have taught him to pray always for help and support, he says he has felt his deceased siblings influence at certain moments in his life.
On July 3, 2016 Al and Juleen will drop off their 18 year–old son to play for the Blue Devils. They hope their son will stay on the Duke Men’s Basketball team and hence at the university for as long as possible. “We want Frank to go down there and play well and to get a good education and to get exposed to the finer things in life and all that Duke university has to offer. Beyond that, I think his goal is to play professional basketball whether it’s in the NBA or overseas. I think he has a good chance of doing that if he stays healthy and continues to work hard. He’s got a bright future ahead of him,” Al says.
Alvin believes basketball will take care of itself but having Frank be a stud off the court and great to this team mates and those around him in his sphere of influence will be tremendous asset. “He is my buddy. I love him to pieces and I just admire the young man he has become.”