Hopes are high for the Seton Hall women’s basketball team after a 6-1 start this season.
The reason for good spirits around Tony Bozzella’s crew has not just been the on-court results, but also the off-court development of one of the Pirates’ most talented players in JaQuan Jackson.
The redshirt senior was named co-captain with redshirt sophomore Kaity Healy at the start of the season after spending one year with the team. Now, Jackson is the team’s third leading scorer with 13.4 points per game, while shooting 50 percent from the floor and 47 percent from three.
“It’s been great, just because of the people around me,” Jackson said about adjusting to her leadership role. “My teammates make it easy. It is a big role, but they make it easy for me so I’m getting more comfortable with it every day.”
After finishing third in the Big East in scoring last season with 15.3 points-per-game, Jackson has followed up by scoring in double digits in six of her first seven games this season. She had a season-high 19 points in the first game of the SHU Thanksgiving Classic against Rider on Nov. 25, a tournament in which Jackson was named MVP.
Jackson has not had a game this season in which she has shot less than 43 percent from deep, and has just two games this year in which she has shot less than 42 percent from the field.
In a word, she has been consistent, and that has a lot to do with the confidence she has gained this season.
“I feel like I have more confidence and I have a lot more trust among my teammates,” Jackson said. “They trust me to shoot the ball, they trust me to pass the ball.”
The confidence Jackson exudes has rubbed off onto her teammates as well. Her fellow captain Healy sees the difference Jackson is making.
“She definitely has grown off the court as a leader,” Healy said. “She has the most positive attitude on the team. She picks me up whenever I need it, and she’s the first person, if anyone is having a hard day, to pick them up.”
The uplifting nature of Jackson’s persona has made her teammates better in the early stages of the season. Even a player like Healy, who has been held to five minutes of play per game in the young season, is staying motivated, in part by Jackson’s encouragement.
“She’s definitely helped me maintain my confidence and gain confidence,” Healy said. “The fact that she’s always pushing me to get better…she’s the best.”
The Pirates will need that confidence as they wrap up non-conference play with a series of tough matchups, including games against in-state rivals Rutgers and nationally-ranked UCLA.
This may only be Jackson’s second season in South Orange, but it will also be her last. Knowing this, Jackson relishes the opportunity she has this season, with a team she sees foresees accomplishing big things if they maintain their discipline.
“We have really good things coming for us,” Jackson said. “We have to keep working every day, taking no days off and not taking advantage of the wins we have. We have to keep pushing and pushing.”
Matt Ambrose can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @mambrose97.