Get Outta Dodge
UNC-Charlotte, East Carolina and a few other schools showed interest in Jackson out of high school, and was offered by Appalachian State. But Jackson started his career at Dodge City, in Dodge City, KS.
His mission was literally to get out of Dodge.
“That JUCO grind is different. It’s real different,” Jackson said. “You went to junior college for either two reasons— you didn’t have the grades or you didn’t have the looks. I didn’t have the grades, unfortunately.”
Jackson averaged better than 14 points per game in two seasons at Dodge City, earning a Division I scholarship to Sam Houston State prior to the 2015-16 season. He entered SHSU as a highly-regarded transfer, but only played four games for the Bearkats. He suffered a dreadful left knee injury that left him with a torn ACL, MCL, and meniscus. Shortly after the injury, Jackson was let go from the team for violating the program’s rules.
“Sam Houston was love,” Ameer said. “You don’t want regrets in life, but I actually messed up. I didn’t have the mentality then. I was young-minded. It was a learning experience because it showed me — what do I want more?”
By the fall of 2016, Jackson was back home in Kannapolis, trying to figure out his next move.
“I was like, ‘man… now I don’t want to play basketball and I’m hurt. I just blew my chance. I went home and I had literally every D2…Fairmont State, Charleston, all the top ranked D2s. I didn’t know nothing about them, but I had them (offers).”
Jackson was also drawing heavy interest from HBCUs, particularly in the CIAA. In the end, though, it was a text message from one coach in the league that helped Jackson get back on the court.
James Wilhelmi was head coach at Winston-Salem State. Like pretty much all D2s and HBCUs, he knew a player like Jackson could take a team to the next level.
“He had some swagger to him,” Wilhelmi told HBCU Gameday. Looking to rebuild his program, he reached out to Jackson via text message.
It was a text message that Jackson, four years later, hasn’t forgotten.
“Ameer, I know you gotta choose where you want to go soon,” Wilhelmi said via text. “School has started 🙂 Where are you going to go?”
“Not the emoji smiley face,” Jackson pointed out. “But the old school smiley face.”
Jackson took Wilhelmi up on his offer, joining WSSU after the fall 2016 semester. He averaged 15.3 points a game in 19 contests for the Rams, while playing out of position.
“He was a versatile player that could play multiple positions,” he said. “He had games where he could light it up from the outside. There were other games where he could make plays for people. Then of course, he could finish at the basket because he had decent explosiveness.”
The Rams finished the year second in the CIAA South with Jackson and freshman Robert Colon leading the way. With one season of eligibility remaining Jackson had a choice to make — come back for his final season or turn pro. In the end, he chose to start his professional career.
“I knew that that’s what he wanted to do. That wasn’t a shocker,” Wilhelmi said. “Did I try to talk him into staying? Absolutely, because he wasn’t that far away from graduating. And I felt, when you looked at the numbers of what potentially you can get paid early on in a career coming from Division II vs. what a scholarship is worth— I was trying to get him to stay put that final year.”
But clearly, Jackson felt otherwise.
“I felt like it was time for me to go and make some money while I can and I’m still young,” Ameer told me. “I thought about it like, I can always come back to school…get the rest of my degree. My legs won’t be here forever.”