Tamika Jackson wasn’t really taught how to play basketball when she first started in seventh grade. She didn’t learn fundamentals on dribbling and setting screens. She was tall, so she only learned to post up.
“That’s still what I know to this day,” she said. “Until my freshman year of college. Then they was like, you’ve got to do this like this, and step one, two and three.”
Jackson spent her freshman and sophomore years at Chipola Junior College in Florida. Her game changed even more when she moved to Columbia.
“I learned better ways to defend and also (how to) be quicker,” she said. “Being in the Big 12 is faster than when we were in junior college, but it wasn’t a big adjustment. The only thing was the bigger gym and bigger crowds.”
A little over halfway through this season, Jackson is already above her totals from last year in games played, points and rebounds. She’s played in all 17 games, compared to 16 last season, has 48 points to last year’s 27 and 34 rebounds to last year’s 23.
“I had to,” she said. “There was no way I could stay in the funk I was in last year. I refused to do that again my senior year. And it’s a wonderful way to end your senior year in college. You just have to be committed to staying positive, because it’s really easy to be negative. It’s just so easy to go down, and hard to stay up, but you have to.”
Sophomore K-Kay Pickens said that Jackson has improved over last year because of her positive personality and comfort with the team.
“Last year it was more like she was thinking too much,” Pickens said. “Now she just does it. It comes naturally. Like plays, she used to be stressing over it. Now she knows them. She can do them comfortably.”
Heading into today’s game against Texas Tech, Jackson said she’s hoping Missouri will bounce back from the team’s two consecutive losses against Texas and Kansas State. Against the Wildcats on Saturday, she said the loss was mostly due to lack of rebounding and poor team communication. On Monday, Kansas State moved to No. 25 on the Associated Press poll.
Jackson, who is from Galveston, Texas, said she had friends go to school all over Texas. But unlike her friends, she wanted to “venture out” of her home state.
“I went out and stayed out,” she said. “I think that people get so comfortable staying in one spot. People are afraid to go out, and when they do, they don’t have a homey environment wherever they’re at. They come back for that feeling. That’s something I struggled with and had to get used to. But that’s what I wanted to do, that’s what I did, and that’s what I’m doing.”
For Pickens, who is from Houston, Jackson has been part of the reason she feels more “at home” in Columbia.
“Everyone on this team could tell you that Tamika reminds them of their mom or grandmother,” Pickens said. “Just the way she presents herself. She’s old fashioned. She loves kids. She loves to cook. She likes to decorate. She’s a grown woman. She’s a homey-type person.”
While her family urges her to go into coaching after she finishes college, Jackson doesn’t think she’ll do anything with basketball after she leaves MU. Her dream job is to extend her parental instincts and open up her own day care.
“For as long as I can remember, I’ve been attracted to children, and they’ve been attracted to me, too,” she said. “Kids I don’t even know, sometimes I’ll play with them and talk to them. And that kills me because everybody says I’m going to be a great parent. And I might as well take care of kids, because I’m just a big ol’ kid myself.”