GIRLS PLAYER OF THE WEEK — Memorial’s Kaila Jackson stands tall in post

Published 12:19 am Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Kaila Jackson switched from playing guard to post when she reached high school, and it’s still an adjustment for the Memorial senior after four years learning to play in a more aggressive posture.

But she’s come into her own as a player and a team leader.

“She does a good job of anticipating balls on the defensive side, getting her hands on a lot of deflections, and she incorporates some turnovers that helps us,” coach Kevin Henry said.

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“She’s a good student, a good player, she’s been with us all four years, a 2½-year varsity player and she stepped up big this year. Last year she played more of a role for us but this year she’s coming in and she’s probably our second leading rebounder behind Jackie [Gibbs].”

As a senior, the team looks to Jackson to provide the example.

“As you’re an underclassman nobody really looks at you, but once you’re the senior on varsity, literally everybody is looking at you,” said Jackson, The News Girls Player of the Week.

Jackson was put in the post position thanks in part to her her length as a 5-8 player, but she’s also making plays rebounding and shooting. She scored 12 and collected 11 rebounds in Memorial’s 59-50 win in Vidor.

“She’s able to hit the mid-range jumper,” Henry said. “She’s extended her shooting this year and surprises from the three-point line have also been a threat that helps stretch the floor for us. She’s handling it pretty well this year, adjusting to her new roles, having to score more, play a lot more minutes, having to rebound more and help direct more traffic. She’s been a valuable asset to us.”

Jackson says she can still be versatile wherever she’s needed.

“I feel like I can be everywhere,” she said. “I play post most of the time, but I can be a guard. I was a guard my whole middle school career, so I can do a little bit of everything.”

Still, she now thinks of the post as home.

“Post is where all the action happens, that’s where probably most of our points are coming from, so that’s me,” she said. “That’s where I belong.”

Her support may not always be visible in the game, Henry said, but she proves to be in the thick of things once the stats are tallied.

“Kaila, I guess you could say she’s a silent assassin,” Henry said. “You don’t really see her actions on the floor, but then at the end of the game, you look at the stat line and see that she scored this and she had this many rebounds.”

Two games remain in the regular season for the Lady Titans. Memorial travels to Cleveland at 7 p.m. on Friday, then will host Dayton on Tuesday at 7 p.m. The first Dayton contest on Jan. 17 remains unfinished after officials called the game early when a fight broke out.

Henry said Memorial will concede the game, which was called with 22 seconds left and the score at 46-44 with Dayton in the lead, if the game won’t be necessary to determine playoff eligibility.

Though the Titans suffered tough losses after several players were benched due to the incident, Henry saw it as an opportunity for the younger players that played for varsity to gain valuable experience.

“Who knows? There might be some people who can help us if we make the playoffs,” Henry said. “They can help us down the road, definitely next year and into the future. It’ll help with the experience they gained, but they might be able to help us this year.”

Jackson said players were standing up for their teammates.

“It wasn’t an actual fight — it was just a big scene, and we definitely learned to stay on the bench and breathe,” she said.