Hernell (Jeep) Jackson, a University of Texas El Paso basketball player who starred at Gardena High School, died Saturday after collapsing during a game at Ft. Bliss, an Army base in El Paso. He was 23.
Jackson, an All-Western Athletic Conference selection this season, was playing for a team of Ft. Bliss all-stars against a team of Houston Oiler football players when he collapsed at about 3 p.m. MDT, said Lt. Col. Jim Lawson, public affairs officer at Ft. Bliss.
Jackson had no heartbeat and was not breathing when paramedics arrived minutes later, Lawson said.
After paramedics unsuccessfully tried to resuscitate Jackson at courtside for about 15 minutes, he was taken to the emergency room at nearby Beaumont Army Medical Center. Doctors worked on Jackson for nearly 50 minutes before pronouncing him dead at 4:09, Lawson said.
An autopsy was scheduled for Monday to determine the cause of death, said Jackson's father, Mason.
Mason Jackson said his son had no known medical problems.
"Besides some broken wrists and broken fingers, sports injuries like that, he had no health problems whatsoever," Mason Jackson said when reached at his home in Carson. "He had a physical every year, and always passed them and he had a very strong stand against drugs. In fact, he planned to live in Texas because he thought there was too much drug use in L.A.
" . . . I couldn't believe it when they called and told me about Jeep. What happened was the farthest thing from my mind."
Lawson said Jackson had played about five minutes when he came out of the game.
"I can't say whether he was sitting or standing when he collapsed the first time," Lawson said. "Some people thought he was joshing when he got up. But he was glassy-eyed and fell again. That's when we knew something was terribly amiss."
Don Haskins, UTEP coach, was stunned by Jackson's death.
"I find it extremely difficult to believe a young man like Jeep, who obviously was in excellent health, is dead," Haskins told the Associated Press. "Jeep was always ready to play. He was an upbeat young man with a sunny outlook on life. He was always ready with an encouraging smile or a good word for those around him."
Jackson, a 6-foot, 1-inch senior, was a crowd favorite because of his animated style of play. Last season, he averaged 13.4 points in leading UTEP to the second round of the NCAA tournament, where the Miners lost to Iowa, 84-82.
On March 13, Jackson had 23 points, including nine in overtime to help UTEP defeat Arizona at Tucson, 98-91, in the first round of the tournament.
In 1981-82, he averaged 19 points per game and helped lead Gardena to the semifinals of the City Section 4-A playoffs. Jackson was a Times' All-City selection that season.
Jackson was planning to come to Los Angeles May 14 to be the best man at a friend's wedding, his father said. Mason Jackson said his son was then going to return to Texas and work for a law firm because he was thinking about going on to law school after getting his undergraduate degree at UTEP next fall.
Jackson leaves his parents, three brothers and two sisters. Funeral arrangements are pending.