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CAL STATE FULLERTON NOTEBOOK : Jackson Finds a Comfort Zone

January 21, 1992|MIKE DiGIOVANNA

Claudette Jackson, a senior forward on the Cal State Fullerton women's basketball team, discovered recently that it's possible to care too much about others.

Jackson, a first-team All-Big West Conference selection in 1990-91, carried a heavy enough burden into the season knowing she had to step up her scoring and rebounding to help fill the void left by All-American Genia Miller, who has used up her eligibility.

But she also was given the responsibility of team captain, a role that she might not have been well-suited for, Jackson says.

Jackson spent much of the nonconference season as a leader and counselor, urging teammates not to let off-the-court problems affect on-the-court play, trying to keep younger teammates from getting too discouraged when the team wasn't playing well.

She has been a more vocal leader this season than last, when her gritty work around the basket and unselfish play set an example.

Then one day Jackson looked up and saw that her scoring (15.7) and rebounding (7.2) averages were actually less than last season's figures (16.2 points and 8.6 rebounds).

And this was supposed to ease the loss of Miller?

Just before the start of Big West Conference play three weeks ago, Jackson sat down with Titan coaches to discuss her subpar play, and they came to this conclusion: Jackson was too concerned with others and not concerned enough with herself.

"She was so worried about being captain, trying to pick everyone else up, paying attention to everyone else, that her own game suffered," Fullerton Coach Maryalyce Jeremiah said.

"In her desire to be a leader, sometimes in games she'd forget to play. She needed to remember to have fun, because when she has fun, she relaxes, and when she relaxes she plays better."

Jackson has proven Jeremiah correct this month. With her new, don't-worry-be-happy outlook, the 5-foot-11 Jackson scored 95 points and had 51 rebounds in the past four games, increasing her averages to 18.2 points and 8.9 rebounds.

She had 32 points and 16 rebounds in a 71-65 loss to Cal State Long Beach Jan. 14, and had 22 points and a career-high 20 rebounds in a 66-59 victory over UC Irvine Sunday that snapped the Titans' six-game losing streak.

"I've just let everything go," said Jackson, who helped Golden West College win the community college state championship in 1990. "If they (teammates) are going to mess up, they're going to mess up and I'll let the coach yell at them. I just shake everything off and play."

Although she still holds the title, Jackson has shed some of the responsibilities of being team captain, and that has been a relief.

"This was the first time I've been in that position, and dealing with teammates and school, all that stress started adding up," Jackson said. "I took the role too seriously by trying to take care of everyone else instead of me. Earlier in the year I wasn't having fun, but I'm having a great time now."

Titan tourists: Leading the Fullerton cheering section during the women's basketball game against UC Irvine Sunday was Genia Miller, the former Titan standout who recently returned from her first professional season in Japan--and brought along her entire team.

Twelve members of the Japan Airlines' Rabbits, who finished second in their division this past season and, for the first time in team history, made the final four of the All-Japan tournament, traveled to Southern California Thursday and will remain until Wednesday.

Miller, who will stay on to take classes at Fullerton this spring and summer, has taken her teammates to Disneyland, Knott's Berry Farm and Universal Studios. They also took in a Clippers game last week, the Titan game Sunday and attended Monday's Lakers-Seattle SuperSonics game at the Forum.

The 6-foot-3 center, who made about $100,000 in five months playing overseas, hopes to return to Tokyo for another season in September, but she hasn't yet signed a contract.

"I loved it there," Miller said. "It reminds me a lot of New York. It's very fast-paced, and you can find anything there."

Miller said she was impressed with her Titan replacement, freshman center Kisa Hughes, with whom Miller hopes to work with during the season.

"She's a better freshman than I was," Miller said. "She has more skills and has the basics down. It's just a matter of molding her into the type of player she can be. Hopefully, I'll be able to help her out."

Surprising stat: The Titan women's basketball team has been in a shooting slump all season and enters Thursday's game against Fresno State with a .378 shooting percentage. Only two starters, Jackson and Hughes, are shooting better than 40% from the field.

However, four players, Jackson (18.2), Joey Ray (15.0), Hughes (11.3) and Heidi James (10.1), are averaging in double figures.

"I don't know how we have anyone in double figures with our atrocious shooting," Jeremiah said.

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