Friends' Jackson looks forwardBY TONY ADAME
The Wichita Eagle
Friends University guard Chris Jackson got about five seconds to enjoy last year's breakout season.
Once the Falcons lost to Bethel (Ind.) in the first round of the NAIA Division II Tournament, the former Wichita Southeast and Barton Community College product says he put all of his — and his team's — accolades behind him.
"I was able to forget about everything we'd done pretty quickly," Jackson said. "We were disappointed with how things finished. We wanted to be in the championship game and we came up short."
Jackson, a 6-foot-3 guard, was a unanimous All-KCAC pick and an honorable mention All-American while leading the Falcons to a 25-7 record, including regular-season and tournament titles in the KCAC.
Jackson was second in the league in scoring at 18.6 points and led the league in three-point shooting, hitting 42 percent. He was also third in free-throw percentage (79.5) and sixth in steals (1.53).
So he had a lot to forget.
"I guess if anything sticks out to me from last year, it was the great chemistry that we had," Jackson said. "We all spent a lot of time together and got to be really close. I think when a team creates that kind of chemistry, good things will happen."
A big part of that chemistry was the bond Jackson had with backcourt mate and cousin Romar Jones, who won KCAC player of the year honors in his one year playing with Jackson.
"It was great playing with Romar, but I don't know that us being cousins was necessarily the reason we played so good together," Jackson said. "I felt like he bought into what the team was trying to do and that was why we were successful. It wasn't a security blanket for me to have him there, it was everybody playing good together."
Replacing Jones will be the Falcons' most difficult task, but eighth-year coach Dale Faber thinks that a group that includes a pair of former Wichita State walk-ons — Brett Steven and Reggie Britton — along with returner Nick O'Nelio should be able to fill that void.
"The great thing about Romar is that he could guard (four positions) on the other team," Faber said. "Romar had a very physical presence that I hope Chris can fill, especially in regards to rebounding.
"Brett has to, quite frankly, live up to his potential, and I don't know if he was really capable of that in the role I had him in last year, or if I was patient enough with him."
The Falcons' frontcourt should be tough to contend with, returning 6-8 center John Bridges, but won't be complete until honorable mention All-KCAC selection Mike Hyde arrives.
Hyde, a 6-5 power forward and All-KCAC wide receiver, won't join the team until the middle of November at the earliest. If the Falcons qualify for the NAIA playoffs in football, that could be pushed until early December.
"We're pretty confident in what we have up front," Jackson said. "And we'll be even better once we get Mike back after football season."
Friends was picked as the favorite in both the media and coaches preseason KCAC polls and ranked No. 19 in the NAIA Division II preseason poll. The Falcons open their season Nov. 4 at Oklahoma Wesleyan.Tony Adame covers small-college sports. Reach him at 316-268-6284 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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