Jackson has been a key player for the Lakers, unbeaten at 27-0 and No. 1 in the NCAA Division II rankings.
Averaging 8.2 points and 6.5 rebounds in 26 starts, Jackson’s presence has also led to Clayton State leading the nation in blocked shots per game (6.5). The Lakers also rank fifth in field-goal percentage defense (32.3 percent) and sixth in scoring defense (52.2 points per game).
Individually, Jackson, a 6-foot-1 junior center, is first in the Peach Belt and seventh in the nation at blocks per game, rejecting an average of 2.62 shots per contest.
Jackson’s efforts didn’t go unnoticed by the league’s coaches, who recently named her the Peach Belt Conference defensive player of year.
“I was very shocked to be named defensive player of the year,” Jackson said. “There are a lot of good players and a lot of good defenders in this league. I didn’t even think I was being considered.”
Jackson’s numbers proved that she had every right to be eligible.
Aside from her shot blocking prowess, Jackson is 10th in the Peach Belt in defensive rebounds and fifth in steals at Clayton State. She’s had five games this season with five or more blocks and anchors one of the best defenses in the country.
With Jackson on the floor, Clayton State leads the Peach Belt in blocks, steals, field goal percentage, scoring defense and is second in rebounding margin. She is the second straight Lakers player to win the Peach Belt’s defensive player of the year award, joining Tanisha Woodward, who won it the last two years.
“I’m really good at timing shots,” Jackson said of her shot-blocking prowess. “I focus on the release and block the ball in the air instead of making contact. I’ve been doing this since high school.”
Along with being named defender of the year, Jackson was selected to the all-conference third team.
“We have a team where everyone contributes, so I was happy to make the all-conference team,” she said. “It’s the first time since I’ve been here that I’ve made all-conference, so it makes me want to step up even more to get first team next year.”
Clayton State coach Dennis Cox is excited about what he’s seen from Jackson since she joined the team as a freshman, and he likes the effort Jackson gives on the court every day.
“Shay came to us as a freshman and was a big contributor to our national championship team,” he said. “She’s turned into a polished defender and can guard anyone on the court, including fast, quick guards.
“She’s great in the post, and has been an unbelievable talent on our team. We’re counting on her to keep it going this postseason and beyond.”