Cleared to play only hours before, Phillip Jackson got in some court time in the Wabash Valley College season opener on Friday night. Not that the 6-foot-9 redshirt freshman transfer was needed in the Warriors’ 117-63 victory over Earl C. Clements at Spencer Sports Center. But, his 11 minutes on the court now represents the total extent of time the WVC team has been together since the school year began.
“I went to see (trainer) Michael Cheesman at Mt. Carmel High School today (Friday) around 3 p.m.,” said Jackson, a Chicago native who enrolled but did not play last year at Peninsula College in Washington, leaving him with two years of junior college eligibility remaining. “He ran me through some test drills, and he said I’d be able to play a little tonight.”
Jackson, the tallest of the Warriors, had been out of action since suffering just short of a complete break of the ankle during a pick-up game in mid-September. He characterized his play as “75 percent,” but admitted a tweak in the second half set him back even more – the reason for an ice pack attached to the injury after the game.
Warrior coach Dan Sparks said Jackson’s presence was welcomed. “That’s the way he played in pick-up games. He was rebounding, blocking shots, and hustling. When he got hurt, we haven’t had any of that in practice,” Sparks said.
The WVC lead was already 35-16 when Jackson entered for the first time. His first basket was a finger roll tip in, and he finished with a well-rounded seven points, seven rebounds, three blocks, and one steal.
WVC (1-0) had some other bright spots in the game. Like the play of 6-foot-5 Kankakee freshman Alvin Braddock, who was the first Warrior to shake the cobwebs and put together an impressive stretch on both ends of the floor, adding the team’s first dunk of the season 17 minutes in.
“The coaches told us to get our motor going, and play hard, so everyone could be into it,” said Braddock, who finished with 13 points.
Rontray Chavis, a 6-5 sophomore and one of three players from Princeton on the roster, led WVC in scoring with 24 points. He was 6-of-8 from the floor, and added a team-high total of nine rebounds. Chavis and fellow Tiger alum Jalen Packer were stars on the undefeated Indiana Class 3A state championship team of 2009. Beau Bridgland, who started for the Warriors, was a standout on the 2010 Tigers. Packer and Bridgland each finished with four points.
Also in double figures for the Warriors were: 5-foot-10 guard Tyrone Sherman (17 points), and sophomore guard Lawrence Kinney, the lone returnee from last year (10 points).
The Warriors are back at home (Monday) to face a club team from Paducah, Ky. Sparks expects a different type of challenge from the Predators.
“They’ll be bigger, older, and probably stronger,” Sparks said. “We won’t be able to gamble as much on defense like we did tonight.”
The tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m.