EAST LANSING, Mich. - If you stand on the corner of Mack Avenue and St. Aubin in Detroit, you will see a small high school tucked just outside of Eastern Market, called Early College of Excellence. Some call it Edison, others might call it DEPSA. It is home to the top girls basketball player in the state, Rickea Jackson, who led the Lady Pioneers to the school's first ever Class C state title over Pewamo-Westphalia, with a game-high 21 points, and pulled down nine rebounds.
Jackson is not your normal sophomore. She is 6-3, with long arms, and is ranked top ten in the country in her class. Pewamo-Westphalia head coach Steve Eklund raved about Jackson's ability on the floor, and how his girls had never seen a player of her caliber, and gave them problems on both ends of the floor;'. That is quite the compliment, especially for someone who just started playing basketball a few years ago.
"I started playing basketball seriously in the 7th grade," Jackson said. "My mom made me come to DEPSA, and our tall coach, coach Anderson was the one who really got me started, but coach Brown (head coach) was the one who got me in the gym every single day, three times a day."
Jackson's natural gift to play basketball is evident, and gets it from her momma, who is 5-11, and played collegiately at Kansas. Most parents who played sports at some level after high school might want their children to follow in their footsteps. That was not necessarily the case with Jackson, who turned out to be pretty good anyways.
"She didn't want to force me to play basketball, but she was forcing me to do something," Jackson said. "At first I hated basketball, and thought it was for boys, and I'm a girl, but she still wanted to support me in whatever I did. Then one time I saw my little brother play, and I told her I wanted to play. So she bought me a lot of basketball stuff, and worked on my game."
Now Jackson has become a main attraction for girls high school basketball, not only in Detroit, but in the nation. As a 6-1 freshman and Edison in 2015, there was a lot of buzz around Jackson and what she could do with the basketball. She followed that up with the first ever state title for her school in any sport, and a national ranking for herself. That would get to a lot of players her age, but not her.
"It feels good to be talked about a lot, but it also humbles me," she said. "It doesn't make me get the big-head. It makes me work harder. I'm ranked No.7, but I want to get No.1, and when I get No.1, what can I do to maintain that spot."
Edison is a very young team, and for Jackson to be named the leader of the team as just a sophomore is remarkable. Out of the 12 players on the roster, nine are freshman, and three of them start. Jackson was on last year's team that lost in the district championship game, and that experience, combined with the incoming talent, produced a state title for a school that a lot of people do not know even exists in the city.
"We were getting smashed by Romulus last year, and Rickea kept calling me, and said, 'next year'", said Edison head coach Monique Brown. "She knew she had some 8th graders that would be 9th graders that would be able to help her out. And that was a fulfilling moment to see what she said come true, and for her to led this team the way she did, after being doubted because they were so young."
If you did not know about Edison before this, now you know. And with Jackson and all of her teammates returning next season, and the year after that, it could get scary for a lot of teams in the state. One thing is for sure, if you plan to compete for a Class C state title, you are going to have to go through Edison.
"This has put us on the map," Jackson said on winning a state title. "We were a small school known for academics, and now we have a state title. This is not the end of Edison, only the beginning."