Lakeem Jackson is perhaps one of the most hardworking athletes looking to make a shot at the big leagues basketball has seen in the past seven years.
Growing up in a house of four boys out of Hoop State (North Carolina) who all played high school and collegiate basketball, Lakeem Jackson is no stranger to the sport of basketball.
Growing up, Lakeem was obsessed with Allen Iverson. He recalls AI being the cover player of NBA2k on the Sega Dreamcast. However, as he progressed into the more mature and refined game he plays now, he is most comparable to a Dwyane Wade. “We are both the same height and we haave a similar build. The both of us are athletic, we love to use floaters and most importantly we are great at turning defensive stops into points,” Lakeem noted on the comparison between his own game and future Hall of Famer Wade’s.
Fresh out of Christ School in Arden, North Carolina, the 6’5 small forward joined the ranks of the NCAA Division I by playing for the South Carolina Gamecocks for his collegiate career. Coming out of high school in 2009, Lakeem was ranked 74 out of the top 100 in the RSCI.
In his four year career with the SCG, Lakeem scored 766 points in 120 games, adding 571 total rebounds and 227 assists to his resume. Throughout his college career, Lakeem sat out (and benched) a number of games due to ongoing injuries and fear of his durability on the court.
On June 27, 2013, Lakeem Jackson went undrafted in the 2013 NBA draft, making him an unrestricted free agent, to which no team acted upon.
Honestly I didn’t really feel anything at the time. I knew that dream wasn’t going to come at the moment mainly because of the injuries I sustained during my collegiate career. My main focus after my senior season was primarily on getting healthy and starting my professional career overseas. As a collegiate basketball player or just as a human being you really have to be honest with yourself and try to put yourself in the best situations possible. I’m a firm believer in the saying “everything happens for a reason”. I feel like everything, rather good or bad that I’ve went through has led me to this point in my life… and this is where I should be.Lakeem Jackson on going undrafted, and not being able to close an offer with an NBA team prior to the season.
In the 2013-2014 season, Lakeem Jackson signed with the BK Iskra Svit in Extraliga, where he played 40 games and started 25. In this time he averaging 13.7 points on 59% shooting. Along with this, Lakeem’s team won the Slovak Cup finals, the first cup championship the club had seen in years – defeating a great team in Inter Bratislava.
My first season in Slovakia was definitely a learning experience. I learned more about the business side of the game and it’s an experience I’m thankful for… When you’re dealing with a professional teams, players are replaceable at any time. I’ve seen players get sent home simply for not rebounding the ball and I’ve also seen players get sent home for not making shots at a consistent rate. Overseas teams don’t choose players simply for their ability to play basketball or because they ca run and dunk, each team needs a specific player that does one or two things really well.Lakeem Jackson talks about his first season playing for the professionals and what he understood of the business side of the game.
He signed again for another year with the Iskra Svit, this time upping his point totals to 18 per game, starting all 34 games he was assigned to. He also improved his shooting by 3%, a great improvement to his already solid percentage. He became more confident with the overseas game, scoring and shooting two more shots on the season.
His next season in the G Pro A League was with the Rhein Stars Koeln, where he started all 30 assignments and averaged 12.5 points on a 50% clip. This season (2015-2016) in the NBA saw a large increase in shot attempts from outside the three point line. Lakeem joined this trend, attempting 41 three point shots on the season, where previously he only had 9 attempts each season for Iskra Svit.
Lakeem returned to the G Pro A League , this time siding with the ETB Wohnbau Baskets Essen in only 9 games. He averaged 7.2 points in a small amount of time on the court, along with 4 rebounds to finish the season, where he parted ways with the team to join the KBL.
The rest of the 2016-2017 basketball season saw L. Jackson take his talents to the Korean Basketball League, where he participated in 28 games (starting 12) for the Busan KT Sonicboom, averaging just 6 points in significantly less playing time compared to other seasons.
After a career led by bounces around different teams across different leagues, it’s hard to imagine any player being able to survive new scenarios each time. However, this isn’t a problem for Lakeem, who likes to keep his daily schedule on lockdown to make sure his body doesn’t break down.
“My daily routine consists of me waking up and getting ready for practice. I listen to “Wasatch Front” by Dame D.o.l.l.a. (Damian Lillard) every morning to get myself going. I’m not a fan of breakfast so I’ll have maybe two eggs with some cheese and a sports drink but that’s about it. Practice usually goes from 12 to 2. After, I’ll grab some food with my American teammates for about an hour then head back to my apartment where I take a shower and a long nap. I then wake up around 5 or 6pm, make dinner and finish the night playing PS4.
For a professional athlete, my diet is and has always been pretty good. I’m very selective of what I eat, even back in America. Playing in different countries alters your diet a lot because of such limited items which forces me to load up on tons of fruit and vegetables.”
Lakeem Jackson now plays for a B League team in Japan. He seems comfortable in this position as of late.
At the moment, I am heading into the last two months of my season here in second division Japan. As for what’s next, it’s really tough to say. Ideally I would love to stay in Asia to play, but sometimes you just never know what may happen.Lakeem on what he plans next for his career.
In our interview with him, I asked him about what his life currently stands like, and what his past has led to now.
What struggles have you had to overcome?
“Within basketball, I’ve always been my biggest critic. I’m the hardest on myself no matter the outcome of any game that I play, which helps me to play freely on the court and also to better myself during the off-season. The only struggles within basketball that I have and continue to have is constantly missing my family members.”
Of course, a basketball game cannot be won without teammates. After 6 seasons across the globe, Lakeem has encountered many teammates on his journey playing basketball. He talks about what it means to be a true teammate, and which of his teammates he thanks for being on the journey with him to close the article.
The two main characteristics of a good teammate is being coach-able and being positive. I consider myself a great teammate on and off the court. Usually whenever I leave a team I’m in consistent contact with former players, so I take that as a good sign of me being a great teammate. Throughout the years (6 years of professional basketball), I’ve had a lot of different teammates from America and internationally as well. The main guys that stick out the most would have to be my teammates from my first season in Slovakia. They helped me open my eyes to everything and we were on the path to a championship. I was blessed with teammates from Croatia who I still talk to and I also had some American teammates who are still playing as well.
A note from the Author:
A special thanks again to Lakeem Jackson who provided me with TREMENDOUS amounts of detail for this article (really helped with the process of writing the article). I wish you all the best in your future endeavors inside and outside of basketball. Links will be available below of his social media platforms if you wish to follow his incredible journey.