On a hot summer evening in late July, Marc Jackson received a phone call.
On the line was Philadelphia 76ers general manager Billy King, calling to welcome the former Temple standout back home to Philadelphia and inform him he had just been traded to the Sixers in a blockbuster, four-team deal.
“I’m happy, very happy, very enthusiastic,” Jackson said during the team’s media day session earlier this month at the Sixers practice facility at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. “I can’t wait to get it going.”
Jackson has good reason to feel that way. A Philadelphia native, he was born and raised on Broad Street.
“I went to elementary, junior high, high school and college all on North Broad Street,” Jackson said.
Sure enough, Jackson began his high school basketball career at William Penn High, just south of Temple’s campus at Broad and Master streets.
From there, he went to Roman Catholic High at Broad and Race, where he was a first team all-city selection. After spending a year at Virginia Commonwealth, Jackson transferred to Temple.
Now, Jackson is getting his chance to play on South Broad Street at the Wachovia Center. Although he’s happy to be back in Philly, Jackson couldn’t understand why the Timberwolves wanted to trade him. Jackson didn’t start in Minnesota but saw important minutes off the bench. He played well against Lakers center Shaquille O’Neal in the NBA playoffs last year and averaged 5.5 points and 2.9 rebounds per game.
But after talking with the Timberwolves coaching staff, Jackson felt better when he learned they didn’t want to trade him unless it was to his hometown of Philadelphia.
Although this will be Jackson’s third team in four seasons, he couldn’t be more content.
“The first thing I did when I learned I was being traded was called my little brother,” Jackson said. “He was happier than I was.”
At Roman Catholic High School, Jackson became one of the top players in the city. After getting into shape and displaying his desire to bang down low around the basket, coaches everywhere soon recognized Jackson. Even Philadelphia’s basketball aficionado and executive adviser to the 76ers, Sonny Hill, viewed Jackson as an overachiever who gradually developed his skills.
“If you really looked at him when he was 14 or 15 years old, when he weighed 300 pounds, you would not think [of] where he would be today,” Hill said. “He is the classic example of a guy who would not be denied, who’s willing to work and pay the price, putting himself in a good position while being in the NBA.”
The road to the NBA wasn’t an easy one for Jackson. He left Temple after his junior to enter the 1997 NBA Draft. While he was enjoying his time at Temple, his family needed his support at the same time. Jackson wanted to be able to support them financially.
“My family was in a major state at the time,” Jackson said. “It was a life and death situation for me to leave.”
Projected as a first round draft pick, Jackson was not selected until the second round by the Golden State Warriors. Even after his selection, Jackson encountered obstacles in his career. When Golden State did not offer Jackson a contract, he left the country to play in Spain and Turkey before getting a contract with the Warriors three years later.
After three years overseas, Jackson was ready for the NBA. In his rookie season with the Warriors, he led all rookies in scoring and rebounding, earning a spot on the 2000-2001 All-Rookie team. But issues with the Warriors front office led to his trade to Minnesota. The Sixers’ need for some depth along the frontcourt has brought Jackson back home.
“(Temple) Coach Chaney is probably the only one who has been really waiting for me to come back,” Jackson said.
Jackson is 18 credits shy of obtaining his bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems at Temple. In his days as a student, he would hang out near the corner of 13th and Montgomery, across the street from the Student Center. Past Temple greats like Eddie Jones, Rick Brunson and current Sixer Aaron McKie can still be spotted there on occasion.
Even though Jackson left Temple years ago, he says Chaney still continues to teach him and plays a father figure role in his life.
“He wants to take all of the bad habits out of you and rebuild you with nothing but pressure and a good mindset,” Jackson said. “He wants to get all of the negative out of you, all of the impurity and rebuild you fresh and clean.”
Chaney thinks Jackson will be a good fit with the Sixers.
“I have no doubt that he has the ability,” Temple’s Hall of Fame coach said. “He’s a tough player, he’s a very determined player. All in all, I think he’s going to be fine.”
Chaney still calls Jackson at 3 a.m. to critique his former center. What could he possibly have to say at such a late hour?
“Be patient, no matter what it is, just be patient and do it correctly and it will come to you when it’s supposed to,” Jackson said of Chaney’s advice.
Donnell A. Jackson can be reached at email@example.com.