For many, the misfortune of a broken foot, sitting out two-straight seasons, rotating through three basketball programs in five years and a major change of position would spell the end of a dream for a national championship. But for Baylor’s Chloe Jackson, it just added fuel to the fire.
AFTER MAKING HER NCAA debut in the 2014-15 season for the North Carolina State Wolfpack, Jackson fractured her foot just four games into her young career, thus forcing the then 18-year- old to watch from the sidelines all season. Jackson moved to Louisiana State University for three years – the first of which was spent serving as a redshirt to comply with an NCAA transfer rule – before ultimately making the decision to move once again, this time to Baylor University in Texas.
But there was a catch; the Lady Bears were not in need of a shooting guard. Baylor was, however, looking to fill the role of starting point guard, following the release of two players for the 2018-19 season.
It was an easy decision for Jackson to make.
“Anticipate it like you’ve got to get rid of your quarterback in football,” said Baylor Lady Bears’ Head Coach Kim Mulkey to reporters prior to the NCAA Women’s Basketball National Championship “You take your wide receiver and put them at quarterback; that’s what we had to do.”
Considering Jackson had played as a shooting guard for the duration of her basketball career leading up until that conversation with coach Mulkey, the ease displayed by the 22-year- old in shifting to point guard was remarkable.
The 5-foot-8, fifth-year player put up career highs in many statistical categories, playing in 38 games while averaging a 47.3 field goal percentage. Her 11.7 points, 5.1 assists and 3.7 rebounds-per-game in 2018-19 helped lead the Lady Bears to a 37-1 record while earning a No. 1 seed and working their way to the NCAA Final Four in March/April.
It was in that national championship game that Jackson elevated her game to an even higher level against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. In the title game on April 7th, the Upper Marlboro, MD native set season highs in points (26), minutes played (40), field goals made (13) and field goals attempted (25). She was by far the best player on the court and scored Baylor’s final basket, a layup to give Baylor a one-point, 82-81 victory with just seconds left on the clock.
The national championship victory was the Lady Bears’ first since 2012, and the lifelong dream of Chloe Jackson since early childhood. The Masters of Divinity student was rightly named the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player immediately following the game, and was then subsequently asked about her performance by ESPN on national television.
“Hard work, patience, and believing in God,” was her answer.
“I never knew what my plan was going to be, but I just believed in Him all the way. I wouldn’t be here without Him.”
Jackson’s statements were echoed by coach Mulkey – the woman who served as the main reason why the 22-year-old made the switch to Baylor.
“God is good and He blessed these kids,” Mulkey also said to ESPN. “They fought through it, injuries and all. We just beat the defending national champions. This team is so good, so talented. You’re going to see those guys play at the next level.”
Just three days after her monster performance in the NCAA National Championship, Jackson was drafted very early in the second round, 15th overall by the Chicago Sky of the Women’s National Basketball Association, where she plans to continue playing basketball, now professionally.
Much like the words of the ‘Jeremiah 29:11’ tattoo that she added to her left shoulder during her season of recovery following the broken foot in 2014, Jackson never knew the overall plan, but kept everything up to the will of her God and Saviour.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.” – N.I.V.