Watching Riverdale Baptist High School senior point guard Chloe Jackson play — her control of the basketball while moving at a fast pace, the accuracy with which she delivers sharp passes through even the smallest of spaces and her smart split-second decisions — it would be easy to assume she’s been groomed to play the position from a very young age. But this is the North Carolina State recruit’s first season as a team’s floor general.
Coach Sam Caldwell’s decision to move Jackson from shooting guard to the point this preseason, however, was not at all far-fetched. She can do everything on the basketball court — dribble, shoot, drive, pass — and as a four-year member of the Riverdale program, she knew the Crusaders’ playbook inside and out. But such a move, taking on so many additional responsibilities as the focal point of the team’s offense, would be an adjustment for even the most talented high school athletes.
Jackson, who was recently named the National Title IX Holiday Invitational Conference and Classic’s Most Valuable Player, has made the transition look seamless, Caldwell said. He and Jackson agreed her increased versatility and court intelligence will bode well for her when she transitions to Division I college basketball next year. The two also agreed she is growing within her role each and every day and Caldwell said their mutual trust in each other is a major plus given that the point guard is typically an extension of the coach on the floor.
“Everyone already looked to her as a leader and she is clearly one of the best players so [having her play point guard] was the best decision for us and it helps get her ready for college,” Caldwell said. “[Jackson] is able to control the tempo of the game for us and her poise is outstanding. She is also one of the best passers and the speed she has, she’s almost like a one-man press breaker. [Moving her to point guard] has made the biggest difference in our team right now.”
Jackson, who also received scholarship offers to play soccer in college, currently leads Riverdale with a 20.8 points per game average, but scoring numbers are not what drive her. She is shy of a double-double with eight assists per game and Caldwell praised her team-first approach to everything — she said she will shoulder the blame for any play that goes awry.
“Each game I am more comfortable in the position,” Jackson said. “From the start [Caldwell] put me there in some of the scrimmages and I wasn’t comfortable with it and last year he put me in the point guard position and I couldn’t score. But my game is maturing each and every day. ... I don’t go into the game worrying about points. Every game my role is going to change, every game there might be a mismatch and I just have to do whatever I can to get the win.”
As Jackson, who only averages two turnovers in 30 minutes of play per game, continues to grow in her new and more prominent role, so does her teammates’ familiarity with her style and pace of play. This winter has the potential to be another special season for the 14-time national champion Crusaders, who missed out on their 15th title a year ago, but have three Atlantic Coast Conference-bound players in Jackson, guard Chania Ray (16.2 points per game) and forward Khaila Prather (13). Former point guard Alysha Berry’s (6.2) perimeter shooting capabilities on the wing help give Riverdale a different dynamic as well.
“Chloe is able to put people in the right positions,” Caldwell aid. “She plays fast but we practice as fast as we play so the girls are more used to her quickness. They’re starting to know when she is going to pull up and shoot or when to expect the ball. She’ll hit them in the hands but it might be 500 miles per hour. If a space looks too tight to make a pass, they know she will make that pass. ... Right now she is the engine to the Ferrari.”