In his first year as head coach of Northwest Christian University men’s basketball team, Luke Jackson is determined to turn a struggling program, which won nine of 30 games last season, into a winner. In recruiting, the former Oregon Ducks star and former professional basketball player looked to larger programs for talent and tried to keep Oregonians in state. His fame helped to persuade former Oregon Ducks and other transfers from Division I schools to come aboard.
Spencer Coleman, a transfer from the University of Montana who played in the NCAA Tournament last season, is a graduate of South Eugene High School. The versatile senior forward, who recently transferred, says he’s already learned from Jackson. “I pick up new things from him every day,” Coleman says. “I think he’s going to be a great coach and he’s already got a good feel for — since he’s been a player for so long — what guys can and cannot do. And he knows what to tell them to help them get better. I think, as the season goes on, he can help everybody on the team tremendously with everything that he knows. I’m just going to contribute any way I can, play hard and have fun.”
While Coleman strives to give his all, Jackson draws on both the good and bad he encountered throughout a career that started as the 10th pick in the 2004 NBA Draft and included stops in Italy, Israel, Toronto and Miami.
“Everyone shapes their thoughts based on the experiences they’ve had,” says Jackson. He started thinking about coaching when he herniated two disks in his back soon after starting with Cleveland. “I’ve been fortunate to be around the best and some of the worst — players, coaching, basketball and everything in between — and I think that that has really prepared me to be equipped to understand an individual and what he’s going through and what it might take to push him a little bit further and get the most out of him. And that’s all coaching is, trying to get the most out of every guy.” His goal is to make his players “as confident, aggressive and competitive as possible.”
That’s not all he expects. “Playing the right way is the most important thing,” he says. “Playing simple and fundamental and unselfish, and I think that’s what you can expect from my team.”
During his playing days, Jackson, a Creswell native, would return and spend the summer months in Eugene. This time he’s not here to vacation or work out, and his stay is indefinite.
“This is going to be a really fun team to coach,” he says. “We’re going to play to our strengths, see how we all fit together and let the chips fall where they may.”
NCU starts its preseason with an exhibition matchup against the Oregon Ducks at Matt Knight Arena on Oct. 27. Follow the team all season long through its website wkly.ws/1jm. — Nick Poust