UW’s very own ‘Action Jackson’

  • By John Sleeper Herald columnist
  • Tuesday, October 30, 2007 11:32pm
  • SportsSports

SEATTLE — Tia Jackson flew 14 hours to New Zealand, spent six hours there to re-recruit center Jess McCormack to the University of Washington, then flew 14 hours back to Seattle.

McCormack later enrolled at Washington.

Jackson took a walk with Katelan Redmon in Spokane for the same reason. Redmon, upon hearing that previous coach June Daugherty had been fired, let it be known that she was no longer interested in becoming a Husky.

Redmon later enrolled at Washington.

“They just talked,” said UW media relations director Richard Kilwein said. “She didn’t put any pressure on her. They just walked around and got to know each other.”

One of Jackson’s first duties as new head coach at Washington was to secure again an incoming freshman class rated one of the best in the country, one that Daugherty recruited before her exit.

All six played the waiting game. All six wanted to see the new hire. Some were skeptical. Some weren’t. But it is a testimony to Jackson’s magnetism that none of the six defied their letters of intent to come to Washington.

Part of the reason: Jackson’s willingness to do whatever needs doing.

“It wasn’t really selling them on anything; it was more of a get-to-know,” Jackson said, “to understand them as individuals and for them to understand me as an individual, as a new leader in their life. The biggest thing is that, and I tell them this all the time, is that they were born into this world as women, so I wanted to tap into that first.”

The players bought in to what Jackson said. She put a face and a brain in her impressive resume. A former all-Big Ten selection at Iowa, Jackson played under coach C. Vivian Stringer, current coach at Rutgers and renowned tormentor of Don Imus. She played a year with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury before she successfully served as assistant coach at Virginia Commonwealth, Stanford, UCLA and Duke.

As recruiting coordinator in her two-year span at Duke, Jackson scored back-to-back recruiting classes ranked in the top five in the nation. She worked similar recruiting coups at UCLA and Stanford.

In the ultra-competitive world of recruiting, a recruiter either has “it” or she doesn’t. Jackson does. As she demonstrated with Washington’s freshman class, Jackson turns doubters into believers by the force of her character.

“Tia has a great personality,” UCLA coach Kathy Olivier said. “One of her strengths is that she gets along with so many different types of people and that she’s a hard worker. I’m sure she’ll do a great job at Washington.”

Since she was hired in April, Jackson has made herself (and, in turn, the program) extremely visible, speaking to numerous clubs and organizations, throwing out the first ball at a Seattle Mariners game and appearing with the UW marching band and cheer squad at the Seafair Torchlight Parade.

“Good thing I’m single, right?” Jackson said, smiling. “I can get out there and do whatever I want to do.”

It is that kind of visibility that athletic director Todd Turner hopes will give the program back the buzz around the community, something Turner said had lacked in recent years.

Certainly, attendance at UW women’s basketball games lagged for the past several years, despite three NCAA Tournament appearances in the past five seasons, including each of the last two. Still, crowd size at games has been comparable to that of the extinct Everett Hawks.

Jackson is hoping the style of play — a fast-paced, pressing, harassing mode — will bring more bodies into Hec Edmundson Pavilion. That, plus the fact that Jackson is making as many public appearances as she possibly can fit in could give the program the jump-start it needs.

“I know the community wants to embrace this program,” Jackson said. “I have to get out there and make sure everybody knows that there’s a new sheriff in town and we’re ready to really shake this place up.”

If Jackson is as successful at bringing fans back into the fold as she was reeling in her six freshmen, Hec Ed may need a seating expansion.

Sports columnist John Sleeper: sleeper@heraldnet.com. To reach Sleeper’s blog, click on “Dangling Participles” on www.heraldnet.com.

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