With Division I football offers from Nevada and Idaho in one hand and several small-school basketball offers in the other, Elijah Jackson went with his heart.
One of the most decorated basketball players in program history, Jackson signed his letter of intent on Saturday to continue his career on the hardwood after leading the Greenwave to back-to-back state championships. Jackson, who hit the game-winning, buzzer-beater in both finales, received a full-ride offer to Southern Oregon University, an NAIA school making a push to become an NCAA Division II member in the next five to seven years.
“I really just knew I wanted to play basketball,”
Jackson said. “That was my first love. It was only right to keep it going even
though I did love football.”
In the fall, Jackson became the starting quarterback for Brooke Hill’s team as a sophomore, injured his leg midseason and missed the start of his basketball season. Jackson rebounded to lead the Greenwave to a playoff berth in 2018 before guiding the football team later that year to its second state championship in three seasons. Three months later, Fallon finished second in league and knocked off Elko in the state championship for the school’s first title since the 1970s.
Jackson started playing basketball when he was 3 and living in Houston before his family moved to Hawthorne where he continued playing until middle school when the family moved again to Fallon.
With offers to continue playing football at the highest level, and close to home, Jackson felt conflicted but always knew that basketball was his ticket out of Fallon.
“It was exceptionally hard. I wanted to see where basketball could take me,” he said. “It was just hard knowing that I had already had good football school offers on the table.”
Jackson’s mother, Roxanne Schulenberg, was relieved to see her son finalize his college plans with the end of the school year just weeks away.
“It’s definitely a relief that we finally got
something going and a decision. I’m really glad he’s staying close to home,”
she said. “He’s our only one so it’s going to be hard letting him go. I’m
really excited about seeing him grow and strive to be the best.”
She and her husband, Jesse, have never missed any of Elijah’s games, both football and basketball, and Roxanne said that she will miss Jackson’s “calm and cool” presence on the gridiron but is looking forward to the next chapter.
The family credits Fallon’s coaching staff,
including head coach Chelle Dalager and her assistants Motulalo Otuafi, Daryl
Erwin and Brandon Sanders, for pushing Jackson, the school’s all-time leading
scorer, on the court during his four-year varsity career. Roxanne’s favorite
memory, aside from her son’s clutch winning shots, was watching her son mature
on the court.
“He was still growing up and getting in the
game. He used to always throw his hands up,” she said. “I remember yelling down
the stands to Chelle and said if he throws his hands up one more time, take him
The first time Jackson dunked in a game gave his mom chills.
“The first time he dunked during a game was
pretty surreal for me. I enjoyed that,” she said. “It gets the crowd pumped.
That’s my boy.”
Jesse enjoyed watching Jackson, his step-son, grow and turn into a leader in both sports. More than two months since watching Jackson hit the winning shot at Lawlor Events Center, which landed him and the team on ESPN, Jesse recalled his son asking for advice.
“For him to do that again this year, it’s
unbelievable. It’s one of those things you never think will happen and then it
does again,” Jesse said. “He made the comment to me after watching it on ESPN.
I walked into his room and said, ‘You alright son?’ He said, ‘What do I say to
Jesse replied: "tell them thank you.”
Jackson said he will miss the little things playing for Dalager’s program, including team dinners and reading to first graders for Debbie Swisher’s first-grade class.
“I appreciate all our coaches. They really
brought us together this year,” Jackson said. “I want to thank my teammates
because they believed in us to do it together. We built a very strong bond
Jackson will now move onto the next chapter of his career where he hopes to make the same impression at Southern Oregon, which was ranked in the Top 25.