College Sports

From the state tourney with Kennedale to the Final Four with Loyola-Chicago, Aundre Jackson is living out his dream

Jordan Moore’s amazing run leading TCU women’s basketball

TCU basketball player Jordan Moore has been on fire while leading the Horned Frogs to the WNIT semifinals.
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TCU basketball player Jordan Moore has been on fire while leading the Horned Frogs to the WNIT semifinals.

When Aundre Jackson and Kennedale head basketball coach Doug Groff first met around 2010, Jackson was pushing 250 pounds as an undersized post player.

Not exactly ideal.

But Groff noticed that Jackson had great footwork and listened extremely well, two traits that any coach would be happy to work with.

“As a sophomore, Aundre was a quiet kid, but worked really hard,” Groff said. “He was really coachable and did what he was asked.”

So they went, lockstep into the highly competitive world of Texas high school basketball. And thrive they did.

The self-admitted "kind of chubby" Jackson would go on to lead Kennedale for three seasons, averaging 20 points and 8 rebounds per game. He was twice named the district offensive player of the year, was a district co-MVP, a Region 1-3A MVP, all-state selection... you get the idea.

Fast-forward to present day, and a slimmed-down Jackson is one of the main forces behind Loyola-Chicago's improbable run to the Final Four, where the Ramblers, an 11-seed, will take on Michigan, a 3-seed, on Saturday at the Alamodome in San Antonio at 5:09 p.m. The winner will face either Villanova or Kansas, both 1 seeds, in the national championship on Monday.

He'll have plenty of support from DFW, particularly from Kennedale, as the senior tries to secure two more victories and put a stamp on one of the most incredible runs in NCAA Tournament history.

Jackson wasn’t only loved by his teammates and coaches on the court in his hometown, but also in the classroom and community.

“He was really a part of the whole community and the entire school loved him,” Groff said. “He was always smiling, that’s the first thing people would notice. He was very intelligent and always helpful in class.”

During his senior season in 2014, Kennedale went to the UIL Class 3A state tournament with a 38-0 record. But the Wildcats came up short of their goal of a state title with an 86-79 defeat to Houston Yates in the semifinals. Jackson did his part with 21 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks.

He shot 70 percent from the field that season and was named all state and district offensive MVP.

“Aundre always had great footwork, was good around the rim and knew how to use his body,” Groff said. “In three years – along with Ty Charles (who plays for Stephen F. Austin) – they went 94-14.”

“His drive to win was insane and he never gave up," said Colton Otts, a sophomore on that Kennedale team and current forward at Howard Payne.

Jackson, who started his collegiate career at McLennan Community College in Waco, averaged 14 points through Loyola’s first three NCAA tournament wins, which came by a combined four points over Miami, Tennessee and Nevada.

The 6-foot-5, 218-pound Jackson, who was named the Missouri Valley Conference Sixth Man of the Year in 2016-17, becoming the first Rambler to ever win the award, led the team with 15 points against Tennessee, a game that Groff's family went to go see at the American Airlines Center in Dallas.

“My family went to watch him. He’s very close with them. My daughter sees him more as a big brother,” Groff said. “Now I watch him play more as a parent than a coach.”

Groff said he sees a little of Kennedale when he watches Jackson and Loyola.

“Watching Loyola play, you can tell the team is orientated,” he said.

The hope for Groff now is that the Ramblers can be aligned enough to secure two more victories this season.

“It’s a dream come true,” Groff said. “Aundre is a great role model and always stays positive no matter what.”

“He’s a great leader on and off the court,” Otts added. “He never gave up. He went after his dream and got there. He’s taking big steps in life and is going to be more successful as ever with what kind of motivation he has."

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