Jackson makes immediate impact for Lions

Junior point guard Dimario Jackson attempts to dribble inside against Shorter Dec. 19. Jackson leads the Gulf South Conference in free throw percentage and averages 15.6 points per game.

Some may think it is hard to pronounce his name, but opponents may struggle more trying to guard him on a basketball court.

Meet Dimario Jackson.

The junior transfer point guard from Northeast Mississippi Community College became a catalyst for the UNA men’s basketball team offense almost instantly. Jackson averages 15.6 points per game and has started every game for the Lions.

Jackson said applying his natural talents and continuously working to improve is the key to his success.

“I first have to thank God for blessing me with the ability to play this game,” Jackson said. “I think for me, I spend a lot of time working on (my game). We get a lot of shots at practice, but before practice, I spend a lot of time at the free throw line.”

With direct connections to NEMCC head coach Cord Wright and others, UNA coach Bobby Champagne said finding Jackson was easy.

“He was at Northeast Mississippi playing for Cord Wright and Kyle Morris, two guys who know our program very well,” Champagne said. “Dimario is from outside of Baton Rouge (Louisiana) and is really good friends with Kenny Johnson, who played here.”

Jackson, who attended Brusly High School in Louisiana, said he idolized Johnson, who played roughly 10 years before Jackson at his school’s rival, Blackman.

“Kenny played in the same organization and neighborhood I did,” he said. “I grew up watching Kenny. Kenny was playing around the time my sister was in high school, and he was the player to watch. He was a solid point guard there just like he was here at North Alabama.”

Jackson leads the Gulf South Conference in free throw percentage, shooting 90 percent from the charity stripe.

“(Free throw shooting) is one of the parts of the game, if not the only part of the game, you can perfect,” he said. “You’re not going to make all of your free throws every night, but some nights, if someone on the team goes 5-5, you might win by one. That’s big.”

Champagne said he gets a sense of assurance when Jackson has the ball in tight-game situations and when he goes to the free throw line.

“He’s a good free throw shooter,” he said. “He does a good job of getting (to the free throw line), and it’s nice to have a guy like that late in the game. You can put it in his hands, and when there’s no five-second count, he can hold it until they foul him.”

With uncertainty coming into the season, Jackson emerged as a full-time starter for the Lions and averages 32.3 minutes per game.

Jackson fits in well with the guards, said junior guard Jeff Hodge, who was one of three returning players for UNA.

“I believe we are all playing pretty good together,” Hodge said. “We knew Dimario would be a good leader at the point. When he gets going, he’s like a microwave. He just gets hot.”

Jackson, a business major, said he hopes to apply his leadership skills as a future company executive.

“It doesn’t really matter what company, but I really want to be a top executive somewhere,” he said. “I think God blessed me with the strength to lead. I’m more of a lead-by-example guy, but I can be vocal, too.”

Jackson and the Lions face GSC foe West Georgia Jan. 30 in Carrolton, Georgia. Jackson scored a career-high 35 points against West Georgia Dec. 10.