Wooden Cup Profile: Dionnah Jackson

Dec. 23, 2004

 This is one in a series of profiles on finalists for the John Wooden Cup presented by Athletes for a Better World. The inaugural award will be presented to two distinguished athletes - one collegiate and one professional - that best display character, teamwork and citizenship as determined by the ABW John Wooden Cup Committee. Twelve athletes in both the collegiate and professional categories reached the semifinal round and the trophy will be presented in Los Angeles on Jan. 10. ABW was founded in 1998 on the principles of hard work, fair play, commitment to team, sportsmanship and community service.


By Mallory Carra

Special to CollegeSports.com


Oklahoma's Dionnah Jackson always makes her presence known on the basketball court. Off the court, that hasn't always been the case.


"I used to have a fear of speaking in public, so all of this really helped me with getting out of my shell," Jackson said of her basketball notoriety. "I used to be really shy and I would just sit and absorb things, not really having much to say. I used to fear press conferences and I'd be so nervous and uptight."


Since coming to Oklahoma, Jackson has emerged from her shyness both on the court and away from it, where she participates in community service with her Sooners teammates.


"It's a confidence thing, know what I'm saying?" Jackson said. "Now I'm more vocal on the floor and by helping out in community service, I've become more social."


All her efforts have made her a finalist for the inaugural Wooden Cup, and her name is also on the list for some elite awards in women's hoops. She was selected to the Wooden Award Preseason All-American Team and as a preseason candidate for the State Farm Wade Trophy. Both awards recognize the top women's basketball player.


The nominations follow an exceptional 2003-04 season for Jackson, when she was named the Big 12 Tournament's Most Valuable Player after leading Oklahoma to the 2004 tournament title in her junior year.


Her most recent nomination, though, is for the Wooden Cup and honors her community service efforts along with athletic achievements. Starting the season with this slew of nominations was a little overwhelming for Jackson, who called the attention "a big shock."


Off the court, Jackson volunteers with her teammates at McKinley Elementary School in Norman, Okla., once a week, helping fifth graders with their homework and reading.


"They're a great reminder of my youth," she said. "They always have so many questions and they talk all the time. They know OU and the campus so well. They're always asking me who I know on the football and basketball teams, because they love all the OU players."


She and her teammates have also volunteered at the J.D. McCarty Center for Children with Developmental Disabilities in Norman, spending time reading and watching television with patients.


Jackson said all the community service is part of being a Sooner.


"We do a lot of things to be a part of the community," she said. "Whenever we have extra time, we do it."


Jackson's other activities in the community include speaking at a church in Oklahoma City and serving as a master of ceremonies at its talent show last year. She has also helped build a house with Habitat for Humanity in the Norman area..


After Jackson graduates in May with a bachelor's degree in communications, she hopes her basketball career continues in the WNBA where she would follow in the footsteps of several other Sooners, including Maria Villarroel and Stacey Dales-Schuman.


One way or another - either on the court, or in the public relations field - Jackson will still be involved in the game when she graduates.


"Either way, I want to help promote women's basketball when I graduate," she said.



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