For Mike Jackson, a senior at South Lakes High School in Reston, the calls just keep coming. The callers, nearly 100 of them already, all want the same thing: for Jackson to bring his basketball skills to their college.
"I get about five calls a night," the 6-1, 17-year-old guard said, slightly embarrassed by the attention. "They call all the time. It gets to be a bother because it interferes with my studying and homework."
Jackson can't stop the phone from ringing, but he has his grandmother help him at night. "I tell her I'm going to my room to go to sleep," he explained. "This way I can go to my room and do my work. She's not lying to the callers though, because she thinks I'm in there sleeping."
A fluid, all-around athlete, Jackson averages 22 points and 10 assists a game, while making 53 percent of his shots from the floor. His team is 7-2 this season, and, with Jackson's help, was in the regional semifinals last year.
But what makes Jackson special, area coaches say, is not just his outstanding ability on court. "The overall man is what the top-flight college basketball programs are looking for," said Jim Lewis, who is in his first year as South Lakes' head coach after 10 years as an assistant at Tulane and Duke universities. "That's what Michael has. He's mature, intelligent and a leader. And he can play."
College coaches also have been attracted to Jackson's ability "to adapt his game to anything a coach wants him to do," according to Chantilly High School coach Doug Crupper, who was Jackson's coach at South Lakes the past three years.
Jackson's ability has been well-known among coaches since his freshman year, when he was named "most valuable player" at the prestigious 5-Star Basketball Camp in Pennsylvania. But the youth is reluctant to talk about his accomplishments a modesty that has been linked to the one "flaw" coaches find in his game.
"Mike's not selfish enough," said Crupper. "He should go ahead and score more. Instead, he is conscious of getting everybody involved in the game. One time last year I said to him, 'Go ahead and get yourself more involved, Mike.' He said, 'Why, coach? We're winning.' "
Lewis agrees with Crupper: "There are a lot of times when you can't tell kids they have the green light (to shoot more) because they'll abuse it. But I've told him he has the green light, and he could still shoot more. He's a nice kid; he likes to keep everyone in the offense."
Jackson says that when he first started playing varsity ball he "rarely looked at the basket" because he lacked confidence in his shooting ability. "Coach Crupper worked with me and gave me confidence," he said. "I started to score more, and it got to be fun."
When Jackson decides to shoot, there are few who can stop him. He has developed a consistent jump shot to go along with his quick drives to the basket.
Jackson has concentrated on basketball year-round for the past three years, attending camps in the summer and practicing about two hours daily. He says some of his favorite times have been spent alone on one of Reston's outdoor courts.
The work pays dividends on those nights when, as Jackson said, "I get a feeling that I can do whatever I want on the court. That's a great feeling." He paused, and then added characteristically, "But there aren't that many of those times."
There have been enough such nights, though, to impress all those college scouts who keep the phone ringing. "I don't know when I'm going to decide (on a college)," said Jackson, the son of Theodore and Gwendolyn Jackson. So far nearly 100 schools have contacted him, although he said he's concentrating his interest on about six schools. He's visited St. Joseph's in Philadelphia and the University of West Virginia, and he plans to visit the University of Kentucky and, closer to home, Georgetown, George Washington and possibly Maryland.
"I'll just wait until I'm sure about a school and I feel they're sure about me."