Georgetown swing man Jaren Jackson recalled when he had to make the valedictory speech at Walter Cohen High School in New Orleans, the same year he led his basketball team to the state semifinals despite a stress fracture in his left foot.

After much thought, he settled on the time-honored message of future success. "I thought I couldn't write the speech," he said. "I ended up talking about dedication, motivation, all the nouns you can think of. It came out well."

Things usually turn out well for Jackson, a 6-foot-4 junior. Like guards Charles Smith and Mark Tillmon, Jackson has responded to the departure of Reggie Williams by picking up his offensive game.

Although Jackson isn't among the team leaders in scoring or rebounding, he contributes best when he plays small forward in Georgetown's three-guard offense. He's averaging 8.4 points a game. Still, Coach John Thompson wants to see more offense like the 21-point output Jackson had against Florida International last month, or the opening minutes of the second half against Providence, when Jackson scored the Hoyas' first seven points.

"I probably fussed at him a little bit more," Thompson said earlier this season, "because I'm trying to get him to get under control, and I was glad to see him start to shoot. Because he's got to do that, he's got to do some things that'll help us later on."

"Like all Georgetown players," said Providence Coach Gordon Chiesa, "he seems to be one of those 6-4, 6-5 people who can rebound. He hurt us badly two years ago, with about 18 points {on seven-of-10 shooting in a 110-79 Hoyas win}. He's an explosive scorer."

Unlike many basketball players, Jackson was the best player and the best student in his high school. Three weeks before graduation from Cohen, he found himself at the top with a 3.7 grade-point average.

"I ran into certain experiences where students were jealous," he said. "Some students were proud that I did something unique. I just didn't want anyone to be jealous of me, especially my peers. I wanted them to do the best they could, just like I did."

He averaged 18 points, seven assists and seven rebounds his senior season and was all-New Orleans and an honorable mention all-state. His coach, Alvin Gautier, would play him at either guard spot to post up the opposition.

"Jaren's main thing for us was his leadership," Gautier said. "He was smart with the books and he was smart on the court. Not only did he have the basketball talent, he had the school. He wasn't one of those typical jocks."

"You never had to tell Jaren to do something," said his principal, Leroy Gray. "He needed no prompting. Self-motivating, really. He was an inspiration for the rest of the kids."

"I wanted to be just a basic guy," Jackson said. "I didn't want to stand out. I just wanted to be like everybody else, but sometimes I stood out."

Like during Jackson's junior year when Cohen hosted Carver High. A Carver forward came down court, dunking in front of the Cohen crowd.

"{Jackson} said, 'Hold on, wait a minute, you're at Cohen,' " Gautier said. Jackson then drove the base line and slammed over the Carver player -- Perry McDonald, now Jackson's Georgetown teammate and one of four players on the Hoyas' roster from New Orleans schools.

"I remember playing against Perry," Jackson said. "The players on the team felt as though Perry was a star at the time. I felt that he wasn't as much a star. I felt I had to take control a little bit."

Jackson was hurt much of his senior season, and was still injured when the state playoffs began. Though he was told he might aggravate the injury just by walking, he played anyway.

"The doctor told me if it was going to break, it could happen any time," Jackson said. "All you have to do is take the pain, it's going to hurt. As soon as I heard that, I said I'm going to play."

Despite the injury -- a stress fracture of the first metatarsal in his left foot -- Jackson led the team in scoring, rebounding and assists throughout the playoffs. This while tutoring before practice and working in the library.

But once at Georgetown, Jackson, had to adjust to college. There was, of course, Coach Thompson, but there also was the increased work load and the pressure of being at a school where lots of people were valedictorians. And things as seemingly mundane as seeing snow for the first time.

"I told him there's no other place like New Orleans," Gautier said. "I told him he wasn't going to change the school. He'd have to work in with them."

"The biggest {adjustment} was being prepared academically," Jackson said. "In high school, I was one of the best as far as books were concerned. I came to a school where books were more important.

"It wasn't like straight A's or anything that happened in high school {during his first year at Georgetown}. Sometimes I felt ashamed, but I felt I did the best I could."

During his first two seasons, Thompson said, Jackson had a tendency to take bad shots. Jackson also committed the unpardonable sin of missing a practice; he overslept.

"He walked in and said he couldn't lie to the coach," Gautier said. "He said 'Coach, I overslept.' {Thompson} said don't do it again."

Now, Thompson encourages him to shoot, even when he's not on, as in a recent performance against Pittsburgh. Thompson needs more scoring inside, and has emphasized penetration from his guards.

"Jaren is a tremendous athlete, and he's getting more under control," Thompson said. "He wasn't on {against Pittsburgh} but he was getting good shots. Those were good shots. I don't want him to feel the tightness of missing good shots."

"This year, I'm more comfortable, a lot more confident," Jackson said. "{Before}, I had to concentrate on the system. I'm still concentrating on the system, but I feel I have more physical abilities."

Jackson has not been forgotten at Cohen. It may be because he still goes back and calls Gautier, it may be because Georgetown has made New Orleans a private recruiting ground. But it's probably because of his little brother Frank, a senior point guard for the top-ranked Cohen team. Though Frank Jackson stands just 5-11, any number of comparisons were made between the two.

"I think my brother," Jackson said, "was faced with the prospect of being like me. Everyone expected him to do the same thing that I was doing. It was hard at first, but he's handled it well."