Derek Jackson’s last game in McGuirk Arena was in a 76-70 win against Western Michigan on March 2, 2012.
He made his return to the place he first called home Wednesday, but wasn’t wearing his old Central Michigan jersey.
“I thought it was just like a regular game,” Jackson said. “I didn’t have any nerves coming in. I’ve been playing the game for too long to let something like that ruin me.”
It only took three minutes into the game for the Kent State guard to run into a familiar face. CMU senior forward Zach Saylor came in during a free throw and positioned himself right next to Jackson.
“When I checked into the game, I saw him and he saw me,” Saylor said. “We just said ‘what’s up’ real simple. It was in the heat of the moment.”
Jackson finished the game with 12 points, three rebounds, two steals and an assist. During his sophomore season at CMU, he averaged 11.5 points per game, second on the team behind Trey Zeigler.
His strength came on the defense as he averaged 1.8 steals per game, good for No. 68 in the nation and third in the Mid-American Conference. His 58 single-season steals ranks third in CMU history.
Jackson was also dangerous from beyond the arc, hitting 66 3-pointers, making him ninth all-time in CMU history for made 3-pointers in a single-season.
“I had a good time here, I liked my time and the fans here,” Jackson said. “I learned a lot from being here.”
Jackson’s time was short-lived.
Coach Ernie Zeigler was fired after the 2011-12 season and head coach Keno Davis was introduced shortly after, and while Jackson seemed to be the perfect fit into Davis’ up-tempo offense, his grades kept him from returning to CMU.
“I was uncertain where my next home would be,” Jackson said. “We didn’t have a coach for a month and we didn’t know what was going to happen, so I started looking around. (Davis) wanted me to stay, but it was other things that made me leave. He told me I would’ve been a big part of this team, but it didn’t work out like that.”
Jackson took a semester off of school to find the right place to continue his basketball career. He took classes at Tri-City Community College and once he was accepted into KSU, he transferred for the third and final time, this time near his hometown of Cleveland.
He has started all 22 games for the Golden Flashes and is averaging 10.7 points per game, second most on his team.
“My time at Kent has been great,” Jackson said. “I get to see my family, I’m only 30 minutes from home.”