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Jackman, McClain add to West Chester's strong '21 recruiting haul

04/29/2021, 10:45am EDT
By Kevin Callahan

Joe Jackman (above) committed to play at D-II West Chester in mid-March after a standout senior year with CB East. (Photo courtesy CB East Basketball)

Kevin Callahan (@CP_KCallahan)

Like so many high school players, after playing in a COVID-cut season over the past winter, Joe Jackman feels he has unfinished business.

And, unfortunately, for the former Central Bucks East guard, there is a number to remind him always of his shortened senior season.

Nine forty-four.

Jackman ended his truncated career with 944 points – 56 shy of the immortal 1,000 mark.

“If we could’ve played 10 more games … I think I would’ve put up 1,000,” Jackman said softly.”

The 5-foot-10 combination guard is modest, too. He would’ve crushed the magical plateau. He played in 18 games for CBE last season and he averaged 18 points an outing, so he probably only needed three or four games to reach the coveted mark that gets names stitched on banners hanging from rafters in high school gyms all over the country.

But, Jackman isn’t focused on that number. Rather, he has been grateful a thousand times to play his senior year.

“I’m just blessed that we got to have a season and I think that’s the biggest part of everything,” Jackman said. “Going into it, I just wanted to compete and compete for states, unfortunately we got beat in the [District 1 6A] final four, but I was happy we just got to play.”

Jackman will continue to play, committing in mid-April to attend West Chester University. That same week, Mike McClain of Cheltenham committed to play for the Golden Rams.

Like his future teammate, McClain played in just 18 games his senior year.

“I know I have a lot of improvement to do and will have to make up the lost time to COVID and get in the gym more,” the 6-5 McClain said.

Coach Damien Blair, a former Golden Rams’ star guard, also welcomes 6-6 Moro Osumanu from Reading, which stunned Archbishop Wood 58-57 to win the 6A state championship game, and 6-4 Alex Walinski from New Hope-Solebury, where he averaged 19 points a game, in this recruiting class.

Not surprisingly, both Jackman and McClain look forward to playing for Blair, who has accomplished the excellent exacta of being a great player and coach on the college level.

He is also a great guy.

“He is very authentic,” McClain said. “He will tell you what you need to do and you have to go out and do it, and he will stick by you if you do.”

“There’s a lot of detail,” Jackman said about Blair. “When they’re practicing, whenever someone messes up, he coaches every player and I really like that because I think I can develop and become way better.”

As much, perhaps even more, as the measurable, Blair recruits players who truly believe in themselves. Both Jackman and McClain will pack confidence on the drive south on 202.

“I can play both, whatever he needs me to do, I’ll succeed,” Jackman said about the backcourt. “I just feel confident in myself to be able to play both positions.

“I’m really confident in myself, I’m always trying to get better and work hard.”

McClain played all five positions for coach Pat Fleury his senior year.

“I feel like my whole high school career I’ve been doing that, I think it will translate to the college game,” McClain said confidently about his versatility.

Cheltenham senior basketball player Mike McClain drives to the basket

Cheltenham senior Mike McClain (above) is an athletic slashing wing who can score from all three levels. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Fleury is equally confident that McClain will excel at West Chester.

“Mike is a four-year player for us always and has been a great talent for us,” Fleury said. “He’s been around for four years, first with starting JV as a freshman. So to see his progression to become an all-league player and a great person has been exciting.

“He scored a career-high 29 [points] on eight-for-11 shooting, he’s very efficient and a high IQ player,” Fleury added about McClain, who averaged 14 points last season. “West Chester is getting a great player who will make an impact more than just on the court.

“The sky is the limit for him.”

Central Bucks East coach Erik Henrysen also raved about Jackman, saying it has “really been awesome coaching Joe over the past four years.”

“He’s always been a scorer, but his desire to become a leader and a complete player has been what I have enjoyed most about him,” Henrysen said. “Joe is the ultimate gym rat. He loves basketball and loves winning. He is such a competitor.

“West Chester is getting a player that can get you eight points in a minute or so, but they are also getting a guy that is willing to put the work in and grind on a daily basis.

“I know Joe can’t wait to play at the college level,” Henrysen added. “We are proud of him. West Chester is getting a great talent and an even better person.”

Both McClain and Jackman felt the same affection that their high school coaches gushed for them about Blair, who completed his 12th season coaching the Golden Rams in 2019-20, boasting a career record of 224-122 (.647) overall record with four NCAA Division II tourney visits in the last seven seasons. West Chester did not play this past season due to COVID.

“I felt like they really wanted me there, ”McClain said. “Just the enthusiasm they had when they talked to me and how they wanted me to contribute to the team made me feel like they wanted me and needed me.”

Blair, whose 2,025 career points is second all-time at West Chester, is undoubtedly excited to get his recruits on the same floor with his returning players to see what he has for next season. The transfer portal has been a wild card for every coach.

“Nowadays you can’t take anything for granted,” Blair said about his roster. “You can’t be in a situation where you don’t have enough bodies. “You don’t know what kids are thinking or what their families are thanking. I think we will be fine and I’m confident we will have 100 percent of our guys coming back.

“Being flexible in today’s COVID times is the number one priority,” Blair added.

Recruiting has been a challenge during COVID, but Blair’s incoming class shows both sides made the adjustments needed.

“I think for the most part a lot of (local) kids know what West Chester is all about in academics and from an athletic standpoint,” Blair said. “A lot of these kids have been to our campus when we have a Big 64 Shootout and have 100 teams every year and then we have a lot of summer leagues, so they’re familiar with the university.

“It’s more difficult for us to get familiar with them,” said Blair, who had a tryout with the 76ers after his playing days in the mid-90’s. “It’s one thing to watch highlight film or watch games virtually and it’s another thing to see a kid up close and personal and see how big he is, how tall he is, that’s not easy to do on tape.”

The tape isn’t needed anymore. The next time he sees them play, he will throw out the ball.

For Jackman, competing for minutes is welcomed.

“I’m just happy to be able to play, honestly, I was waiting for the day to commit,”Jackman said. “I was so ready and it was so exciting.”

“The PSAC is a really tough league and my work ethic will help me be able to play at that level,” Jackman added. “I love the competition, and that’s the biggest part for me.”

And over the next four years, possibly, Jackman might put up a number to be remembered by as a Golden Ram.

“Hopefully, I can’t make up for what happened and being cut short of 1,000 in high school,” he said. “Maybe I can get it in college.”

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