On the verge of beginning his second season in the NBA, Darnell Jackson returned to Cleveland earlier this week.
Some of his final hours in Oklahoma City, though, were spent giving out backpacks and school supplies to disadvantaged kids at Hillcrest Elementary School. He signed autographs. He took pictures. And in a small way, he let the kids know that a kid from Oklahoma City can achieve anything.
Jackson played for a national championship team at Kansas, then landed a spot with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Jenni Carlson: Did you have a pinch-me moment this past year as an NBA rookie?
Darnell Jackson: I did. I used to wake up every day when my alarm would go off, and when I’d have an off day, I’d think, “I don’t have anything to do.” I was like, man, I really made it.
JC: Didn’t have to run off to work a job to make ends meet.
DJ: Just work out. That’s my job. I love every minute of it.
JC: You are something of a cult hero in Lawrence, Kan., where you played college ball. What’s it like going back there?
DJ: In Lawrence, I don’t know what it is about that place. When I first watched Kansas play on ESPN, I was watching Drew Gooden. When he scored a basket, the fans just went crazy. I was like, “I want to go there.” When I got there, I was home. It felt comfortable. It felt like I belonged. Every time I go back … the fans, they really support you.
JC: Are there still pinch-me moments with that? You won a championship, for goodness sakes.
DJ: What’s so crazy, I was watching that last night on YouTube, watching the highlights from YouTube. When Mario (Chalmers) hit the shot, I’m standing under the basket watching the ball go in. When it was over, I just remember, Sasha (Kahn) gave me a hug and I jumped over the table and went over to where I my family was. I loved every minute of that.
JC: Have you thought about having that same kind of moment as a pro?
DJ: Definitely. When that happens, I don’t think I’m going to cry. I just might run into the locker room and grab the champagne bottles before everyone else. That’ll be a lot of fun.
JC: You’ve had something of a Cinderella story. Do you take time to appreciate all you’ve done?
DJ: A little bit, I do. I’m kind of weird about that. When I work out, I try to push myself hard. When I’m done, I always feel like, “Man, I could’ve done a little bit more.” All I’m doing is wearing myself out. As long as I’m wearing myself out, I know I’m putting in the time and the hard work because you never know what’s going to happen. I could lose a job at any time. I could blow out an ankle, blow out a knee. But hopefully in a couple years, I think I’m going to write a book. Just get it out there. Put it out in Oklahoma. Put it out in Lawrence. Just tell my story.
JC: You’ve got quite a tale to tell.
DJ: Hopefully, something good will come out of it.