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Sixth-woman Asia Jackson finds her stride, adding depth

Barone & Jackson By Joe Barone - STAFF WRITER

Game days for senior guard Asia Jackson follow an identical script. At 2 p.m. she and her teammates take part in a relaxed shoot-around to get warmed up for a long evening of basketball. Once 3 p.m. strikes, Hofstra head coach Krista Kilburn-Steveskey instructs Asia and her teammates to turn off their phones and enjoy a pregame meal embodying the sisterhood that has developed for the Hofstra Pride women’s basketball team.

“It’s a team sport,” said Jackson. “[With our chemistry], we play like we’ve known each other for years.”

That type of unifying attitude separates Hofstra from the rest of its conference foes. These ladies are more than teammates; they are sisters united by a common goal: To win the Colonial Athletic Association.

Pregame introductions wind down. Jackson slaps hands with Kelly Loftus, Anjie White, Darius Faulk, Ashunae Durant and Krystal Luciano before they take their place on the court. They are the starting five that Hofstra confidently throws on the hardwood.

Jackson takes her place on the cushioned chair courtside at the Mack Sports Complex waiting for her name to be called. She understands her role and so does Coach Kilburn-Steveskey. As a former starter the senior guard knows both sides of the spectrum.

“I like coming off the bench better than starting,” said Jackson. “Starting is somewhat nerve wracking, but when you’re on the bench you can see what [your opponent] is doing during the game.”

In Jackson’s eyes, she gets an advantage that no starter has. With every game being different, the Peekskill, New York native takes that opportunity on the bench to scout her opponent.

Her strategy is proven; the results are in black and white. This season, Jackson has reached the 20-point plateau in pivotal conference games against the College of Charleston and Towson, and reached double digits in points on five other occasions.

“It’s all about watching the game and finding ways to score,” said Jackson.

She makes it sound simple.

The second quarter strolls along and Jackson can now read her opponent like a book. With Hofstra holding a two-point lead over Elon, Kilburn-Steveskey decides to give Jackson a chance to make a difference.

On cue, a three-pointer is nailed from a fast break opportunity, three of Jackson’s eight points in that game, and Hofstra does not look back.

The humble Jackson downplays any praise. She knows that type of attitude prevents teams from thriving. In a team sport like basketball, it takes a collective effort from every member to produce a winning result. Time and time again, Hofstra’s depth puts on a showcase for the rest of the league to marvel at.

Jackson is the leader of a bench that includes the likes of the talented Jakelle King-Gilchrist, Sandra Dongmo, Sydni Epps, Aleana Leon, Olivia Askin, and Kayla Minott. It is arguably the best collection of depth players in the CAA.

“This team is not selfish,” said Jackson. “There have been nights where everyone has contributed. We all know we have the ability to score.”

Her veteran presence on a young team is comforting for her teammates as Jackson can constantly be called upon regardless of the situation. Averaging nearly nine points per game while converting 50 percent of her three-pointers, Jackson consistently provides an under-the-radar threat that opponents never see coming. For Hofstra fans, it is a fun sight to watch unfold.

From the moment she touches the court to the time she changes out of her uniform, it is all fun and games for Asia Jackson. She lives by the motto: “Have as much fun as you can while you are alive, and enjoy doing what you want to do.”

“[Basketball was a sport] I was born into,” said Jackson. “I didn’t really watch much as a child, but my entire family played basketball so I did not have a choice.”

For Jackson, the sport grew more fun with age. It kept her out of trouble and helped build friendships she will never forget.

Her presence on the Hofstra sideline stretches more than her 50 percent conversion rate shooting from around the court. It stretches more than the 17 critical minutes she averages a game. It is Jackson’s personality and winning mentality that is one of the primary reasons why this Hofstra women’s basketball team is on the verge of something special.

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