He hasn’t played a single minute for the Gamecocks yet, but freshman Gregory “GG” Jackson is already one of the biggest names for the South Carolina men’s basketball program. When the nation’s top recruit and Columbia native decided to play for his hometown school, the Gamecock program got the shot in the arm it needed for first year head coach Lamont Paris, but being the face of the program at age 17 isn’t easy.
“There’s definitely pressure there,” Jackson said. “There’s a lot of weight with that, but with the help of my coaches, teammates, and my circle, I feel like we can succeed. The biggest adjustment is the speed of the game. It’s so much faster here. I just had to get conditioned and tune in my body and get stronger in the weight room. I’m starting to fill out and being able to compete with them.”
He started being called “GG” as a youngster when his sister, Nyla, couldn’t say “Gregory” properly, so the name stuck. Whatever he is called, he does get recognized quite a bit on campus, and he’s OK with that.
“Everyone’s pretty cool about it, and I’m just a normal guy,” Jackson said. “I asked God for the ability to draw people towards me, and he blessed me with that, so I always have a big smile on my face anytime someone calls my name.”
“That number one ranking stuff from high school, that’s out the window now. I have to dial in.”
Jackson added that his faith has always been a big part of his life.
“My father is a pastor, so I was raised in the church,” Jackson said. “God blessed me with not just the ability to play basketball, but I play the drums as well. I could play for the angels! I started playing the drums when I was two or three. I would break off tree branches or get toothbrushes. I can still go crazy on the drums!
“I never really watched basketball a lot on TV growing up. I was always just outside playing.”
After earning numerous accolades at Ridge View High School and sometimes beating opponents like a drum, Jackson knows he’ll have to continue to work on his game to get where he ultimately wants to be.
“I’ve been working on the ‘catch and shoot’ part of my game,” Jackson said. “I still have to work on my ball-handling and making higher IQ plays. That number one ranking stuff from high school, that’s out the window now. I have to dial in. Our coaching staff is really great, so they’re going to put me in the best position possible to succeed.”
Jackson’s favorite NBA player is LeBron James, and he hopes to someday have the chance to play against his idol.
“I’ve been praying and asking God to give him five more good years!”
For now, Jackson can’t wait to get started and have his family there to watch.
“To have them see me play at this level, I can’t even describe how great that is,” Jackson said. “Family will always have your back.”