#TGW: Grand Finale

Feb. 16, 2018

By Jon Cooper | The Good Word

Tadric Jackson knew 2018 would be a rewarding year. As a senior, he knew it’s when his legacy would take its final shape.

A definite legacy-shaper came on Jan. 31, at McCamish Pavilion, when with 6:56 remaining in the game, Jackson took a pass from Ben Lammers and converted a layup to help cement Georgia Tech’s 55-51 win over Syracuse.

The two-points put Jackson over 1,000 for his career, making him the 44th player in program history to reach that plateau. It’s an achievement that actually snuck up on him.

“I didn’t really notice until one of the coaches brought it up to me,” said the Tifton native, who arrived in Atlanta in 2014 from Tift County High School as the Georgia State Prep Player of the Year. “It’s a blessing to be in that 1,000 club. With the tradition at Georgia Tech, I’m very honored to be one of those names.”

Yet, as honored as he is about that particular milestone, the 6-2 sharp-shooting guard, who is having his best season as far as minutes played, scoring field goal percentage, and rebounding — the latter especially big to Coach Josh Pastner — is even more excited about the one he’ll reach on May 5, the day of Georgia Tech 2018 spring commencement, which, coincidentally also will take place at McCamish Pavilion.

When Jackson walks across the stage to receive his diploma in business administration, he’ll become a member of the enormous family of Georgia Tech graduates, while simultaneously joining an exclusive club as the first in his family to graduate from college.

“It’s huge. Hopefully my little brother (Tyrie, who’s a redshirt-freshman at Virginia Tech) behind me is going to be the second,” he said. “It’s a big thing to me, and it’s going to mean a lot to me and my family and for me to tell my kids that I was the first to graduate from my family.”

Only now, with the Yellow Jackets in the final month of the regular season, and commencement less than three months away, is he even mentioning the end of the line.

“He hasn’t talked about that a ton, honestly. It’s not something that he really brings up. I think that makes it that much of a bigger accomplishment for him. So it makes him really proud to be able to do that.” said assistant director of academic services Whitney Burton of Jackson, who she calls, “her little brother.”

“From day one, he’s always been such a personable and friendly kind of kid who’s really fun to be around. He’s always working hard, doing all the extra work that he needs to do as a basketball player here at Tech to do what he needs to do academically. He is definitely looking forward to graduating.

“His graduating is a huge success for him as a testament to the amount of work he’s put in and just really being dedicated,” she added. “To do all the extra work — as a student-athlete, it takes extra, it takes early mornings and late night tutoring and study hall on the road and all that — he has always done that willingly. I’ve never had to fight him for it. He has always been open to the academic support, knowing that keeping his goal in mind of graduating that it’s worth it, putting in all the extra work and really working hard to get where he is now, where he can kind of see the finish line now.”

Glad to have been a part of honoring Tadric Jackson as the 44th student-athlete in @GTMBB history to score 1000 career points (I’ll get that handshake from him later …). #TogetherWeSwarm pic.twitter.com/YxRSeCII2c

— Todd Stansbury (@GTToddStansbury) February 11, 2018

Getting that work done has been done with a heavy heart, as he’s accomplished almost all of it without his father, Damedric, who passed away during the summer of 2014, Tadric’s freshman year. The sudden passing made an already difficult climb — even more difficult at an institution like Georgia Tech — that much steeper.

Burton remembers how bravely Jackson fought through, using his father’s memory as inspiration.

“That, obviously, was extremely difficult for him to deal with,” she recalled. “In this atmosphere, too, you don’t really have a lot of time to really dwell on that. When you have such a devastating loss like that you still have school and you still have basketball so you kind of keep going and keep focused on those things. Even now, it’s still something that he is working through as many do with the grieving process. It’s a long process, but I think reminding him that playing basketball, being successful on the court, graduating, being successful in the classroom is what his dad would want him to do. With his dad, since he’s not here to see him do it in person, I think that’s one of his motivations. I think it has helped him stay focused on making his dad proud and his whole family really.”

Concluding the journey to graduation has not only made Tadric’s family proud, it’s inspired them and created a ripple effect, where generations of family members have gone back to school and earned degrees. It’s not just Tyrie, but his mom, Natasha, and her mom, Gwendolyn Graddic.

“My mom actually got her high school diploma at 38 years old and her mom got her high school diploma at 68. That was two years ago,” he said with pride. “It’s one of those things where I started, `I’m going to graduate,’ so my mom was like, `Well, I’m going to get MY high school diploma. I’m going to graduate.’ Then my grandma was like, `I’m going to get MINE.’ It was a family thing, `If you can do it I’m going to go back and I can do it.’ It was a blessing to see they could go back and get it done.”

Even before she got her degree, Tadric held Natasha in the highest esteem in her raising him and his five brothers by herself.

“It’s been tough, but she’s been taken care of us,” he said. “She’s got five boys. I feel like a woman that can take care of five boys and get them all through college and all to graduate, that’s a blessing. She’s here for us every day. She calls all of us every night. If not, she’ll talk to us before she goes to sleep or during the day. She’s done a tremendous job. For her to see about us then to go back and get her diploma from high school is a big step, too. I feel like it’s inspired all of us.

“When she first started working she was only making like $10,000 a year, and she was working with healthcare, going into elder (people’s) homes and taking care of them, feeding them, bathing them, cleaning their houses, stuff like that,” he added. “She’s been through it all. I praise her to this day. She’s never stopped. Then she got her diploma. Now she’s working in the office at a health clinic right now after she got her diploma and she’s definitely loving that job. She’s trying to step up and get a better job. She’s done a great job as a mom.”

Tadric expects his mother, his grandmother, and all five of his brothers to be at McCamish on May 5 to see his special day — Burton, his adopted big sister even stated that she’s even going to attend this commencement, the first she’s been to in her seven years working at Georgia Tech.

Of course, there will be another family reunion a lot sooner, as Tyrie and the Hokies visit McCamish on Feb. 17. The game is sold out but will include a gigantic Jacksons cheering section, including his mom and a huge contingent from Tift County.

“It’s a regular game to me but the way my family sees it, you don’t get the opportunity to catch a family all together. You’ve got two brothers in the same conference playing against each other in the ACC. So it’s a blessing to actually be a part of that,” he said. “I went to high school in Tift County, so people from Tift County will be here, my friends and (Tyrie’s) friends and my family. It’s going to be great. It’s just going to be a good game but I’m going to be happy to see them all here at one time.”

Natasha plans to don a special jersey for the occasion — how it looks is a mystery even to Tadric.

“She’s going to wear a split shirt,” he said, breaking into a smile. “She’s not telling us what it’s going to say. She’s keeping it a secret. So we’re going to be surprised with what she’s got.”

Mystery also surrounds where life will take Tadric beyond May 5. But he knows the road he wants to pursue and believes he’s ready to begin shaping his legacy in the real world.

“I want to keep playing basketball,” he said. “If it’s professional, and they’re playing, then I’m there. Wherever God leads me and whatever I decide to do, it’s going to be a journey.

“As far as when the ball stops, I’m just going to look back and I’ll have a degree from Georgia Tech,” he added. “So maybe 20 years from now, when I’m done playing basketball I can get a job anywhere I want because the diploma that I have from Tech is big.”

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