WACO, Texas — Chloe Jackson took an unusual path to being the starting point guard for top-ranked Baylor and coach Kim Mulkey.
Jackson was a graduate transfer last summer after two seasons as a shooting guard at LSU. She was a standout soccer player who also loved basketball in high school, and if not for a rare earthquake affecting her home state of Maryland then, she might now be kicking balls somewhere instead running the floor for the nation’s top women’s basketball team.
“Chloe has been great to play with. ... Being a point guard is tough, considering I’m the third-string point guard on this team. It’s good to see she can come to a new team and run a whole bunch of different plays with a whole different playing system from LSU,” Baylor teammate DiDi Richards said. “It’s cool to see she can adapt to something so quickly.”
Big 12-leading Baylor (17-1) on Monday took over the No. 1 spot in the AP women’s basketball poll for the first time since the end of the 2012-13 regular season, when the Lady Bears had All-American point guard Odyssey Sims and national player of the year Brittney Griner.
When Jackson left LSU for Baylor, she was looking for the chance to win a championship and prepare herself for playing at a higher level.
“Never knew how big my role was going to be, but I knew what (Mulkey) wanted me to do, and I felt like that would better me for the next level,” Jackson said. “Obviously playing on the biggest stage on an elite level.”
Her anticipated role changed drastically in September, when sophomore point guard Alexis Morris was dismissed from the team for violating team rules.
Jackson is averaging 10.9 points, 6.8 assists and 3.6 rebounds a game. The Lady Bears were tied for the national lead with their 1.81 assist-to-turnover ratio, and Jackson was 15th nationally at 2.78 — she has more than four times as many assists as turnovers (37 to 9) in the past four games.
“The biggest adjustment was just being more vocal, having to be that quarterback on the floor ... just having to learning all the plays,” Jackson said. “In that month span, going from trying to learn from (Morris), to having to be the one to learn it and teach it.”
All while playing for Mulkey, who long before winning two national championships as Baylor’s coach played point guard for two national titles at Louisiana Tech and is demanding of her players at that spot.
Mulkey described Jackson as “smart, doesn’t try to be something she’s not.”
In a win over Iowa State last week, Jackson had her first double-double at Baylor with 11 points and 11 assists.
“Everything Chloe does with the ball in her hands impresses me, because that’s like taking a wide receiver and making them a quarterback their fifth year in college,” Mulkey said. “An athlete might run the ball a lot, but you’ve got to have patterns, you’ve got to throw the ball on a dime when they make their cuts, you’ve got to have a presence in the pocket, and she’s having to do all of that stuff.”
Jackson played for an elite girls basketball program at Riverdale Baptist High in Maryland, though before her sophomore year in the summer of 2011 she had moved to a different school with a standout soccer team to play both sports there.
“That was a crazy summer,” Jackson said. “I spent the whole summer working out, playing soccer and doing all of that, but when school started, I went to school for literally one day and then that night an earthquake occurred. ... Everything happens for a reason. In high school, that happened for a reason. This situation that I’m in right now, it all happened for a reason.”
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