Ahead of the Scotts Lakers’ first home game of the season, Adam Moynihan sat down with the club’s new American signing Aaron Jackson to talk about his college career, moving to Killarney and his goals for the year
Hi Aaron. Welcome to Killarney.
You arrived two weeks ago. What are your impressions of the town so far?
I love it. I think it’s the perfect size. It’s not too big, it’s not too small, and there’s always stuff to do.
Have the people been welcoming?
Oh yeah, for sure. Everybody I’ve talked to has started off with, “Welcome to Killarney, we’re glad to have you here”. They’ve just embraced me with open arms so that’s been real comforting. It’s not easy being away from your family, in a different time zone, so it feels good to come somewhere and feel welcome.
When did you first hear about Killarney and the Scotts Lakers’ interest in you?
End of the summer. I went to a combine in Orlando, Florida and Coach Shane (McCarthy) was there. I played really well. Going into it he said I wasn’t really on their radar or anything. It was pretty humbling, and pretty cool to finally get some good luck in that area.
Were you worried at any stage that you wouldn’t find a team?
Yeah because there are so many people in the States trying to get over and play professional basketball overseas somewhere. It’s tough. In the back of your mind you always have that (doubt) but you have to go into every game, every day, with confidence. I never really gave up on myself no matter what happened. I just kept working and kept getting better, and now I’m here.
Did it ever cross your mind that you’d end up in Ireland?
Oh nah, never! But it’s pretty cool that I did.
You’re a 6’6” guard. How would you describe yourself as a player?
I’m a multiple threat guy. I can shoot it from the outside, drive it, handle the ball pretty well, pass it pretty well. I try to be a stat-stuffer, try to do a little bit of everything. I’m good at adjusting to everything the team needs me to do.
What part of the States are you from?
I grew up in Columbus, Ohio, born and raised. Big Ohio State football fan. Go Bucks.
Did you always want to be a basketballer?
For sure. I used to play a couple other sports too. According to my dad, my best sport was baseball. I played pitcher and centre field. I played football as well, as a quarter back, but that was just too risky for me.
Which players did you admire growing up?
Basketball is real big in my city so I had the opportunity to see guys like Jared Sullinger (ex-Boston Celtics) play, Trey Burke (Philadelphia 76ers), Caris LeVert (Brooklyn Nets)… And I’ve had the opportunity to play with those guys and come up with them, so I got to learn a lot from some really talented players. I watched a lot of LeBron too, obviously, but D. Wade was a close second. I used to love me some D. Wade. But I wasn’t as athletic as him so I couldn’t really model my game after his.
As I got older I was able to figure out who I could really model my game on and I fell in love with Klay Thompson. We have very similar body types and very similar athleticism.
Are you a Cleveland Cavaliers fan?
Kinda. I’m just a LeBron fan really. Wherever he goes…
Tell me about your school career.
I went to Gahanna Lincoln High School. It was a real powerhouse for a public high school – one of the best to go to around my city. Our coaches took basketball real serious. Then I played with two very good, high-level teams in college in Akron and East Carolina University.
What did you major in?
I was in Sport Marketing for my undergrad and for grad school I was in Student Affairs and Higher Education.
You must have come up against some top players in your time. Any stand-out names?
Oh yeah. I’ve played against a little bit of everybody. Josh Hart (New Orleans Pelicans), Andrew Wiggins (Minnesota Timberwolves), Julius Randle (New York Knicks), Jabari Parker (Atlanta Hawks)… Like I said, Caris LeVert – he was actually in my league in high school so I played him twice a year. Jae’Sean Tate, one my best friends, he ended up going to Ohio State and he plays for the Sydney Kings in Australia. And my high school teammate, Javon Bess, plays with the Pelicans. So I was blessed to play against a lot of very good players who helped to shape my game.
You’re coming from a very high standard in America. What have you made of your Lakers teammates so far?
I like them. I like playing with them. I think Brian (O’Neill) is really, really good. He can shoot really well. Carlton Cuff is a great leader. Andrew (Fitzgerald) is in a hell of a shape for a 37-year-old guy! I haven’t got to see Mark (Greene) play yet. I love Séamus (Brosnan), he can shoot the ball. Toby (Christensen) and Victor (Martínez) have great size. They’re versatile guys who can stretch it out for us. It’s been fun trying to gel and get to know their games as well.
How is training going? Are you enjoying it?
I am. We haven’t really had a full practice yet with everybody – Mark has been injured and people are still playing football – which kind of showed in our first game (a 92-85 defeat to the Limerick Celtics). But I’m really not worried because I know that once we all gel together, we’ll be fine.
Have you noticed a difference in the style of play?
It’s a lot more physical here. That’s the biggest difference. I physically felt that Sunday morning when I woke up. I was just like, “Uh! Goodness, gracious! I need to take a day off!”
What are your goals for this season, both personally and as a team?
Really, personally, I just want to try and be a pioneer for this club and to get the Lakers into the Super League. That’s really my biggest goal. I see all of the other Super League teams and I think that with the size of our club, we should be able to do the same thing.
That’s the biggest thing that’s been on my mind: trying to play well enough to lead the team to promotion. Everybody has just been so nice here so I feel like they deserve that. Killarney deserves a Super League team.
Tomorrow night you’ll play your first home game at the Auracle. Are you looking forward to it?
I can’t wait. It should be fun. The pre-season game against Tralee was fun, I had a real nice time, so I can only imagine what the first official game is going to be like.
The Scotts Lakers take on IT Carlow in the Killarney Sports Centre at 7.30pm tomorrow (Saturday) evening. Stay tuned to the Killarney Advertiser and follow @AdamMoynihan on Twitter for all the latest Lakers news, interviews and video highlights.