By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
When Cornelius Jackson was dominating the Mid-American Conference as Marshall’s starting point guard, coaches around the league took notice. One of them was Gary Waters, who at the time was the head coach at Kent State.
Once Jackson’s playing career was over and his coaching career got started, he maintained contact with Waters, who eventually went on to coach at Rutgers.
“I stayed in touch with those guys, even after I finished playing and started coaching at West Virginia State, writing letters and things,” Jackson said.
That networking has paid off for Jackson, who was recently named an assistant coach at Waters’ latest stop, Cleveland State.
“I have a lot of respect for Gary Waters,” said Jackson, an Oak Hill native. “This opportunity came about and went in for interviews and showed him that I want to be here.”
Waters already knew about Jackson’s drive and work ethic.
Jackson spent the 1996-97 season at the University of Tennessee, where he started 21 games as a freshman. He then transferred to Marshall, where he started every game of his three-year career. He led the MAC in assists his junior and senior seasons.
Jackson graduated from Oak Hill in 1996, when he was an All-American and the West Virginia high school player of the year. He averaged 28 points, 5.9 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 3.8 steals as a senior.
After finishing his career at Marshall, Jackson was drafted by the Roanoke Dazzle of the National Basketball Development League before eventually playing professionally in Germany and Austria.
Jackson’s coaching career began in 2003 at West Virginia State. He spent six seasons with the Yellowjackets before taking a position with Tennessee-Martin, where he spent the last four seasons.
Jackson will take the spot vacated by former University of Charleston head coach Jayson Gee, who left Cleveland State last month to take over the program at Big South member Longwood University.
Cleveland State point guard Charlie Lee played at Huntington Prep, so Jackson is familiar with him.
“I talked to Rob (Fulford, a Mullens native and the head coach at Huntington Prep) throughout the process. Rob helped me with some text messages of recommendation (to Waters and his staff),” Jackson said. “I make it a point to get to Huntington Prep every year.
“I saw Charlie play a couple of years ago. In fact, he was one of four players I met with during the interview process.”
Jackson said he hopes to get everything packed in Tennessee and spend some time in Oak Hill starting Thursday and stay until he reports to Cleveland State on June 3. Then he will resume what he hopes one day will lead to a head coaching role.
“But that is obviously long-term,” he said. “Right now I want to be at Cleveland State and work as hard as I can work and help take kids to the next level.”
— E-mail: gfauber@