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MISHAWAKA -- It's easy to see that Demetrius Jackson is at home on a basketball court.
But he also feels like he's found a home off it -- something he doesn't take for granted.
The Marian High School sophomore, area scoring leader and major Division I college prospect became a foster child when he was 12 years old.
He spent a short time in foster care in South Bend, then his seventh and eighth grade years living and attending school in the Jimtown district before landing during the summer of 2009 with David and Beth Whitfield of Mishawaka.
"Michael (Whitfield, also a sophomore player at Marian) and I were on the same AAU team and I just started going over to his house," Jackson said Wednesday of how his relationship with the Whitfields began. "We were hanging out, spending the night sometimes, and his parents noticed I wasn't very happy in my home. They wanted to help me make a change. They're like a family I feel I can share my feelings with."
Jackson, a smooth-but-explosive 5-foot-11 swingman, is averaging 23 points, eight rebounds, four assists and three steals, placing him high among area leaders in each category, as the Knights (8-4) prepare to host Central (9-5) this evening.
He prefers not to share all the details that led him into foster care, but says his dad was in jail, and adds that he and his mom still maintain a valued relationship limited by foster rules.
"She comes to my games sometimes. A lot of my family members come out, and that really gives me a lift when I see them in the stands," said Jackson, who has two brothers in their 20s as well as 19- and 11-year-old sisters.
"My one brother's kind of critical," Jackson said with a laugh of Jeff Jones, who finished his own playing career at South Bend Clay nine years ago. "He calls me before games, tells me I need to score 30, thinks he was so good, tells me what I need to do better."
Fact is, Jackson doesn't care about scoring 30, though.
"To be honest, all I care about is winning," Jackson said. "I couldn't care less if I had zero points and 20 assists. As long as we get the 'W,' I'm fine with anything."
First-year Marian coach Robb Berger says Jackson's not exaggerating.
"Probably his greatest attribute his how unselfish he is," Berger said Wednesday. "He could probably score more than he is but that's not what he's interested in. He's interested in winning games and getting other players involved."
Jackson owns not just a soft shooting touch at around 60 percent on 2-pointers and 80 percent on free throws, but also a soft smile and seemingly soft disposition that belie his not-so-soft background.
"I don't see any good coming out of being down," Jackson said. "I try to make the best out of a situation. When I was younger, I was quiet and did bottle up some things, and sometimes I've got a temper, but now I feel like I can share things with family and teammates. They all understand and help out."
Jackson, who carries a 3.2 grade point average, is undecided on what he'll study in college.
What does appear decided is that he'll be playing college basketball on scholarship somewhere.
"I really like Xavier, Notre Dame and Michigan, and Purdue's in there," Jackson said of which school he might eventually choose among the many that have expressed interest.
He's taken official or unofficial visits to each of the four he names, but has not established a timeline for his decision.
"That's for college scouts to evaluate," Berger said of Jackson's potential on the next level, "but I know he's an outstanding high school player right now. Sometimes you forget that he's just halfway through his sophomore season. He's been very consistent scoring-wise, and even when his shots aren't falling, he does so much for our team. What we've been able to do starts with him."
Jackson didn't take up basketball formally until fifth grade, and recalls being a "timid" player at first.
In seventh grade, he became involved with Midwest Basketball Academy of Mishawaka. He credits MBA Select coach Rod Creech with accelerating his development as a player, and Berger with accelerating Marian's development as a team.
This is just the beginning, though.
"I've always had the dream of making the NBA, and that's still my dream," Jackson said. "I know it won't come easy. I see a lot of kids who want to be good, but you just have to work at it. I realize that, and I'm going to keep working."