By Caleb Elliott
Every athlete grows up wanting to be great. They want to be remembered for being the player who led their team to win after win. But it takes someone special to have the drive to work when the light is not on them, so then they can become legendary.
On Dec. 6, 2023, Patrick “Petie” Jackson, a1997 Delta graduate, was honored with his selection to the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame’s 2023 Silver Anniversary Team. This honor is for the best senior players from 25 years ago.
“I never played for or worried about accolades,” Jackson said. “But it feels really good to know all my hard work and commitment to the game is being recognized.”
Today, Jackson is Vice President of Sales for GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) pharmaceutical company, an industry he has been in for nearly 20 years. He and his wife, Veeta Jackson, and two kids, Reina and Grayson, live in Avon, Ind. They attend many Ben Davis High School basketball games and try to return for as many Ball State University basketball games as they can.
Growing up Jackson was like any typical Delaware County kid. He found his love for basketball when he saw his friend, Adam Shunk, playing in the Royerton Elementary Basketball League. “I quickly realized that I was a decent athlete and I enjoyed the game,” Jackson said. “So from second grade on, I began to enjoy the game more and more.”
He kept getting involved with basketball in any way he could. This included playing pickup games, shooting baskets on his own, and watching as much basketball as possible. Some of Jackson’s basketball idols were Michael Jordan and Isiah Thomas, whose game was the style of play he wanted to model. He eventually ended up on the AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) basketball circuit. Through all of this Jackson created his lifelong friendships through basketball.
He grew up playing with Lucas Manor, Rob Robbins, Billy Lynch, Roosevelt Jackson, Tyce Shideler and Nathan Calvert. He believes playing with his brother Roosevelt was one of the best things for him.
“It was very special to get to make history with your brother and he was one of the glue guys on our team,” Jackson said. “He believed in me so much and was always my number one supporter.”
Another player that had a big impact on Jackson was point guard and friend Billy Lynch.
“Billy was the floor general during our State Championship run,” Jackson said. “He had the most confidence of anyone I knew, and he always knew what to say to me to get me going.”
Going into the 1996-97 season there was a lot of anticipation around how the team would do.
“We knew the ’97 team was very talented and had the chance to be special, but there was only one ball and five players on the floor at once,” Lynch said. “We had at least four guys that could have averaged 20 points a game or eight guys that could start.”
At the beginning of the season it looked like the team wasn’t finding its groove, starting out with a 3-3 record. Once they began to mesh and find their footing the team finished the regular season with a 17-4 record. Going into sectionals there was a lot of anticipation for if the team would be able to win a sectional title. Earlier in the season the Eagles had fallen to Wapahani by 18 points, but it felt inevitable they would have to go through them to make a deep run in the tournament.
The matchup did not disappoint in the sectional finals with the Eagles winning 73-72. With this the team was red hot and rolling which helped them in defeating New Palestine in the regional semifinals. However even with the accomplishment of making it into the regional championship, the Eagles ran into what most believed would be their demise.
Coming into the regional finals they were matched up against an Anderson powerhouse which came into the game with a 22-3 record, had won the regional the year before, and had home court advantage in their renowned Wigwam arena.
“No one gave us a chance to win that game, but we believed we could win,” Jackson said.
And so they did.
Jackson went on a tear in the closing quarter and finished with a game-high 25 points to pull off what was seemed as a David versus Goliath upset.
“Petie was great that game and just had that look in his eye that we were not going to lose the game no matter what,” Lynch said.
But Jackson’s determination and skill didn’t come without dedication to working. He would get to school early every morning and put up 500 shots and would stay after practice to get some more shots up before he headed home.
“I wanted to be the best player I could be,” Jackson said. “My work ethic separated me from the rest, so while friends were hanging out, I was always in the gym.”
After their upset of Anderson the Eagles became national news and were seen as a Cinderella story for the final single-class tournament in Indiana basketball history. Both Lynch and Jackson recall having multiple journalists from different high-end news companies come and follow their journey. The story even made it to Good Morning America.
“We were on national television as the Cinderella story,” Jackson said. “It was a surreal experience. I feel so blessed and fortunate to have those memories of a lifetime.”
The Eagles continued their run all the way into the State Final Four. They faced LaPorte in the RCA Dome. The game did not start out how the Eagles had imagined, going down 18-4 midway through the first quarter. Then with a strong effort on the defensive end, the energy went back to the Eagles bringing them back into the game. The rest of the game was back and forth with neither team pulling too far from the other. It came down to the end when the Eagles had the ball with 9.7 seconds left on the clock. This is where all of Jackson’s work and preparation came into fruition.
“I’ll never forget that game,” Jackson said. “Coach (Paul) Keller drew up an original play and changed it before we left the huddle, and it was the perfect adjustment.”
Sophomore guard Rob Robbins inbounded the ball to Jackson as he desperately hurried down the court. Seconds ticked off with each dribble. Jackson drove closer to the basket and as he got into the lane one of the LaPorte defenders came over to contest Jackson’s drive. Because of that, junior forward Tyce Shideler was left wide open under the rim. Jackson dished it off to Shideler for a layup that gave the Eagles the lead and ultimately the victory.
The team’s journey ended with a loss in the State Championship game to Bloomington North High School, but it was still nothing short of remarkable.
“I honestly didn’t comprehend the magnitude of playing in the last single-class state championship in Indiana history during our run,” Jackson said.
The team’s Cinderella story still resonates. The team was honored on Feb. 10, 2017 at the halftime of a Delta basketball game.
Jackson finished his career with 1,241 points, which is currently seventh all time on the school’s scoring list. He then went on to play college basketball at Ball State where he had a successful career, and notable wins in the Maui Jim Invitational where they defeated No. 3 Kansas in the opening round and then beat UCLA before eventually falling to Duke in the championship game.
With the 1996-97 IHSAA basketball season being its last single-class tournament, it’s safe to say there will never be another story that comes close to that of Patrick Jackson and the 1997 Delta Eagles.