Chris Jackson, who has already earned a degree in chemical fuels and engineering, is having his best season on the court.
Jan. 11, 2006
By Scott Pettett
Utah Assistant SID
To play Division I basketball, it's important to find the right mix that leads to success both on and off the court.
For senior center Chris Jackson, a chemical engineering graduate, that mix is finally starting to come together.
When the 6-11, 245-pound center isn't manning the lane for the Utes, he's busy juggling work on a masters in business. Jackson moved on to postgraduate work this past fall on the heels of earning his undergraduate degree in chemical and fuels engineering.
"I knew out of high school that I wanted to be an engineer," said Jackson. "I have always been good at math and science, and I liked chemistry" Nowadays, wrapping up an undergraduate degree in four years is easier said than done. But, Jackson had his sights set on his degree and nothing was going to sidetrack him.
"I've had a goal since I came to college to graduate in four years," Jackson asserted. "Even though I had five years with a redshirt season, I still finished in four years. Sometimes, I didn't think it was going to happen, but I got it done and was able to get started on my masters degree."
Engineering is notoriously one of the most rigorous courses of study. That didn't deter Jackson who has known what he was going to study since he left high school ... possibly because it runs in the family.
"My dad graduated from MIT," said Jackson. "He's a nuclear engineer. So, I knew I wanted going to be an engineer out of high school"
While Jackson knew that he wanted to be engineer like his father, it's not because he got into the details of what his father did for a living.
"A lot of what he does is classified work," remarked Jackson. "But, that's the norm in Los Alamos (New Mexico). It seems like everyone's dad is an engineer there and secrecy is the norm. It's a very different and unique place to live."
Jackson has always had his academic priorities taken care of. But, it was a long and winding road to get the Huntsman Center floor.
The Los Alamos, N.M., native has grappled with a broken foot, a bad back and then saw action behind All-American Andrew Bogut last season.
"For me, I've been in an odd position the last few years with (Andrew) Bogut in the lineup last year and my back surgery.
"My back isn't where it was before the surgery. But, it's back to where I feel good and I feel okay about being out on the court. Before the surgery, it was tough to get out there and practice everyday."
Jackson is back and making a contribution to a Ute team that's dominated by youth. Not only has he started in the first 13 games, but through the early portion of the conference season he is averaging almost 20 minutes per game. He is also fourth on the team with an 8.1 points-per-game average, contributes 4.3 rebounds per contest and is shooting a swift 77.4 percent for the season.
"We've had our ups and downs during the nonconference season," said Jackson. "The team has played well and it has struggled. But, now that the conference season has started, we look to harness what we did well at the start of the season and hold on to it."
Come next season, Jackson will return to being regular student, finishing up his MBA. Beyond that immediate goal, he has no concrete plans but to enjoy the sport and the team that has been such a big part of his life. "Chemical engineering is a broad field and there will be a lot of options in a lot of different industries."
"I definitely enjoy the game but I don't see myself becoming a coach," said Jackson. "I'm going to become a basketball fan and be a part of the basketball family at the University of Utah.