New Trier’s Jackson Munro had a pretty good idea of where he was headed for college when he sat down last Saturday to watch the Dartmouth-Georgetown game online on ESPN-Plus.
But Dartmouth’s upset win over the Hoyas, as Munro described it, was “just a cherry on top.”
The emerging 6-8 senior has officially committed to the Ivy League school, choosing Dartmouth over Loyola and a host of other mid-major programs.
“I just loved the coaching staff, especially coach Mac, who seems like an incredible guy,” said Munro of his future head coach, David McLaughlin. “I really enjoyed getting to know him.”
Between the connection he felt with his head coach and players in the program, the elite academics and the culture at Dartmouth, Munro felt the fit was ideal for all that he was looking for in a college basketball program.
While on his official visit he saw firsthand what he believes an Ivy League degree could mean for him in the future. The homecoming weekend provided Munro a chance to see and interact with alumni who were all there reconnecting.
“To see all that was going on there, to see that type of network there, it really spoke to me because you could see all the people who are connected in the Dartmouth network and how supportive that network is,” said Munro. “Having those connections going forward are second to none. That network, with that degree, and to be able to mix that with playing Division I basketball is a unique opportunity for me. Given my personality and what matters to me, I thought it was a really good blend.”
The long road to Division I
Munro wasn’t a household name in high school basketball early in his career. And his road to securing Division I interest and ultimately playing at that level developed slowly. Very slowly.
While he showed promise and improvement over the course of his shortened junior season with the Trevians, averaging 14 points a game, he didn’t put up whopping numbers. He didn’t grab headlines or have the opportunity to play in packed gyms, big games, the Pontiac Holiday Tournament or high-profile shootouts.
But he was an enticing, late-blooming big man with a growing game, capable of working on the block and stepping away from the basket with a much-improved perimeter jumper. Plus, he played hard, with a blue-collar approach and helped the Trevians to a 13-2 record.
He showed he was a Division I prospect in the spring while playing with Fundamental U on the AAU circuit. The only problem was no college coaches were watching; there were no “live” evaluation periods in the spring months.
But there was a certainty in evaluating Munro, who played the game the right way and found so many ways to impact each game he played. He vaulted up the City/Suburban Hoops Report player rankings and was a top 15 prospect in Illinois –– but without a single scholarship offer –– by the time the summer rolled around.
Munro admittedly became a little frustrated. Heading into the month of June he had no Division I offers. Then after what was just a so-so month of June while playing with New Trier, the frustration mounted.
“I think the spring I had with Fundamental U was a really good one,” said Munro. “Then there was some hype heading into June, and I wanted to capitalize on that with my high school team. But honestly, I played pretty bad with my high school team during the June live periods. So nothing came of that. That put pressure on me in July to perform and to show that what they had heard in the spring wasn’t a fluke.”
Regardless of any June struggles, the City/Suburban Hoops Report labeled Munro as “the most overlooked prospect in the state” heading into July. He had shown enough at his size to warrant the hype.
Munro’s big July
Munro went to work in July, showcasing a combination of toughness and skill, which included some impressive space-the-floor shooting that extended to the three-point line.
“Being able to do that on a big stage in July was special to me,” said Munro. “I felt a ton of satisfaction. The group of guys I played with was pretty amazing. They were so supportive of me and they built me up and gave me confidence, even after a poor June where I lost some confidence. All the hard work you do and put in paid off.”
By the middle of July he finally had a few offers. Navy, Toledo and Purdue-Fort Wayne were the first to step up with scholarship offers. The doors then blew wide open as he closed out the month with additional offers from Lipscomb, Indiana State, Northeastern, Bucknell, American, Brown, Evansville, Cal-Poly and Eastern Illinois.
The performance in July also piqued the interest of Loyola, the red-hot program in the Missouri Valley Conference. The Ramblers offered Munro a five-to-play-four opportunity, meaning Munro would walk-on his first year and then have four scholarship years remaining.
Munro took his time, analyzed many programs taking a bevy of official and unofficial visits throughout the fall. But it was Dartmouth in the end.
Still a lot of work ahead
Munro has certainly put in the work in becoming a self-made player. The individual progression of Munro is a big reason why New Trier is a Sun-Times preseason top 10 team and is expected to be a threat to reach Champaign and the State Finals this March.
All the hard work Munro put in to attract all the Division I interest must continue at Dartmouth. Despite the recent win over Georgetown out of the Big East Conference last weekend, Munro’s future basketball program has had their share of struggles. The Ivy League didn’t have a season during Covid last year and haven’t tasted a winning season in 22 years. Munro says he is ready –– and excited –– to help change that.
“I just think the situation at Dartmouth is unique,” said Munro. “It’s no secret they haven’t been winning very much recently, but I like and enjoy the challenge of helping turn that around. The idea, if all things go well, having a legacy there if we can turn that around? I think that’s a unique challenge and cool opportunity.”