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Loyola senior Aundre Jackson has big homecoming

Aundre Jackson points at his family and friends after Loyola upset Miami in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Thursday. | Madeline Kenney/Sun-Times

DALLAS — When Aundre Jackson found out Loyola was scheduled to start its NCAA Tournament run in Dallas, he immediately called his mom to tell her the news while his teammates celebrated around him.

Jackson, who is from Kennedale, Texas — a suburb located roughly 25 miles from Dallas — has been wanting to play in front of his friends and family for the last two seasons, but he never had the chance.

Even coach Porter Moser tried to schedule nonconference games against TCU or other local teams. Despite his best efforts, the opportunity never arose.

Donte Ingram hits last-second shot, Loyola upsets Miami 64-62
Loyola keeps noise out of locker room ahead of Miami game

Finally, with his college basketball career likely winding down, Jackson’s family and friends have the chance to see him play for Loyola in-person.

Jackson admitted he has been down on himself given his recent offensive struggles.

But it’s not the first time he has had to face adversity. Jackson wasn’t highly recruited out of high school and has been seen as undersized for his position.

He played two seasons at McLennan Community College in Waco, Texas, before transferring to Loyola as a junior.

Jackson permanently inked “the struggle is part of the story” on his left arm to serve as a constant reminder of where he has been and where he wants to go.

Aundre Jackson showed off his tattoo on his forearm. | Madeline Kenney/Sun-Times

“There are many struggles with basketball, with life,” Jackson said. “It all makes me a part of who I am. It’s a part of my story, and my story is not complete.”

But it also helped that his family and friends were there to help pick him up.

“My friends and family were here, and they were telling me that it’s time to have a good game,” Jackson said. “I’ve been struggling the past few games. But they said, ‘You’re home now. We’re all watching. So it’s time to have a good game.’”

Entering the NCAA Tournament, Jackson hadn’t scored in double digits since Loyola beat Southern Illinois 75-56 on Feb. 21. That’s four games in which the 6-5 forward was limited to nine points or fewer.

But Jackson broke his scoring slump Thursday with 12 points in Loyola’s 64-62 upset victory over Miami.

After Donte Ingram’s game-winning three-pointer, Jackson ran to the baseline and pointed at his family and friends and junior-college and high school coaches.

“We made it,” Jackson yelled. “We’re on to the next round.”

Jackson felt relieved that he was able to come through with a big performance near his hometown.

“It means a lot [to play in Dallas],” Jackson said. “I didn’t want this to be my last game. I was kind of nervous on the bench. I got another game coming, so it’s a great feeling not to be done.”

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Email: mkenney@suntimes.com