RIVERSIDE – It’s easy to pay attention to all of the height the Riverside Brookfield boys basketball team has, but guard play is always essential to any team.
Sophomore point guard Daniko Jackson has endured growing pains while replacing standout Damonta Henry, who is currently a freshman at Mary University in North Dakota. However, Jackson is starting to show signs of developing as a varsity player.
In a game against Englewood on Jan. 18, Jackson scored a career-high 21 points, all coming in the second half, and dished out eight assists in that game. Jackson was a part of the freshman A team that went 24-0 last season and is the first player from that squad to make it up to varsity.
“It’s a huge confidence builder for me coming into the varsity level,” Jackson said. “It’s much faster and it’s more fun. You got to be smarter with the ball and get your teammates involved.”
Jackson has plenty of quality options to spread the ball around. Seniors Jack VandeMerkt and Will Kincanon are the team’s leading scorers, but junior Sam Johnson has led the team in scoring six times and Mark Smith and Paul Sitkiewicz have also proven to be reliable players.
“A lot of guys are capable of scoring on this team so it’s a good thing to have,” RB coach Tom McCloskey said. “I think we’re getting better each week and I think our team defense has been good, but we can still improve.”
The Bulldogs like to get out on the break to take advantage of their athleticism. They did so often in a 77-46 win over Fenton on Thursday, which improved the team’s record to 14-5 and 7-0 in the Metro Suburban Conference.
Three starters and four players in the rotation stand 6-foot-5 or taller, which gives Jackson both options and height to use to his benefit.
“It helps me run the break because they’re really versatile, they can handle the ball,” Jackson said. “It just makes me a better player.”
The sophomore got his first taste of varsity ball during the summer. At that time, returning guard Kincanon wasn’t sure if he was going to play basketball again or focus on baseball, which he will play in college. Kincanon returned soon after, but Jackson stuck with the varsity squad after showing well.
The 5-foot-9 sophomore doesn’t have size or a strong frame yet, but he thinks he is starting to settle down on varsity.
“[Playing with varsity] was surprising a little bit because last year I played freshman and I didn’t play sophomore,” Jackson said. “I feel like I showed it a little bit earlier in the season, but it made me better overall.”