Arianna Jackson’s legacy: ‘She’s a Cyclone to the bone’

Arianna Jackson continues her family legacy at Iowa State
Arianna Jackson dribbles the ball up the court against North Dakota State at Hilton Coliseum on Dec. 10, 2023.
Arianna Jackson dribbles the ball up the court against North Dakota State at Hilton Coliseum on Dec. 10, 2023.
Tyler Coe
Arianna+Jackson+brings+the+ball+up+the+floor+against+Truman+State+in+an+exhibition+game+at+Hilton+Coliseum+on+Nov.+1%2C+2023.
Arianna Jackson brings the ball up the floor against Truman State in an exhibition game at Hilton Coliseum on Nov. 1, 2023. (Tyler Coe)

AMES — Arianna Jackson is the latest of her family members to be a part of Iowa State University.

Her father, Hezekhia, played football at Iowa State under Dan McCarney, where he met Jackson’s mother, Cory, who also graduated from Iowa State. Jackson’s brother, Kendell, played football under Matt Campbell as a walk-on and graduated last year.

Jackson joined her brother as the second of her siblings to don an Iowa State jersey.

For Jackson, the decision to play at Iowa State was an easy one. Being raised in a Cyclone household influenced her choice of where to play college basketball.

“I kind of wanted to stay close to home,” Jackson said. “My family is a huge support system. Watching my brother go through the football experience here, I knew Iowa State was a great place.”

Iowa State head coach Bill Fennelly had already known the Jackson family well before she chose to play at Iowa State. Fennelly expressed what it meant to him to know their family and to be able to coach someone like Jackson.

“We’ve known her a long time. She’s a Cyclone to the bone. If you cut her, it’s cardinal and gold coming out of her. Her family is that way.”

— Bill Fennelly

Arianna Jackson does her pregame handshake with Shantavia Dawkins before the game against Kansas at Hilton Coliseum on Jan. 3, 2023.

A Des Moines native, Jackson played her high school career at Roosevelt, where she was honored as the 2023 Iowa Basketball Coaches Association All-Star Game MVP and a four-time Iowa Print Sports Writers Association All-State member. Jackson was also a three-time selection to the Iowa Girls Coaches Association All-State team, including a first-team selection in 2023.

Along with being Roosevelt’s starting point guard, Jackson ran cross country and played AAU basketball for the All Iowa Attack. She said the level of competition on the AAU circuit helped her become a better player.

“AAU, seeing that competition, the physicality, the aggressiveness, the size, the speed, just anything like that has helped me be ready to play in the Big 12,” Jackson said.

Jackson received offers from Drake, Michigan, Illinois State, Creighton and Iowa State, where she ultimately decided to commit in her sophomore year of high school.

Being able to stay close to home while continuing her academic and athletic career was important to Jackson in her decision. Add in her family ties to Iowa State, and the decision was a no-brainer.

Jackson was one of five freshmen to be a part of the 2023-24 Iowa State women’s basketball team. The bond between the five was formed well before the season began.

Now, the group is nearly inseparable, as they spend time together away from basketball-related activities and have classes together. When asked about their friendship, all of the freshmen said they clicked immediately when they first met and that relationship has since grown with time.

Arianna Jackson does her pregame handshake with Shantavia Dawkins before the game against Kansas at Hilton Coliseum on Jan. 3, 2023. (Tyler Coe)
Arianna+Jackson+runs+the+Iowa+State+offense+against+North+Dakota+State+at+Hilton+Coliseum+on+Dec.+10%2C+2023.
Arianna Jackson runs the Iowa State offense against North Dakota State at Hilton Coliseum on Dec. 10, 2023. (Tyler Coe)

All five freshmen did not know the parts they would play in the team. Different lineups early in the season made it clear that the identity of the team was still not yet discovered.

Early on, Jackson was thrust into an extended role on the team due to the absence of senior Emily Ryan. The first start of Jackson’s collegiate career Nov. 6 was also her first game as Iowa State hosted Butler.

“She got thrown into a really tough spot,” Ryan said. “She handles it so well. That’s the big thing, is she’s so even-keeled. Even if things aren’t going great, she just keeps chugging along and is focused on making the next play. That’s something that shows a lot of maturity for someone so young.”

With Ryan returning midway through the Big 12 slate, the starting five shifted game-to-game to find a lineup that fit.

Toward the end of the regular season, Jackson and Ryan have started together.

Throughout non-conference play, Jackson continued to gain experience and learn the tendencies of her teammates. Her defense quickly became the highlight of her play style and is what she is most proud of in her on-court efforts.

“I knew she’d impact our team, but not like how she is,” Fennelly said. “She’s our best defender, and we’re playing her at different spots.”

Her first breakout game came on the road against Oklahoma State, where she scored her then-season-high 14 points and went 4-of-6 from three. Not only was that game important from a performance standpoint, but Jackson’s family made the trip to Stillwater, Oklahoma, to see her play.

Her family was also in Memphis a few days prior to watch the Iowa State football team play its bowl game at the Liberty Bowl. Before making the trip back to Iowa, they decided to travel over five hours west to see her play.

“It was nice to have them there, especially for my first conference game on the road,” Jackson said. “They try to make it to as many games as possible.”

In games at Hilton Coliseum, Jackson’s family is always there to support her and cheer on the Cyclones. The support the Jackson family has for each other and Iowa State travels across the country is proven by the last-minute decision to travel to Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Jackson’s role in the team has shifted but stayed familiar to the beginning of her freshman year and she said she has seen improvement in herself as the season went on.

“I definitely did not expect to be where I am right now. I think my confidence has grown a lot throughout the season, and I feel like I’m becoming more of an experienced player,” Jackson said.

Arianna Jackson shoots a 3-point attempt over Iowa guard Caitlin Clark during the Iowa State vs. Iowa match, Hilton Coliseum, Dec. 6, 2023.
Arianna Jackson shoots a 3-point attempt over Iowa guard Caitlin Clark during the Iowa State vs. Iowa match, Hilton Coliseum, Dec. 6, 2023. (Matteo Bender)
Arianna Jackson threw a three-pointer during the BYU game in Hilton Coliseum on Feb. 24, 2024.

Off the court, Jackson has taken a big role in the community and in the classroom. She has used her platform and NIL deals to do good for others, including events such as the meet-and-greet that the Iowa State NIL partner, We Will Collective, put on when the Cyclones’ game against TCU was canceled.

With her NIL deals, Jackson set up a fundraiser to help raise money for Unified Sports at her high school, Roosevelt, where she would match every dollar donated up to $750. The goal of $750 was smashed in one weekend and $3,025 was raised in total.

Fennelly emphasized that Jackson is this way because of her family. He said that being around people who celebrate the success of others and help them achieve that success is what makes his job meaningful.

“[Jackson] is the kind of person that that’s why people like me do what I do for a living,” Fennelly said. “This young person is going to demonstrate what a quality kid can become. She’s impacted our school already.”

The freshman campaign for Arianna Jackson has been nothing short of impactful both on and off the court. She has proven to be a difference maker both ways.

“She works so hard, and being able to help her as much as I can and just see the way she’s developed has been so fun,” Ryan said. “Couldn’t happen to a better person.”

Arianna Jackson threw a three-pointer during the BYU game in Hilton Coliseum on Feb. 24, 2024. (Katarina Kotek )
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