Jackson is up for the challenge

By Betsy Golomski

Bucks forward Darnell Jackson has had a busy summer so far. He can usually be found on the court and in the weight room at the Bucks Training Center working out with the team's coaching staff.

Off the court, he is trying to make a difference in the city of Cleveland, and beyond, with the Darnell Jackson Mentoring Challenge.

Before Jackson became a Buck on March 25, he was on the Cavaliers' roster for two seasons. While he was in Cleveland, he established a relationship with Big Brothers Big Sisters and partnered with the group for the mentoring challenge. The challenge officially began on March 8 and the goal is to help Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cleveland get 100 mentors and raise $100,000 in 100 days.

"There's a lot of kids out there that don't have father figures in their lives," Jackson said. "There's a lot of single women out there with kids that don't have father figures in their home. I know it's hard for a lot of mothers out there and they can't do it alone. The biggest thing with the challenge is to try to get men that have extra time to go volunteer and just try to help the challenge out."

This cause is especially close to Jackson, who lost his father at a young age but had many mentors that helped him get to where he is today. Before entering the NBA during the 2008 NBA Draft (second round pick by Miami), Jackson was part of four-straight Big 12 regular season titles at Kansas and helped the Jayhakws win the 2008 NCAA Championship. Now that he's in the NBA, the 6-9, 253 lbs. forward is still trying to find his way into the rotation, but has played 51 games during his two seasons with Cleveland and Milwaukee.

Jackson undoubtedly put in a lot of hard work to achieve his goal of becoming an NBA player, but the positive influences from his mentors also helped. According to the Darnell Jackson Mentoring Challenge's Web site, 87 percent of boys with good mentors graduate from high school, while 70 percent of boys without a mentor end up in trouble.

"Basically, I'm just trying to set a good example for these kids out here because you never know who's going to be the next president, doctor or whatever. As men, we have to show these young kids as role models how to carry yourself, how to speak, the way to dress, the way to talk and just lead them in the right way."

Tuesday, June 15 marks the 100th day of the challenge. While the Darnell Jackson Mentoring Challenge may be officially over on June 15, he hopes the message extends past the deadline and beyond the city of Cleveland.

"These kids, they don't know what's really going on out there in the world until they get out there on their own," Jackson said. "It's kind of hard to see kids go through that with nobody leading them in the right way or telling them what to expect in life."

To find out more about the Darnell Jackson Mentoring Challenge, visit the official Web site. The Bucks organization is also very involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Milwaukee and hosted a basketball clinic at the Bucks Training Center back in March.

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