While Jackson needed Baylor, the Lady Bears needed her too.
“We didn’t have her experience last year. Chloe played at LSU, she’s a fifth-year senior,” Baylor teammate Lauren Cox said. “Her leadership, her ability to handle the ball, to learn a new role, it makes her special… We gelled in the summer. She’s a super quick learner.”
Jackson is in the Masters of Divinity program at Baylor. She wanted to study law, but LSU didn’t fully release her, so she had to pick a program at Baylor that LSU didn’t offer. Still, she believes in the phrase: everything happens for a reason.
Earthquakes do not typically occur in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States. Feeling the Earth shake in Maryland is as rare as finding a proper crab cake outside of the state’s borders. Before Aug. 23, 2011, a 5-magnitude earthquake had never been felt in the Old Line State. But on that day, a 5.8 magnitude earthquake hit 38 miles northwest of Richmond, Virginia. Its aftershocks were felt in Georgia and Illinois. Effects from the quake put cracks in the Washington Monument.
It also forced many area schools to close for several days, including St. Mary’s Ryken High School, which Jackson had just transferred to from Riverdale Baptist School.
Before she was all-in on her love for basketball, Jackson was a dual-sport star. On the soccer pitch, she was a superb goal scorer, starring as a forward or an attacking midfielder. Jackson says that Riverdale was a “basketball school” but she was still playing travel soccer and starting to get some looks from colleges.
Both St. Mary’s Ryken and Riverdale Baptist are private schools, so they could offer funds for scholarships. Ryken was going to give her more money and the chance to play both sports.
“(Ryken’s) basketball team was okay, but soccer was bigger there,” Jackson said. “So, I went there, worked out with the team for two weeks, went to school for two days and then there was the earthquake and we were out that whole week.”
Jackson still felt Riverdale tugging at her. For her, it was home. The earthquake gave her time off from school, which turned into her working her mom to let her go back to Riverdale. It worked.
“It gave me more time,” Jackson said. “It was crazy, unbelievable, the timing and everything.”
So, if not for an ultra-rare earthquake, would have Jackson been a striker for some team competing in this past season’s College Cup? Maybe.
Instead, she went back to Riverdale and began excelling at basketball. Jackson began drawing in a bevy of Power 5 offers, hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to help Riverdale Baptist win a championship, and was named Player of the Year by the Washington Post. She was bound for Raleigh, North Carolina, a key piece of one of Wes Moore’s early recruiting classes.
“They had a new coaching staff there and I wanted to go somewhere where I could make an immediate impact as a freshman,” Jackson said.
But her stint with the Wolfpack didn’t go as planned. Jackson played in just four games, scoring five points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Then she broke her foot and was out for the year.
“Things kind of went left,” Jackson said. “I saw some things while I was sitting out.”
Jackson knew N.C. State wasn’t the place for her. The Wolfpack restricted her from transferring to other ACC schools, but she still had options. Among them were Minnesota, South Carolina and LSU. She and Baylor were not yet on each other’s radars.
Her next stop was way down south, in SEC country at LSU.
“It was another place where I thought I could make an immediate impact,” Jackson said. “I loved the coaching staff. They were really welcoming and it was a family feel. I really felt like I could make an impact with that team.”
Jackson helped lead the Lady Tigers to back-to-back NCAA tournament berths. Her redshirt junior season was her best one, as she averaged 18.1 points and 4.7 rebounds per-game, leading LSU to 20 wins. She was named to the All-SEC second team.
But each time Jackson’s Lady Tigers made the Big Dance, they were ousted in the first round. In 2017, as a No. 8 seed, they lost to No. 9 Cal by three points. In 2018, as a sixth-seed, No. 11 Central Michigan bested them by nine points.
The defeats made Jackson hungry for more. She knew she was better than a first-round exit.
“I just didn’t want to be that person who could get their team to the tournament, but then that was it,” Jackson said. “I wanted to show that I could do more and really play on a bigger platform and showcase my talent and win championships and cut down nets.”
After that loss, Jackson decided she would transfer. She was in search of the team who could make her a champion, a place where she would fit in best, and where she could learn how to play point guard.
“I wanted to win. And I really wanted to show people that I could play the point guard position,” Jackson said. “If I want to get to the next level, I had to show that I could be versatile and play the point and the shooting guard positions.”
At this point, everyone knew who Jackson was and what she was capable of. She wasn’t an unknown like when she was coming off an injury at N.C. State.