The Illustrated Man: Trency Jackson’s path through adversity

Senior Hilltopper basketball guard, Trency Jackson (3), of Jackson, Miss., received his first tattoo, a detailed half sleeve, that showcases an angel, when he was 16-years-old. “I thought it was going to hurt but it didn’t,” Jackson said. He instantly fell in love with inking his body and hasn’t considered stopping. At a young age, Jackson knew he wanted to have a multitude of tattoos because of his brother. Jackson doesn’t know how many tattoos he has but is positive they outnumber the ink on other players of the team. Most of the ink on Jackson’s body represents his Catholic faith but a portrait of his mother and his older brother, two important people in his life, also frame sides of his arms. At the moment, Jackson only has the front of his body covered but, not for long. “I’m not sure what it will be yet… but [the tattoo on my back] will be big,” Jackson said. Alyssa Pointer/HERALD

Billy Rutledge

Two years ago. That was around the time Trency Jackson lost count of the number of tattoos he has collected. His canvas, the entire front side of his body, is draped in ink with things that he holds close to his heart.

The words “God’s Child” and “Dream Chaser” race across the senior guard’s 6-foot-2 arms. Just above the phrases, portraits of Jesus and Mother Mary headline his forearms and biceps like painted angels running across the walls of a church.

Jackson’s Catholic faith has remained a constant in the young man’s life, when other things have not. From a boy living in Jackson, Mississippi without a father, to a college sophomore leaving Texas Tech University, due to academic ineligibility, Jackson has “kept pushing.”

“I was scrambling,” Jackson said about being dismissed from TTU. “I didn’t know what I was going to do next. I turned to the Lord. I just kept praying, and the Lord brought me here.”

“Here” is the WKU basketball team—a team where Jackson has found a home and a pivotal role, where his basketball skills can shine. Over the past two seasons, Jackson has started 40 games (all 26 this season), averaged 10.1 points per game and has become the “vocal leader” of the team.

“I just think he’s a guy that’s a big-time energy guy,” Head Coach Ray Harper said. “When he’s at his best he’s a lock-down defender. He’s a competitor. That’s the best way I can describe him. He’ll fight you — he’ll compete. He’s meant a lot over the last year and a half.”


“Loud. Energy. Active. Loud.”


The three teammates busted out laughing. The comments were the words fellow seniors T.J. Price and George Fant used to describe Jackson’s up-beat personality.

“He’s a high spirit,” Fant said. “He likes to laugh. He likes to make everyone else laugh and have fun. He’s a good guy. When he first came in, I could tell from the jump he was a good guy.”

“If he’s not talking, something is wrong with him,” Price said. “He’s the type of person if you’re having a bad day, he’s going to want to be around because he’s going to make you laugh. He’s going to do something. It can be the corniest things sometime.”

The trio will play their final home game for WKU Feb. 28 and graduate in May, a goal that seemed far away for Jackson a short time ago.

After high school, Trency enrolled into Northwest Florida State College, where he spent his freshman season leading his JUCO school to the NJCAA national title game. A year later, Jackson transferred to Texas Tech University with high aspirations of playing Division I basketball. 

The dream was short lived, as Jackson was deemed academically ineligible after starting the first 11 games. Jackson moved back to Mississippi where he didn’t know what he was going to do next. So he did what he has done for his entire life: prayed.

The same year, Jackson received interest from WKU through an assistant coach that had met him in the state of Mississippi. One phone call from Harper was all Jackson needed to commit, a decision he made without visiting the campus.

“I feel like what really made me stronger as a person is all the things I went through during my college years,” Jackson said. “I really had to mature. I was out of the house by the age of 17 … I would probably be back in the streets of Jackson if it wasn’t for Western.”

After being redshirted in 2012-13, Jackson sat out half of his junior season, due to NCAA transfer requirements. It wasn’t until the Hilltoppers’ game at sixth-ranked Louisville where Jackson made his debut.

Jackson appeared in 24 games and made 14 starts in 2013-14. He finished third on the team in scoring at 10.2 ppg and played an average of 24.9 minutes per game that season. Jackson continued his success into his senior year where he is now one of four players to average double digit points for the Hilltoppers in their inaugural season in Conference USA.


“He’s a good kid, and he’s done well.” Harper said. “He had to fight through some adversity. Had to pay his own way for, I guess, it was two semesters, but never complained — just figured out this is what I have to do. I’m gonna be a college graduate, and he will be in May. So, I’m proud of that more than what he’s done on the court.”




Trency Jackson is wearing a jacket when he walks into Tuesday’s press conference with the media. His tattoos are covered, but the senior facing the final moments of his collegiate basketball career remembers the message that they hold.

“I just want to be remembered as a respectful guy,” Jackson said. “As a guy you always go to in life, as a strong minded guy, a strong person — a leader. I want to have that leadership role because that’s what I want to bring into the world when I graduate.”

Jackson, 22, has the make up and personality that every college basketball team would want in a player. The defensive leader of the fourth-place Hilltoppers has much more life to live, more people to cheer up and more values to learn after graduating from WKU. 

Without WKU basketball, Trency claims he could have “ended up in the streets.”  But through adversity, not only has Trency’s game evolved but he has evolved as a person as well. 

“I could give up basketball,” Jackson said. “At the end of the day, I could give up basketball and be proud with myself.”