DECATUR, Ill. – After Purdue beat Illinois in Champaign last season, point guard Lewis Jackson talked about how it wasn't just a road win against a good Big Ten team.
It was a statement victory in more than the win column.
It was a victory on a campus that is only 51 miles from his hometown in Decatur, Ill., and Jackson had family and friends in the stands at Assembly Hall.
"It's really special because a lot of people talk about the NBA or what's going to be next (for me), but people don't get out of Decatur often," he said that day in February. "So it's just like re-setting the standard. The next kid can make it. Keep setting the standard high, and that's the best thing for me right now."
That's when I decided I wanted to go to Decatur to see where Jackson grew up and how he had managed to become a success story in an environment that doesn't have enough.
Jackson was game to the idea of giving me a tour of his hometown, but when I arrived in Decatur this spring, I still wasn't quite sure what to expect.
My only directive was "take me to the places that made you the man and the player you've become."
Jackson responded in a big way.
We hopped in the rental with his friends West Dawson and Kyler Works, and Jackson guided me to spots across the city: The court at Johns Hill Park (check out the video), his childhood home on Johns Street, his grandmother's house (complete with aunts Sonja and Tanja Chargois and uncle JJ waiting), the house of his close friend Cody Carr and his brother Antonio, a sports bar where I met mentor Felipe Phillips and finally ending the five-hour tour back at his house with a visit with his mother, Zinda Chargois-Jackson.
It was a unique, enlightening experience.
The hope is with the story in today's paper and with the videos, stories and audio posted here on the blog throughout this week, you'll get a sense of who Jackson is, too.