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A leader or a follower?

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A leader or a follower?

DECATUR, Ill. - "Do you want to be a leader or a follower?"

It was a question constantly posed to a young Lewis Jackson by his mother Zinda Chargois-Jackson and aunt Sonja Chargois.

"We want you to be a leader," they told him.

"That kind of got stuck in his head," Chargois-Jackson said.

The first time Felipe Phillips saw Jackson play basketball he knew.

"He was in a three-on-three game in sixth grade, got it on film, and he was going at older guys, going at them hard," Phillips said, smiling. "Small, stature wasn't big at all, but you could see his heart and how he led his other teammates. His leadership skills were outstanding.

"I think it was his passion for the game."

In grade school, Jackson was cognizant of keeping his teammates involved and encouraging them, Sonja Chargois said.

"If he saw somebody in the range to make a basket and maybe they didn't feel confident enough to do it, he'd say, 'Shoot the ball,' " she said. "When they saw they can do it, they knew they could look to him because they know when he tells them to do something, it's probably going to follow through."

At Eisenhower High, Jackson was the guy who said the right thing at the right time, whether it was to fire up his teammates or settle them down.

Good friend and teammate West Dawson had a tendency to get technical fouls, but he said Jackson had a way to calm him down.

"I used to listen to him, even though I was a captain, too," Dawson said. "Just with his actions, the things he did, how he talked to you and how he approached situations, he was a great leader."

But Jackson never demands more from others than he gives himself, and that's another reason he's always been able to build the trust and respect of teammates.

Hear Phillips give an example here.