MATTOON — Both Avery Jackson and Davis Johnson labored over their college decisions for the past few months. For Jackson, the decision came down to playing basketball or softball or even just going to college and not playing a sport. Johnson debated whether he was going to golf in college or play basketball or even not play a sport in college.
As the process went on, the choice started to become obvious for the two Mattoon High School basketball standouts. The best option for both if they wanted to continue their playing careers seemed to be right at home with Lake Land College.
So on Thursday, both players put pen to paper. Jackson signed with the Lake Land women's basketball team and Johnson signed with the Lake Land men's basketball team.
"I am really excited. It was a long, tough decision, a lot of sleepless nights," Jackson said. "I was just sitting at home doing homework one night and I was like 'I know what I want to do.' I just called (Lake Land coach) Dave (Johnson) and I said 'I want to play for you.' It was just one of those were I just knew and I'm really excited."
Johnson is pretty familiar with Lake Land since his dad, Dave, is the coach of the Lady Lakers women's basketball team.
"Growing up, I've always been around Lake Land my entire life with my dad coaching there my entire life," Davis Johnson said. "I just really like coach (Brandon) Colvin and the offense they put in and the way they play. I really look forward to playing in that style, up-tempo and guard-orientated."
Jackson had plenty of options to choose from. At one point Parkland College seemed like a good spot to continue her softball career. Later she was accepted into the University of Illinois business school. But her passion for basketball and her desire to stay at home won out in the end.
"I just wasn't ready to leave yet," Jackson said. "I've got a niece and a nephew coming. All of my family is here and I have a lot of close friends here. Thinking about leaving, I just wasn't ready yet. I just wasn't ready to give up basketball either."
Dominican University showed interest in Johnson for basketball and Millikin talked to him about golf. Lake Land's style of play helped with Johnson's decision.
"I had some schools looking at me for golf and I had to decide if I wanted to play a sport in college," Johnson said. "When decided I wanted to play basketball, just the system they run and the familiarity with it, it was a comfort and I think I will fit in well. The great thing about (junior college) is I can develop my game for two years still and continue somewhere else."
LLC coach Dave Johnson was "super excited" to have Jackson sign with his program.
"She's just an outstanding young lady and basketball player. I've watched Avery since she was in seventh grade. She's always been a dynamic player," Dave Johnson said. "Always somebody that leads the team well. This past season you saw that with scoring, assists, defense, everything, an all-around player that we are super excited to get. She's someone that can have a great career and is someone who we can instantly rely on to be a scorer for us."
Jackson scored 1,693 points in her career at Mattoon, so she thinks she can make an impact right away at Lake Land. Plus Jackson recognizes a number of her future teammates already.
"I know there's a lot of good recruits coming in, I've played with a lot of them and I'm super excited. Mariah (Spurgeon) is there still, Koty Crowder, I am really excited to play with them and I think we will have a great year," Jackson said. "If I'm given the opportunity and the chance, then I will do my absolute best."
Dave Johnson said Lake Land loses 90 percent of its scoring from last season's team, so Jackson can help fill that void.
"We definitely want her to take on that role that she had in high school as a scorer," Dave Johnson said. "The great thing about Avery is she can score in different ways. She has three-point range, she can shoot a pull-up jumper and she can get to the rim and score. She's already a good defensive player and we are excited about that. It's always great to have another Green Wave player coming to Lake Land."
Mattoon girls' basketball coach Amanda Aydt said it will be fun to watch Jackson continue her career at Lake Land.
"I am so excited that Avery is going to Lake Land and to watch her play for the next two years," Aydt said. "I've really enjoyed coaching Avery. She has a wonderful personality and a great work ethic. She's a standout player on both ends of the floor and gives 100 percent. She's a competitor and I know she will be very successful at Lake Land and whatever she does after. She's a great all-around great person. I know coach Johnson is happy to have her."
Davis Johnson feels he can have a good impact at Lake Land since he knows the system well.
"The summer is going to be big for me, I have to put in a lot of work and I have to get physically stronger and develop my game," Johnson said. "I will put in the time and effort to get my game to where I want it to be and I hope therefore I can bring some skill set to help the team."
Lake Land men's coach Brandon Colvin is excited to have a quality, local product on the team with Johnson.
"You know he's going to know the game. It's going to be a little curve for him, but he's got good vision and knows how to be a pass-first point guard," Colvin said. "I think he will do really well for us and I am excited to get him. I think he has a chance to be impactful for us. With his work ethic, he will catch up to the speed of the game. It's always good to have a Mattoon kid, especially one that can hopefully impact us right away."
Mattoon boys' basketball coach Josh Forsythe said Lake Land is getting a "bulldog."
"It's very exciting having him move on to the next level. I don't think he will have any problem adapting to the game," Forsythe said. "He understands what it's going to take. He's always been that bulldog. He's going to go in and he's going to work and he's going to make those other guys work as well for how hard he is going to go."
Staying close to home allows Jackson's family to make a short trip to her games.
"I just want to thank my amazing parents, my brothers, my sister-in-law, my niece and the rest of my family for all of their support and also to all of my friends who have supported me as well," Jackson said. 'They've made all of this possible and worth it. Lastly, I would love to thank my most loyal fan, my grandpa Keith. Everything is for you, pap."
Davis credited his family for helping him get to this point.
"I just want to thank my family for everything. It's been a long process. My mom and dad, they tell the story of me pushing a box around at Lake Land when I was crawling and they helped get me into sports and basketball," Johnson said. "I can't thank them enough and all of the coaches along the way. Coach (Steve) Conlon in middle school, coach Forsythe in high school, everything they've done for me to get me to where I need to be today."