JACKSONVILLE, Florida — Phillip Jackson Jr., a Sandalwood High School basketball player in Jacksonville, died late Monday afternoon after he collapsed in the locker room during a tournament at Terry Parker High School.
Jackson, 18, was a center on Sandalwood’s basketball team and also was on the school’s football team, on which he played defensive end and inside linebacker.
“It’s just a tragedy, shock as to why this would happen no one can understand. There has to be a reason. You have to believe that,” said Doug Pariseau, Defensive Coordinator for the football team at Sandalwood High School.
Pariseau said Jackson went into the locker room during halftime and collapsed. He died later at Memorial Hospital.
The team was in the middle of a game with Nease High school when the incident happened; the tournament has been canceled.
“He played basketball to stay in shape for football,” said Adam Geis, head football coach at Sandalwood High School.
The coaches tell our sister station WTLV First Coast News Monday was Jackson’s birthday.
About 100 people, including Jackson’s parents, attended a memorial Monday evening in the Sandalwood gym where the athlete used to play. His parents declined to comment, saying they are still grieving over the sudden loss of their son.
His coaches said he was a very skilled athlete, playing basketball mainly to stay in shape for football. One coach said he recently had overcome some problems with his grades, and seemed to be on the right path.
“I don’t believe he had received any offers (from colleges), but there were schools that were interested in him. He had sent his highlight film out,” said Pariseau.
“He was really, really close to getting an offer from Florida Atlantic and Florida International, which is making this even worse, to be honest with you,” said Geis.
Neither his coaches nor his pastor, who was also at the memorial, were aware of any health problems Jackson may have had. The vigil was closed to the media at the request of the Sandalwood Principal Vicki Schultz.
School staff said students are currently on Winter break. However, coaches and teachers believe students will have a hard time coping with Jackson’s death once classes resume.
“By the time they get back from break and this thing sets in, all of sudden Phil’s not there. He’s a good friend to a lot of those kids,” said Geis.
Pariseau said Jackson was a father of a 2-year-old boy.
The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said foul play is not suspected. The Medical Examiner said an autopsy is expected.