Breyon Zebaniah Jackson, a 6-foot-7-inch junior forward for the San Francisco State men’s basketball team, has had a challenging coast-to-coast journey since graduating from high school in Maryland in 2017, at which time he was named first-team all-conference and defensive player of the year. After a successful freshman season at Cloud County Community College in Concordia, Kansas, where he averaged 8.4 points and 5.5 rebounds, he transferred to Long Beach State University. However, after just eight games, an injury forced him to miss the remainder of the 2018-19 season. Then, because of a mixture of mental health challenges brought on by losing three of his childhood friends to gun violence and other family hardships, he was forced to leave Long Beach State after just 10 games of the 2019-20 season. Jackson, whose father had died while he was at Cloud County Community College, chose to help his family by continuing his college career closer to home at West Virginia State University in fall 2020. The pandemic limited practice time and disrupted his attempts to travel back and forth between college and home.
Travel expenses added to the family’s financial difficulties and, because his mother and brother were at-risk of becoming infected by COVID, he had to quarantine at another relative’s home. By the time basketball practice resumed at West Virginia, he had missed too much time traveling during the fall, and there was no longer a spot for him on the team. He attempted to earn a scholarship by attending open gyms while living out of his car. When this proved unsuccessful, he decided to take the COVID option granted by the NCAA and sat out the 2020-21 season. He transferred again, this time to San Francisco State, where he thrived. Despite sitting out the first 14 games, he played in the next 13 games and averaged 5.9 points and 4.4 rebounds as a key contributor off the bench, shooting 48.1 percent from the field and 76.7 percent from the free throw line. An international relations major, he hopes to work in the NBA or with NBA Cares, NBA Africa, or the NBA Foundation to use basketball to help make the world a better place.
“I’m grateful, and I appreciate this recognition,” said Jackson. “Mental health is undervalued where I grew up. As a result, I didn’t know that it was ok to not be ok and that it was ok to ask for help. I want to use this opportunity to become a mental health advocate for everyone, especially for Black men and Black communities. I hope to set an example for my community on how they can improve their mental health and well-being, whether it’s meditating, seeking therapy, prayer, or even a new hobby. I want people to know that taking care of your mental health is important.”
Breyon Zebaniah Jackson, San Francisco State