MyAsia Jackson, pictured in a 2017 game, has earned more playing time since returning from a stint at Trenton Catholic Academy. (File photo by Suzette J. Lucas.)

MyAsia Jackson’s patience may have been tested, but she has no regrets about returning to Ewing High School after attending Trenton Catholic Academy and playing there for a year.

“I love it here,” said the Blue Devils senior guard. “I’m just here to play basketball and do what I love.”

Jackson is in the midst of her best year for the Ewing girls basketball team. She’s handling most of the point guard duties, scoring 17.1 points per game, dishing out 3.2 assists per game and playing stifling defense.

“When I came back as a sophomore, It was very difficult,” Jackson said. “We had a lot of guards on the team. Not starting and having being put in the sub rotation was very different for me.”

Jackson had 12 points against Ewing in the final game of her freshman year when she played at Trenton Catholic Academy. The following year, she transferred back to Ewing to join the Blue Devils, but ended up sitting much more than she ever expected. There was New Jersey’s transfer rule that forced her to sit the first 30 days. After that she found herself coming off the bench for a deep Ewing team. She scored in double figures only once in her first year at Ewing.

“Me coming back to Ewing was a good decision,” Jackson said. “Everything happens for a reason. My freshman year wasn’t bad at all. I probably should have come here last year because there were so many people on the Ewing basketball team my sophomore year, too many guards.”

Jackson started last year, but took a back seat to older players. This year, she had a bigger role and was instrumental in some of the biggest games of the year.

“Last year, we certainly made a great run, even a game further than a year before” said Ewing head coach Mike Reynolds. She was the secondary ball handler, Kiyla (Peterson) spent most of the time at the point, but MyAsia was able to do it and at times certainly did do it.”

This year, the Blue Devils lost both Peterson and Mya Grimes to graduation, leaving a void in scoring, rebounding and even leadership. Jackson has helped in every area along with fellow senior Jaycee Lowe.

“Now MyAsia’s developed into a nice powerful point guard that can do a lot of different things,” Ewing head coach Mike Reynolds said. “She can get to the basket and finish, she makes her foul shots, she can shoot the 3 ball. You saw something develop those two years and now what you have is a really good player out there.”

Reynolds believes that Jackson will get a shot in college, and she is looking forward to that opportunity. She’s still waiting to commit to a college that is interested in her, one that will help her achieve her career goals.

“I do have a bright future,” Jackson said. “I’m going to play basketball in college. I do want to major in fashion. It’s going to help me get a boost to have my own business. I’ll have the fashion part, the marketing part and the business management, so my future is looking good.”

More immediately, Jackson is focusing on leading the Blue Devils. “I feel very good about my team,” Jackson said. “We’re very excited to play whoever we have to play. I feel as though we can make it far as long as we play together.”

Ewing defeated Hightstown, 80-44, in the first round of the MCT on Feb. 14 and Notre Dame, 59-52, on Feb 16. The team lost to TCA in the semifinals, 93-41, on Feb 19. Jackson scored 27 against Hightstown, 29 against Notre Dame and 12 against TCA.

The 16-7 Blue Devils are the No. 2 seed going into the Central Jersey Group III state tournament, and they are scheduled to host 15th-seeded Ocean Township in the first round Feb. 26. Ewing is looking for its third straight sectional title.

“The big key is defense,” Jackson said. “We need to get our defense to get ourselves major points. That’s one thing that we have different from a lot of teams. It can give us a big run to come in the tournaments.”

Jackson and Lowe are the players who are accustomed to the biggest roles in tournament play. Ewing has filled in for Peterson and Grimes with less experienced players, who have been tested during the season.

“Knowing we had to replace a lot of scoring was going to be one of the challenges,” Reynolds said. “I was fairly confident we’d get some points on the board. Between Jaycee and MyAsia, you have two talented guards that can score a lot. And we do have some good talent aside from them that I thought would plug some of that up.”

He adds, “The rebounding, which in our better games we’re holding our own, we still have to fight really hard when we’re playing bigger teams. We don’t really have anyone bigger than 5-8 or 5-9. They’ve held their own in spots.”

Jackson has picked up her play across the board. Her scoring is nearly double from a year ago, and her rebounding and assists are up.

“The last couple years I’ve been playing the wing,” she said. “For me playing point guard and being a captain on the team, I have to have more leadership. I can control the team, have them settle down or find what we need to do and make sure everyone is OK and understands their role.”

Jackson knows full well how tough it is to take a lesser role than expected, but she’s helping to bring along her younger teammates. She’s helped them to find their spot on the Blue Devils.

“I feel like everybody every day goes to another level of their potential,” Jackson said. “Once everybody starts to understand that their potential affects the game, and once you have that potential, we just keep going and going and going, and we’re going to keep winning and winning as soon as everybody plays to their highest.

“When me and Jaycee and everybody else is playing at their best, I feel like as though nobody can stop us. Even in states or sectionals or the MCT tournament, it doesn’t really matter.”

Jackson has helped guide the team’s progress through the ups and downs of the season. The Blue Devils have tried to focus on constantly building through the year.

“We still understand what we need to do,” Jackson said. “Like if we say we need to do better on foul shots, we do better the next game. If we miss too many layups, we do better the next game. If we have a lack of defense, we do better the next game. Every time we see the negative side, we always help that and change that and make it a positive side.”

Ewing lost a couple of starters midseason, and that has hurt its continuity, but now the Blue Devils are getting healthy in time for the postseason.

“We’re more tested, especially the younger kids that filled in this year,” Reynolds said. “There’s definitely three or four that did not really see much varsity time last year at all unless it was one of those blowout type situations. They’re learning how to be tough in the fourth quarter.

“I hope they’re learning that to win those close games, you have to come up with those loose balls, you have to be smart, it means you have to run your stuff when it’s time to get 30-35 seconds off the clock and you want to get layups instead of the first open thing you see. They’ve done a pretty good job of that and hopefully it gets better for the tournament.”

Ewing has faced more close games in the regular season than a year ago, and that has them ready for any tight contests in tournament play.

“We are very excited,” Jackson said. “I’m always excited. Last year, I was very excited saying, ‘we have to get a ring, we have to get a ring.’ It really killed me to come up short one point. You put all that hard work in and there you go. But I’m very proud of my team right now.”

MyAsia Jackson is ready for one more run with the Blue Devils. She has waited for her chance to lead and is looking forward to making the most of her final high school games with Ewing to cap a career that’s been on the rise since her return.

“I thought in the playoffs I helped my team by doing whatever I could do,” Jackson said. “I still feel as though right now I’m increasing my team and helping my team do what we have to do to get a ring or just help us get a sectional title.”