Salesian coach knew Angel Jackson could play in WNBA

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Salesian coach knew Angel Jackson could play in WNBA
Angel Jackson (Photo courtesy of Jackston State)

Back in 2019, Salesian Girls Basketball Head Coach Stephen Pezzola made a bold prediction about one of his players, Angel Jackson.

“If she keeps putting in the work like she did for us, she could be in the WNBA,” the coach said.

That turned out to be very true. Last month, the Las Vegas Aces selected Jackson with the 36th overall pick in the 2024 WNBA Draft. She is the second player from an Historically Black College or University, or HCBU, to be selected in the draft in 20 years.

Jackson’s success came as little surprise to Pezzola, who last year led the Pride to their 8th North Coast Section championship since he took over the program in 2008-2009. In 2019, Pezzola commended Jackson as “a very coachable kid” from the time she arrived at Salesian.

Salesian’s Angel Jackson rises to occasion
Angel Jackson signs her letter of intent to play basketball at the University of Southern California. (Photo credit: Salesian College Preparatory)

Tomekia Reed, her coach at Jackson State, shared similar sentiments, noting Jackson worked “very hard” to reach this moment.

“She came into our program doing great things and never looked back,” Reed told the Clarion Ledger. “She has trusted our leadership as we were able to develop her into an amazing player. I have watched her improve tremendously over the years.”

The 6-6 Jackson played three seasons at the University of Southern California before transferring to Jackson State. She was ranked 10th in the NCAA in blocked shots and averaged 10 points per game in her final college season. She finished her collegiate career with 1,047 points and was twice named Southwestern Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year.

As the 36th pick, Jackson was the final pick in the 2024 NBA Draft. In a television interview, Jackson said she didn’t expect to be picked, and called the moment “surreal.”

“It made me feel so appreciative that HBCU is getting back on the map again,” she said.

All she could do in that moment was cry.

“I called my mom immediatley, and she started crying,” Jackson said. “It was the best moment you can feel as a young lady.”

There’s no stopping Jackson now. “The sky is the limit,” she said.

Her high school coach agrees.

“I knew that Angel could do it,” Coach Pezzola told the Standard this week. “We are so proud of Angel and what she has accomplished. It was an honor and joy to coach Angel at Salesian.”