There aren't many Duke athletes more important than Deon Jackson right now.
The Blue Devil running back shattered a program record against Pittsburgh with 403 all-purpose yards, and set the table for the team’s upset against Miami with a 75-yard touchdown run on the game’s first play from scrimmage.
Despite those feats, Jackson is not even the most prominent recent Pace Academy product to don a Duke uniform. Another 2017 graduate of the Atlanta high school, Wendell Carter Jr., certainly drew more buzz in his freshman year as the No. 4 basketball recruit in the country.
“That’s been my best friend since we were 10 years old,” Jackson said. “We went to middle school together, and then after I left there for ninth grade, he followed me a year after. Then, we ended up coming to college together. So we’ve been together for a long time now.”
In terms of first-year athletic success, Carter Jr. outpaced Jackson by a wide margin—the 6-foot-10 forward earned second-team All-ACC honors for his impressive averages of 13.5 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game, while the 6-foot running back had a pedestrian 32 carries for 97 yards, only the fourth-highest total for the Blue Devils in 2017.
Although Carter Jr. and Jackson are certainly more accomplished than many 19-year-olds, almost all current and former college students know what it feels like living away from home for the first time. For this athletic duo, having each other made the difficult transition a bit easier.
“I was glad to have somebody I knew here with me, somebody I had grown up with,” Jackson said. “I’m used to spending a lot of time with him, so it was cool having him here with me and getting to see him when I want to.”
Just two months after his 19th birthday, Carter Jr. was selected with the No. 7 overall pick of the NBA Draft by the Chicago Bulls, five picks after fellow Duke product Marvin Bagley III went to the Sacramento Kings.
Carter Jr., who was seen by many to be one of the most pro-ready prospects in last year’s draft, has already proving to be an immediate contributor. He continues to dominate in the paint as a defender, and ranks sixth in the NBA in block rate, swatting away 6.4 percent of opponents’ 2-point attempts.
Get Overtime, all Duke athletics
Signup for our editorially curated, weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.
“Seeing somebody you grew up with on TV now, playing in the big leagues, it’s kind of crazy,” Jackson said. “He’s on the same court now as guys like Kevin Durant, Steph Curry and LeBron James.”
Jackson is certainly achieving plenty in his own right—with 647 rushing yards currently, the sophomore has a chance at becoming the first Blue Devil in 15 years to break the 1,000-yard mark—but his childhood best friend still shines brighter.