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USC set to build around N.C. recruit

Lakeem Jackson had been feeling the love from USC basketball coach Darrin Horn for quite a while. He had been to the USC campus and daydreamed about bringing down the house at the Colonial Center.

However, he entertained the same thoughts about Marquette, Georgia Tech and Clemson.

But on this particular day, Jackson was hanging out in the Christ School gym in Arden, N.C., shooting hoops with some teammates, when a man in slacks and a Christ School state championship T-shirt stepped through the double doors.

“I was just shooting hoops when he busted through the door wearing that shirt,” Jackson said. “Coach Horn. Oh, man ... that was good.”

Good enough to earn a commitment from the 6-foot-5 swingman, who is a consensus top 100 talent in the 2009 class.

“They were just straightforward; they were aggressive,” Jackson said of Horn and his Gamecocks coaching staff. “They just kept in contact as much as they could. They made a big deal out of trying to build everything around me.”

Jackson’s coach at Christ School, David Gaines, said he urged him to commit to USC for that reason.

“(Horn) continued to make it a point to say, ‘Hey, he’s my No. 1 guy, our No. 1 target,’” Gaines said. “He said he loved his game, that he’s a guy he’s got to get.”

Jackson described is style as “slashing.” Gaines said few players have Jackson’s ability to get to the basket.

“He’s an athletic wing, a freakish kind of athlete who just gets to the rim,” Gaines said. “He might have a suspect 3-point shot, but he still gets 20 points a game. You know (defenders) are going to lay off of him, but he’s still going to get to the rim.”

The faulty trigger from the perimeter is something Jackson is aware of. It is something other coaches have brought up during the recruiting process.

Which leads Gaines to another reason Horn was different from other suitors.

“All along other people tell Lakeem what he doesn’t do well,” Gaines said. “Coach (Horn) said, ‘We’re not telling him any of that. We’re telling him he’s a heck of a player.’ ”

Jackson also is unique — a natural right-hander, he regularly shoots with his left hand.

“I don’t know how I started shooting left-handed,” Jackson said with a laugh. “I was just trying some different stuff.”

Considering Horn’s approach in this instance, different is good.

“Horn’s such a good guy,” Gaines said. “I think people there (in Columbia) will be able to look back at his arrival a few years from now and say, ‘That was the start of the turnaround for us.’”

Reach Obley at (803) 771-8473.