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BYU, Lobos charity hoops exhibition hits home for Houston native

He felt like there was nothing he could do.

Point guards don’t handle that helpless feeling very well.

University of New Mexico senior point guard Antino Jackson, the graduate transfer from Akron by way of Cypress Springs High School in the Houston area, said as hard as it was watching news coverage of his hometown under water in August as Hurricane Harvey hit, it was nothing like not feeling like he was there to help his mom.

Candace Jackson, after all, was alone in her Houston home when the waters just kept rising.

And rising.

And rising.

At one point, the Lobos guard even took to social media desperately trying to find anyone back home who could help.

“Anybody got a truck by 880 highway six south broadstone energy park. Houston, Texas. hmu asap!!” was what he wrote on his Twitter account on the morning of Aug. 29.

Later that afternoon, his mom put his mind at ease, again using social media as a way to communicate with her son.

“They got (me) son. Some guys pulled up in a boat I’m ok!! Love u mom. God is good!! #myfaith” Candace wrote back to her son in posts still visible on Twitter.

Two months after the Red Cross rescued her from her home on a boat, Candace is now living in a new home in Houston and her son will suit up for the Lobos for the first time Friday night in a charity exhibition game against BYU in the Pit with proceeds going toward Hurricane Harvey relief efforts.

“Her initial reaction was, ‘I better get some of that money,'” Antino Jackson said with a laugh earlier this week when asked what she thought of him playing in a game for relief efforts in Houston.

The truth is, the self-proclaimed momma’s boy knows his mom has tried to put his mind at ease in any way she can, even with jokes, over the past two months despite the struggles she’s been going through.

“She’s doing better,” said Antino Jackson, who admitted he has tried sending some of his scholarship money home to her as she tries to pick up the pieces. “She just moved to a new apartment. It was tough not being able to go back home and be there for her, but she understood. …

“Just seeing my mom on a boat, it was really sad not being there for her.”

The Lobos and BYU, two old rivals from the Western Athletic and Mountain West conference days, were granted permission from the NCAA to play in this exhibition game so long as proceeds go to charity. With BYU head coach Dave Rose being from Houston, and he played on the University of Houston’s “Phi Slama Jama” team that lost a national title game on the Pit floor in 1983, the two teams thought hurricane relief efforts were the best destination for the proceeds from the game after expenses.

The teams will donate to the Greater Houston Community Foundation‘s hurricane relief fund that has already collected more than $91 million.

For Jackson, while the actual game Friday night is important — “anytime the ball goes up and you’re playing against somebody else, it’s business,” he said — the cause it benefits has been a huge dose of perspective for the Lobo newcomer.

First-year Lobos coach Paul Weir asks his players to all find a “why” for why they work hard, why they play basketball.

After the past two months watching what his mom has been through, Antino Jackson said his is easy.

“That’s kind of my ‘why’ now.”

READY OR NOT: Weir had a plan. Play two closed scrimmages in the preseason and work toward his team being ready for the bright lights and home fans Nov. 11.

When the NCAA began allowing special charity exhibition games, plans changed, even if the new-look Lobos roster may not entirely be ready for their public unveiling.

“This to me is a little bit bigger than that,” Weir said when asked if he considered not playing the game because his plan was to not have everything implemented and his team ready until the Nov. 11 season opener. “I didn’t want to be so self-absorbed that I’m worried about something like that over something like Hurricane Harvey (relief) and doing something to contribute to that. … That definitely played a big part in it, and also BYU did as well. If this was another team, it might not have moved the needle as much for me or people around our program.”

WEIR ON BYU: BYU returns 10 players and four starters, including a pair of guards in TJ Haws (13.8 ppg last season) and Nick Emery (13.1 ppg) who Weir knows will be a handful.

“It’s probably among the best offensive guard combos we’ll see this season,” Weir said. “Very potent backcourt.”

BYU also has size, which UNM lacks. Notably, preseason All-West Coast Conference forward Yoeli Childs, a 6-foot-8 sophomore who averaged 9.3 points and 8.2 rebounds per game last season.

SPECIAL GUESTS: Two players will be on official recruiting visits at UNM this weekend, including Friday night’s BYU game.

Drue Drinnon, a 6-1 point guard from Georgia who is playing his senior season at University School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., will be in Albuquerque. So, too, will 6-8 forward Ivan Aurrecoechea from Spain who is a sophomore at Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, Iowa.

Both would be in the 2018 recruiting class.

TICKETS: As of Thursday morning, UNM had sold 2,333 tickets for the BYU game. Tickets purchased in person at the UNM ticket office — in advance or at game time — do not have a service fee. Online purchases still have a service fee.

Student tickets are free. This game is not included in the season-ticket package.

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