The roots of Shaneé Jackson's competitive nature can be traced to her days when she could barely hold a basketball.

The roots of Shaneé Jackson's competitive nature can be traced to her days when she could barely hold a basketball.

Jackson, a senior on the Hilliard Darby High School girls basketball team, grew up on the court surrounded by boys.

"My first time playing with girls was in middle school," the 5-foot-9 guard said. "I guess you could say I was a tomboy. I didn't know what basketball was like without guys and I think playing with them for so long has helped me become a more physical player."

It was Jackson's intense defensive play that drew the attention of Ball State University coach Kelly Packard, who welcomed Jackson and 5-9 guard Chloe Barnes from Quincy (Ill.) Notre Dame as her first recruiting class.

Both signed national letters of intent Nov. 13, the first day of the early signing period.

It was a decision Jackson was glad to put behind her entering her final season with the Panthers under first-year coach Chris Maul.

Last season as an honorable mention all-district and first-team all-league selection, she averaged 11.1 points, five steals and six rebounds as Darby finished at 13-9 overall.

She played AAU with the Midwest Express.

"They were very excited about her athleticism and her energy," Maul said. "Shanee« had a great summer with the AAU circuit. Her jump shot has improved and it's a lot smoother. They'd like to have her on the wing a little bit."

Packard expects both players to contribute immediately next season with vacancies on the perimeter.

"Her aggressive approach on the defensive end of the court is contagious for her teammates and fun to watch," Packard said of Jackson in a story on the Ball State Athletics Web site. "Shanee« is a great fit for our tempo-transition offensive style of play. She naturally pushes the ball in transition and has the ability to penetrate the defense and create offensive opportunities for her teammates."

The Cardinals opened the season with an 84-68 loss Nov. 14 to Indiana.

A year ago Ball State finished at 15-15 overall and 11-5 in the Mid-American Conference.

"I never had really heard of Ball State until my AAU coach told me about them," Jackson said. "We went there on a visit and everything was just exciting about the program and the school. I just loved everything about it."

Jackson as a state finalist and district champion in the long jump also received plenty of interest from track and field coaches, but basketball has been her passion.

Her mother, Jackie Brown, was a hurdler at Ohio State. Her father, Ortega Jackson, played football at Eastern Illinois.

"There were a lot of schools interested in me for both track and basketball," Jackson said. "I've talked to the coach at Ball State and it might be something I do there, but not until my second year. For me, it's tough to say no to people."