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NFA all-stater Mason Jackson will transfer to Canterbury

Mason Jackson, a Connecticut High School Coaches' Association Division I all-state selection as a junior last season for the unbeaten Norwich Free Academy boys' basketball team, announced this week on Twitter that he would transfer to play next season at the Canterbury School, a prep school in New Milford.

Jackson will reclassify as a junior at Canterbury and thus have another year of eligibility and another year to be recruited to the collegiate level.

"The gist of it was he needs to take advantage of the opportunity to reclassify. Because of the shutdown with AAU this summer, it forced their hand," NFA coach Chris Guisti said Saturday. "They weren't able to get him the exposure and they had to find a way to recoup that."

Jackson averaged 20.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.3 steals per game for the Wildcats, who were 23-0 and ranked second headed into the CIAC Division I tournament prior to its cancellation due to the COVID-19 crisis. The virus also forced the cancellation of the AAU season, in which Jackson plays for the Connecticut Elite.

"Me and my dad and my mom, too, we talked every day about it," Jackson said. "We just all agreed on the decision. I'm pretty sad I'm leaving all my friends, but I decided what was best for me. I never thought I would reclass and repeat a grade. It's scary at times to change. But I like meeting new people; I've always had an easy time talking to people. It should be fun."

NFA capped its season by winning the Eastern Connecticut Conference Division I tournament title March 3 before 3,092 fans at Mohegan Sun Arena. Jackson, who scored 14 of his game-high 26 points in the fourth quarter of the 54-43 victory over Ledyard, was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player.

Jackson, who said he has one offer already to play at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield but had hoped to pick up more interest during the summer months this year, called Guisti to tell him of his decision to transfer before posting it on social media Friday — "which was a classy move," Guisti said.

Guisti, an AAU coach himself, understands the theory behind the reclassification.

"That's just unfortunately the way colleges recruit," the coach said. "They do so kind of outside the boundaries of their own season. The CIAC high school season falls within the boundaries of their own season. Prep schools have different rules. They can have showcases. There's more opportunities for the kids to be seen."

On the other hand, from his perspective as NFA's boys' basketball coach, Guisti is sorry to see his star player go.

"I hope it works out for him," Guisti said. "But I thought he had a good chance to be the state player of the year next year. He would have gotten a lot of attention. The atmosphere that we have on a daily basis at NFA is hard to replicate. We had a chance to play in front of over 1,000 people a few times this year."

v.fulkerson@theday.com

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