THE DEQUAN Jackson Story is one of inspirational triumph.

And while, yes, these words are being published in the sports section, and the endeavor in which he specializes is basketball, don't assume Jackson was once some horrible player who has blossomed into an All-American.

His triumph can be traced to classrooms.

As he wound down his middle school years, thanks to a nudge from his mother, Renee Henson, Jackson applied for admission to Murrell Dobbins Tech.

"Sorry," he was told, "your grades aren't good enough."

Now?

"My roster has two advanced-placement classes," Jackson said. "Because of my GPA and SAT scores, I have offers of partial academic scholarships from Chestnut Hill and Hartwick and I'm getting letters like that from other places."

And his high school is Dobbins.

Tuesday, in a Public B opener that was sloppy yet entertaining, the Mustangs held off visiting Esperanza (charter) Academy, 55-53.

Serving as everything from a small forward to point guard, the 6-4, 165-pound Jackson, a senior, contributed 15 points, two steals and three apiece of rebounds and assists.

Afterward, upon emerging from Dobbins' mostly quiet locker room, he wasn't exactly performing somersaults. To boot, he spoke in a voice barely above a whisper.

"That felt like a loss," he explained.

Reason: Though Dobbins led at halftime, 40-20, it barely survived due, among other things, to three missed one-and-ones in the final 22 seconds. After the third one, at 0:03, rebounder Ravi Sinanan whipped a pass to Lamere Jones at the right side of halfcourt. His very contested push shot - he was probably fouled on the play - did not come close.

So, how did Jackson overcome rejection?

"After I got turned down here, they said I could reapply if I went somewhere else and got good grades," Dequan said. "I spent ninth grade at Olney and then they let me come here.

"I had to learn. The place where you have to work the hardest is the classroom. I'm proud of what I've done. Real proud. Maintaining my good GPA is going to be rough because the AP classes are hard. Very hard. But I'm in there trying my best."

For part of the day, his focus is food.

Jackson majors in culinary arts and he chose that path, he said with a smile, "Because I'm always hungry."

Wow, it surely doesn't show.

"It's because of the genes on my dad's side. Everybody is skinny," he said. "I eat a lot, but I don't gain weight.

"My culinary arts classes are back-to-back, right around lunch. I don't even go to the lunchroom. I just stay in there, cooking and eating. I'm real good with breakfast stuff. The kids are always telling me to make them pancakes."

As the game began, Jackson could have launched open, left-wing jumpers from 14 to 16 feet. Instead, he dumped the ball inside and a trend was set. Even as they struggled through the second half, the Mustangs never were selfish.

Jackson wound up shooting 6-for-12 and 3-for-6 and he was the last of the one-and-one bricksters.

"It was frustrating when we kept missing chances to put them away," he said.

Jackson experienced some point-guard moments because gritty senior Marquell Tate injured his left ankle while taking a charge 2:54 into the first quarter. He returned for the final 8 minutes, but never did take a shot.

"I see myself as mostly a slasher," Jackson said. "I like to go to the rack. As you could see, I need to work on my jump shot and dribbling. I don't feel comfortable bringing the ball upcourt, but once we're over halfcourt, I feel good about my playmaking skills."

Tyron Roberson (17) and Wanya Barren (10) also scored in double figures for Dobbins. Roberson snagged nine rebounds while Devante Laws mixed six assists with three steals.

A pair of transfers from Jules Mastbaum Tech, Stanley Whittaker (17, five assists) and Sinanan (13, 13 boards), paced Esperanza while Alwell Agbara posted seven rejections. It was a trey by Whittaker that made it 55-53 with 5 seconds showing.

Jackson, who lives on 12th Street, above Wyoming, is unsure what career path he'd like to follow.

"I don't have college interest yet for basketball," he said. "I'm hoping that comes."

Line up now, coaches. The academic profile is rosy.