By the end of seventh grade, Northern Guilford junior Jackson Helms realized he had a decision to make - focus on either basketball or soccer.
He picked basketball, and hasn't looked back.
"I just felt like it was more action packed," said Jackson, the Nighthawks' 6-foot-1 point guard and shooting guard. "I like (that) you're always involved in the play on offense and defense. I like the up tempo about it - pushing the ball and running the floor."
Jackson's basketball journey began in second grade when his parents introduced him to several sports, giving him the opportunity to figure out which he liked best. By seventh grade he was playing enough soccer and basketball that he ended up having to back out of tournaments in one sport so he could play tournaments in the other. Something had to give.
"They were intertwining with each other a little bit," he said.
He now plays basketball year-round and has had plenty of success with the sport. He picked up MVP recognition with his AAU team, helped his middle school team win a conference title, helped Northern win a title last year and has been tapped for academic all-conference the past two seasons.
He's averaged about 16 points through early games this season, a big jump from last year's average of 6.6 points per game.
"I felt like with losing seniors from last year, I'd have to step up my game," Jackson said. He credits his coaches for creating opportunities for players to find scoring success and for giving them "confidence to be able to shoot the ball."
In the classroom, he particularly enjoys math and art. He likes the challenge of working with numbers, he said, and art gives him the chance "to be creative and put whatever's on your mind down on paper."
He'd like to play basketball in college and has attracted interest, he said. He hasn't decided what he'll major in, but is leaning toward architecture, which would combine his math and art interests.
Away from school, Jackson works at his father's sign company, which allows him "more quality time" with his dad, who is also his boss.