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Bulldogs steal Illini basketball recruit

ATHENS - The national championship isn't the only thing Illinois' basketball team lost this month.

On Thursday, Georgia coach Dennis Felton took a coveted recruit out from under the Fighting Illini. Albert Jackson, a 6-foot-10, 245-pound post player out of Madisonville, Ky., has verbally committed to play for the Bulldogs in 2006, said Hopkins County High School assistant principal Chad

Burgett.

"He's a defensive-oriented kid, blocks a lot of shots," said Burgett, who coached Jackson in the eighth grade and is handling his recruiting while Hopkins County looks for a new basketball coach. "He's got very good muscle tone. He's an athletic specimen to look at."

An athletic big man is exactly what Georgia has been looking for the hardest this recruiting period. Jackson won't be able to fill that role for another year since he is only a junior in high school. He could be the Bulldogs' only signee for the Class of 2006 if the school's scholarship restrictions are not reduced by the NCAA.

Jackson averaged 17 points, 11 rebounds and eight blocks per game this season for Hopkins County.

"He runs the floor well, and he really has a knack for blocking shots and is developing offensively," Burgett said. "He has tremendous upside, comes from a great family, and I think the future's very bright for him."

Illinois, which was ranked No. 1 most of this college basketball season, obviously thought the same thing. Illini coaches have been to Madisonville three times this school year alone and had already offered Jackson a scholarship, Burgett said. Michigan State also was ready to offer Jackson, Burgett said.

Jackson told Scout.com that comfort was the main reason he chose the Bulldogs.

Georgia "just felt like home," said the 16-year-old left-hander. "I went down there and it was a great atmosphere with the coach and everything. I always said when I go somewhere and if it feels like the right place I would commit and it felt like the place."

Verbal commitments are non-binding. Jackson can't sign a letter of intent until November. The spring signing period for high school seniors started this week, but the Bulldogs aren't expected to add any more players to their class of 2005 once Dacula guard Billy Humphrey signs his paperwork. Humphrey has already verbally committed to Georgia.