STONINGTON — Former Stonington High All-State guard Jackson Donahue is only halfway through his prep school stint and already the Division I college basketball offers are rolling in.
Donahue, a 6-foot-1 shooting guard who left Stonington after his junior year to enroll at Northfield Mount Hermon Prep (NMH) in the fall of 2013 as a junior, received an invitation on March 5 to attend Dartmouth College and play Ivy League basketball in 2015-16. He previously received a scholarship offer from Albany University, which plays in the Division I America East Conference.
During his junior season at Stonington, Donahue said he received a verbal offer from Vermont.
“It’s always been my dream to play Division I basketball at an Ivy League institution,” Donahue said. “I think I could excel in that conference and that could be the path I potentially take.”
Donahue, who just completed what his coach called “an outstanding, overachieving season” will return as a senior at NMH in 2014-15. He averaged 10.4 points (third on the team) and averaged 39 percent 3-point shooting with 92 treys for the Hoggers, who finished 24-10 and reached the national prep semifinals.
“I think Jackson has been underappreciated by recruiters so far,” NMH coach John Carroll said. “When we get a big fish from a small pond we don’t always know how they will respond to playing great players, who are being recruited by the likes of Syracuse and Oklahoma State, every night.
“He has made a smooth transition. He’s proven to be the good shooter we knew we was — 40 percent from 3 is excellent — and has shown to be a strong defender. We think if he focuses on his strengths he can be a very good Division I combo shooting and ball-handling guard.”
Donahue followed the path as his older brother Sam. Both transferred from Stonington after their junior years to attend the same Massachusetts prep school, which is considered one of the nation’s finest scholastic basketball leagues and feeders of Division I NCAA hoop programs.
Sam Donahue accepted a Division I preferred walk-on offer last year to play at Boston College, where he is a freshman now at the Atlantic Coast Conference school.
Sam has played sparingly for the Eagles as an 11th or 12th man, though Jackson said his brother “has enjoyed a great experience being part of a major conference program.”
Carroll expects that Jackson will select a Division I program where he can play immediately and fit into the regular rotation.
“Jackson is not interested in going somewhere where he will not be a major contributor to the success of the program,” Carroll said. “He wants to be a major participant, someone who drives the bus, not someone who is riding on the bus and is part of the success.”
Donahue came to NMH not lacking in confidence. At Stonington, he averaged 25 points a game as a Class M All-State junior, 23.7 points as a sophomore, and finished with 1,348 career points in three years. He showed tremendous shooting range, launching and making shots from as far as 28 feet out, some eight feet behind the 3-point line.
In addition to his prep schooling, Donahue received an education in shot selection.
“We pay close attention to shot selection here,” Carroll said. “I don’t mind 28-foot shots as long as they’re good shots. The goal for all of our shooters is to get good looks at the basket, which they can get here with the quality inside players that we have drawing defenders into the paint. With Jackson, he thinks every shot is going in and we had to re-program what is a good shot.”
Statistically, Jackson slightly outproduced Sam, who averaged 9.4 points and made a school single-season record of 94 3-pointers during the Hoggers’ national championship season in 2012-13. Jackson had edges in rebounds (3.3 a game), assists (1.9 a game) and steals (1.1 a game).
In NMH’s national prep tournament quarterfinal win over Fishburne (Va.) Academy on March 5, Donahue made five 3-pointers en route to a 15-point game, prompting Dartmouth to make a verbal offer after the game. The follwong day, UNH lost to undefeated Brewster (N.H.) Academy in the semifinals.
“I was thrilled to hear the news,” Donahue said. “I have their offer, but will continue to work on my game with my AAU team over the summer and back here next season and see what happens.”
Donahue feels he made tremendous strides as a player although his production dropped understandably against elite competition.
NMH plays in the New England Prep Scholastic Athletic Conference, routinely facing squads full of college recruits. NMH has produced 50 Division I scholarship athletes in Carroll’s 10 years as coach.
“I feel I stepped up my defensive game and my all-around play, while fulfilling my role as a shooter,” Jackson said. “The biggest adjustment from playing in the ECC at Stonington to playing here is adapting to playing a role rather than doing it all. I’m playing with and against players at the highest level who are all going to Division I schools. The recognition of playing in a great league is what I was looking for when I transferred from Stonington.”
Now listed at 6-foot-1, 180 pounds, Donahue said while he is pleased that he received an offer to play in the Ivy League, he won’t rest on his laurels next season. Carroll also believes there is room for growth.
“If Jackson continues to work on his strengths,” Carroll said, “a Division I program is going to get a very solid combination (shooter-ballhandling guard) who is ready to contribute right away.”