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Talking sports with … UAA forward Jackson McTier

UAA’s Jackson McTier moves the ball during the first half of the Seawolves 90-73 victory over Holy Names University at the Wells Fargo Sports Center on Nov. 17, 2013. (Bill Roth / ADN archive 2013)

UAA junior forward Jackson McTier was an All-State Good Works nominee and the most veteran player for the 2016-17 Seawolves men's basketball team. He plans to graduate this summer and return to Australia to pursue a career in medicine. He hopes to become a cardiothoracic surgeon.

Q. You're the president for UAA's Student Athletic Advisory Committee. What service events or activities have you led or participated in?

A. We do lots of things with that like blood drives, 'Reading with the Seawolves' — a lot of community-based events that we try to get athletes involved in the community to sorta show just how thankful we are for them and all the support that they give.

We actually have a blood drive coming up on the 23rd of March at UAA that we're planning to help out with. So there will be a bunch of us athletes helping run the blood van and give out hot dogs and things like that.

Then, there's been 'Reading with the Seawolves,' where student athletes go to elementary schools and we'll get with classes and read, and then if the kids have any questions, we're always happy to answer them the best we can.

Then, we've had a lot of Special Olympics things that we'll go out and help with like bocce ball and things like that.

Q. Which event or moment has been your favorite?

A. One of the more favorite things would probably have to be the Reading with the Seawolves — just sorta getting out with the younger community and reading to them, showing them how important education is.

The little kids will look up to you and just listen to every little thing you have to say. It's pretty cool.

Q. What's something a kid has asked you or said to you that stuck with you?

A. There was one little kid who was really into basketball and he was having a bit of a rough time at school. He was talking to us about how basketball has helped him get through a bit of bullying and things like that; helped him get some new friends and he's just always been thankful for basketball, so he really loves UAA basketball.

I think we took a photo and signed some things for him. He was just about crying … that was a pretty moving moment.

Q. Obviously, Alaska is a long way from Australia. How did you end up here?

A. It was a pretty long and sort of random process. I had a coach back when I was playing for the state team in (Queensland) — his name is John Rillie — he's now the assistant coach at Boise State.

Our assistant coach here, Cameron Turner, is good friends with him, so they were talking a little bit about Australian prospects, and John told me to shoot an email to Coach Turner. I did that and we started talking some more and then it sort of went flying from there, sort of never looked back.

Q. What was your first impression of Alaska?

A. The first winter was pretty tough. I really wasn't expecting it to be so dark all the time. That was one of the big weather things that caught me. I'd never really been in real cold before. I think maybe the coldest I'd been in mid 30s, and so coming over here where it's like minus 10 and dark and there's snow everywhere, that was a bit of a culture shock to me.

Q. In your career at UAA, you've mostly been a bench and role player. How do you still put in that hard work every day when you see that you're not getting as many minutes as many of your teammates?

A. It's tough and it's one of those things you've got to mentally prepare for, but at the same time, we're a team, so we win together and we lose together. You become like brothers on the team. It's a competition for playing time, but at the same time you're happy seeing your teammates perform well and your team do really well.

A lot of time your individual needs go to the back of your mind and you don't really think about it. So, that's the way to sort of put it, is you really put the team first during the season and all the rest of the stuff becomes little things that don't really bother you.

Q. As a redshirt junior, you were the most veteran player on the team this year. In what ways did you use your experience to make your teammates better in practice?

A. I'm classified as one of the veterans now with this being my fourth year here, so a lot of time we'll have a tough practice one day and guys will start sort of getting down and that's when it's really my time to come in and try to pick them up and boost the spirit of practice so we don't get into some big down mood.

It's really sort of that motivational role a lot of the time. And it's more lead-by-example, so I'll get out there and try my hardest on whatever drill we're doing … and sort of hope that the guys can imitate me and get some energy into them. If they need motivation I'll motivate them by giving them encouragement or something like that.

Q. What are you studying and what's next for you?

A. Over here, my official thing is natural sciences pre-health professions. It's basically the pre-med role here. I'll probably be like two classes short (of spring graduation), but I'll probably do those over the summer.

I want to head back and go to med school in Australia. So we have to sit a thing called a GAMSAT, which is the Australian equivalent to the MCAT. So I have to fly to D.C., sit that, then I'll find out (if I) pass or fail in late May and then I can start applying for med schools back home.

We have 12 med schools in Australia, so it's pretty competitive because there's not many med schools. So I'm looking at trying to get the best score I can. From there, hopefully I'll get accepted and do my medicine and then I finally want to specialize in cardiothoracic surgery, which is heart surgery. That's the end goal.

Q. What is a cardiothoracic surgeon is and why did you choose to pursue that field?

A. Cardiothoracic surgery is basically heart and lungs and all sort of major arteries that go about from there. So any complications with that, like heart disease, stroke, anything like that, the cardiothoracic surgeon is usually called in to help.

I've always sort of been exposed to heart conditions because my family has a pretty bad genetic predisposition to heart conditions. So, all through growing up, I've been exposed to cardiologists and seen all the different situations that come about. So I've always sort of looked up to them, so I've always seen them as my heroes. It's one of those things that I've always wanted to do since I was little.

Q. What's something we have in the United States that you wish you had back in Australia?

A.  I think it's gotta be your barbecue food. I don't know what it is (but) barbecue food over here is just great. I feel like any sort of meat is always good.

We don't really have the whole southern-style barbecue, ribs and things like that, in Australia. It's more your normal steak and sausages type of thing.

Q. What's something you miss from back home?

A. I miss beaches. That's what I miss. I grew up living 10 minutes from a beach anywhere I've been, so to go from being able to run outside without a shirt in the sunshine to trying to stay indoors with as many layers as you can put on — that's one of the things I miss about Australia.

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