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Rickea Jackson returns for Tennessee: ‘She’s great for us’

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Rickea Jackson brings the ball up court during the game between the Tennessee Vols and the Florida A&M Rattlers on Nov. 7. (Bryan Lynn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

WNBA prospect Rickea Jackson had been absent from Tennessee’s lineup since Nov. 9. But after missing more than a month with a lower leg injury, Jackson made her triumphant return to the roster on Dec. 19.

During warmups, she danced because she was back on the court. Then, Jackson did what she does best — she helped her team win.

The Vols came away with an 85-63 victory over Wofford. They looked like their old selves with Jackson back in the game.

“She steps on the court and she changes things,” Tennessee head coach Kellie Harper told the Knoxville News-Sentinel. “Her presence affects them when they step on the court. She gives them great confidence.”

During Jackson’s month-long absence, the Vols (6-5) fell out of the Top 25. But the senior forward and projected lottery pick could help bring them back.

Even though she isn’t 100%, according to Harper, Jackson’s impact was palpable for the Vols. In her 21 minutes of playing time on Tuesday, she scored 11 points and registered six rebounds, two assists and a block.

“Having Kea back, it’s always good to have her. We’ve been waiting a while to have her back,” Tennessee point guard Jasmine Powell said. “I’m glad we got the question now, how good is it to have her back instead of, how do you feel with her out? But she’s great for us.”

Despite not being back to full health, Jackson spent her playing time getting in people’s faces and drawing fouls in the paint — an aspect of her play that her teammates missed. 

“It was great to see that, because we haven’t seen it in awhile,” junior forward Sara Puckett said. “I was just really happy for her to be able to get back out there and still produce and show what she’s still capable of. And she’s been doing that in practice this week, too. So just really proud of her and how she just came back so easily in the flow of things.”