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Friends and teammates honor legacy of Duncanville WNBA star who died this week from breast cancer

"As much as we will miss her, her legacy here in Duncanville will continue to live on," said Kenya Larkin-Landers of WNBA star Tiffany Jackson who died Monday at 37.

DUNCANVILLE, Texas — The lobby of the Sandra Meadows Memorial Arena at Duncanville High School has a "Hall of Champions" dedicated to the multiple state titles for the boys and girls basketball teams. And in one of the display cases, a smiling 6'3" superstar is smiling broadly from the back row of a fading 2003 state championship photo. Her friends and classmates, however, say her legacy and impact will never fade.

Tiffany Jackson, Duncanville High, Texas Longhorns, and WNBA star, died Monday in Dallas after seven-years with breast cancer. She was 37.

"But I'm just going to miss just her presence in my life," said friend Kenya Larkin-Landers, the assistant athletic director at Duncanville ISD. Both were Duncanville Pantherettes and Texas Longhorn basketball players, roughly five years apart. Larkin-Landers spoke with us on the basketball court at Duncanville High beneath the multiple championship banners hanging from the rafters, including the 2003 women's championship Tiffany Jackson helped win.

"And, she was a fighter and a competitor," Larkin-Landers said. "And I feel like that's how she was able to continue fighting the cancer the way that she did."

Credit: Duncanville High School

In her high school yearbook, Jackson wrote "I want to go overseas and play basketball and become a commentator on the months that I am not playing."

She did that and more. 

Jackson graduated from Duncanville High School as a McDonald's All-American and the State Farm/WBCA High School Player of the Year in 2003. In 2017, the district named her an Athletic Hall of Honor inductee alongside her former high school coach Cathy Self-Morgan. 

Credit: Duncanville ISD

She played for the University of Texas women's basketball team from 2004 to 2007 with 103 starts. Jackson was selected in the first round of the 2007 WNBA draft by the New York Liberty and also played for the Tulsa Shock and Los Angeles Sparks and in the Israeli Premier League. And, most recently, achieved her next dream, being named head coach for Wiley College. She always wanted to be a coach for a women's team at an HBCU.

“We were extremely saddened at the passing of Coach Jackson, she was an incredible light for our students and an amazing member of the Wiley College family. Her dedication to Wiley College was evident in how she interacted with the students and her community. She will be sorely missed. We are praying for her family and friends,” said Wiley President & CEO Herman J. Felton, Jr.

"Tiffany Jackson was an amazing mother, daughter, friend, teammate and role model for so many," said DHS head girls basketball coach LaJeanna Howard, who grew up playing basketball with Jackson in Duncanville ISD, including the 2003 Duncanville Girls Basketball State Championship team.

"She would go to schools to speak and give our young girls nuggets of wisdom that they could carry with them through a lifetime," Howard said. 

"Duncanville ISD is truly honored to call Tiffany Jackson a Panther. She was a shining example of servant leadership, and we are proud of who she was and what she accomplished," said Superintendent Dr. Marc Smith. "Our prayers are with the Jackson family during this time."

Credit: AP
FILE - Texas forward Tiffany Jackson (33) points during Big 12 women's basketball tournament practice Monday, March 5, 2007 in Oklahoma City, Okla. Jackson, a former standout at the University of Texas who was the No. 5 pick in the WNBA draft in 2007 and played nine years in the league, has died of cancer, the school announced. She was 37. Jackson, who was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015, died Monday, Oct. 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Ty Russell)

"She just instilled a dream in young ladies. She showed them what's possible," Larkin-Landers said. "As a Pantherette sister, as a Longhorn sister, and just as my friend. I mean, she was just amazing."

And now, Larkin-Landers says, perhaps with an additional legacy: young black women taking charge of their health, including regular screenings for breast cancer.

"As much as we will miss her, her legacy here in Duncanville will continue to live on," she said. "I'm just going to miss Tiff. Just miss her impact on everybody's lives."

A celebration of life is planned for Tiffany Jackson on Saturday Oct. 22 at Freedom Missionary Baptist Church in Dallas.

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