Threadgill ultimate teammate for Charlotte 49ers basketball

Charlotte 49ers guard Jackson Threadgill (12) shoots the game winning basket over Davidson Wildcats guard Grant Huffman (5) during a game at Belk Arena in Davidson, N.C., Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022.

Charlotte 49ers guard Jackson Threadgill (12) shoots the game winning basket over Davidson Wildcats guard Grant Huffman (5) during a game at Belk Arena in Davidson, N.C., Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022.

Jackson Threadgill had one task, and he almost blew it.

It was Dec. 2. The Charlotte 49ers men’s basketball team, fresh off a statement overtime rivalry win against Davidson that saw Threadgill hit a game-winning 3 at the buzzer, was set to play in-state foe Appalachian State at home.

Threadgill’s mother, Diane, had merely one request for her son: Wear your pink shoes.

And … he’d forgotten them.

To be clear, playing with his KD 14 Aunt Pearl high-tops wasn’t a big deal because the shoes held any special meaning. It was a big deal because the shoes seemed to hold a special consequence: When Diane had chosen her son’s shoes to wear before games, Threadgill and the rest of the 49ers tended to play well.

So Threadgill couldn’t risk it. He fired off a text to his roommate and teammate, Aly Khalifa, who retrieved the shoes for him.

The result? Threadgill finished the game against the Mountaineers with 10 points, shooting 2-for-4 from deep, and was part of the 49ers’ crazy 23-point comeback win. The victory marked the first time Charlotte had taken down Davidson and App State in the same year since the 2007-08 season.

“She wanted me to bring the pink shoes back,” Threadgill said with a meek smile last week. “So I’ve been wearing them ever since.”

In their past three games — three straight wins that either required crazy comebacks or overtime clutchness or both — the 49ers (8-2) have seemed to turn a corner. And a lot of that success has had to do with Threadgill, the junior guard who isn’t afraid of the big shot and who said he’s playing the best basketball of his collegiate career.

“I haven’t shot the ball great this year overall,” Threadgill said. “But as long as I’m staying confident and playing the right way, things will work out for themselves.”

Charlotte 49ers guard Nik Graves (10) celebrates with fans after hitting the game winning back over the Davidson Wildcats during a game at Belk Arena in Davidson, N.C., Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022. Alex Slitz

Threadgill has played the most amount of minutes on the team — 32.2 per game — and is shooting 32% from deep. The Concord native and Davidson Day School graduate is averaging 8.4 points, 1.8 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game.

He’s making his “junior jump,” Charlotte coach Ron Sanchez says, in ways that sometimes don’t reflect on the stat sheet but is invaluable to this year’s young team.

“I know that we, as fans, we mostly see points, blocked shots and highlights,” Sanchez said. “But if you really want to dive into the value of a player, sometimes you just gotta look at their plus/minus and how they’re impacting the game, even if they’re not scoring. How are they executing a gameplan? How well are they communicating? Does he help guys get in the right positions when he’s off the ball, on the ball? And I think Jackson is one of our best guys in doing some of those things.”

Sanchez added: “He’s a phenomenal teammate — on the floor and off the floor. Jackson only cares about Charlotte being successful.”

Davidson Day’s Jackson Threadgill (12) drives to the basket. Cannon would play Davidson Day at the 2020 Carmel Christian School MLK Showcase Saturday, January 18, 2019. Threadgill now stars for the Charlotte 49ers. Jonathan Aguallo Special to the Observer

The “off the court” piece is particularly true. Khalifa can attest. The 6-foot-11 redshirt sophomore had only known Threadgill for a few months, he said, before he was invited to spend Thanksgiving with the Threadgills — and now, three years later, it’s become a tradition.

Khalifa is “like another Threadgill,” Jackson said, flawlessly fitting in with Jackson’s parents, Diane and Dale, and his sisters, Kaylee and Savannah. (He’s not the only one who was invited to the Threadgill household for Thanksgiving this year: Musa Jallow and Igor Milicic Jr. were, too, Khalifa said.)

“They even got me a birthday cake, too, because my birthday was the 22nd,” Khalifa said. He then chuckled, “Momma Threadgill always points to me and tells people, ‘That’s my stepson.’”

Charlotte 49ers forward Aly Khalifa (15) celebrates with the Hornets Nest trophy after a game against the Davidson Wildcats at Belk Arena in Davidson, N.C., Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022. Alex Slitz

The 49ers next play Monmouth at 2 p.m. Saturday on the road. It’s their final contest before Conference USA play begins on Dec. 22 at UAB.

If all goes right in that contest, Threadgill will do all of the following: He’ll shoot well. He’ll play good defense. He’ll play a lot. He’ll lead. He’ll get the ball to his “stepbrother.”

And he’ll wear the shoes his mother recommends — the ultimate teammate finding an edge wherever he can.

Alex Zietlow writes about NASCAR, Charlotte FC and the ways in which sports intersect with life in the Charlotte area for The Observer, where he has been a reporter since August 2022. Zietlow’s work has been honored by the N.C. and S.C. Press Associations, as well as the APSE, which awarded him with Top-10 finishes in the Beat Writing and Short Feature categories in its 2021 writing contest. He previously wrote for The Herald in Rock Hill from 2019-22.

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