Jackson Campana has always been ahead of his class.
When he was a freshman, Campana was selected to the highly-regarded South Charlotte Panthers Showcase team, two years ahead of when most top Charlotte-area players join the squad.
The same year, the 6-foot-6, 210-pound junior was called up to the Providence High varsity team, smashing a key double in his first pinch-hit at bat against Butler.
This fall, after a standout season for both Providence and the South Charlotte Panthers, Campana committed before his 17th birthday to play college baseball at Clemson University.
"Jackson is way ahead of his time," said South Charlotte Panthers owner Don Hutchins, who has coached dozens of professional players from the Charlotte area. "He is a unique talent that really has it all. We identified him at a young age and he hasn't disappointed us since then."
Campana has been groomed by Hutchins, Providence baseball coach Danny Hignight and many others since before he got to high school. Former Providence star Richie Shaffer, now at Clemson, also played a big part in Campana's early development.
Campana shadowed Shaffer for almost his entire freshman season, re-learning a game he thought he knew.
"I thought I knew a lot about baseball until I got to high school," Campana said. "Then the game got so much faster and I had to adjust.
"It was all a little intimidating at first, but now I think I've been able to take my game to a whole new level."
His sophomore season (2010), Campana hit .380 with eight home runs and 33 RBI for a 19-8 Providence team that won both the Southwestern 4A regular season and tournament titles.
This year, Campana is off to an even stronger start, hitting. 600 with four home runs and 12 RBIs in his first five games.
"Jackson gets better and better every day because of his work ethic," said Hignight, who compares Campana to former Providence star Ryan Semeniuk (Wake Forest) because his stature. "I think he has the opportunity to do anything he wants in this game.
"Of course, he still has a long way to go, but he is also way ahead of most guys his age."
Campana, who will showcase his talents again this summer with the Panthers and at several national showcase tournaments, is already on the radar of multiple professional scouts.
"The pros all know who he is," Hignight said. "He is going to be one of the top prospects in the nation in his class."
Campana, whose primary position is third base, grew up a catcher but can play all nine positions, according to Hignight and Hutchins. Campana will also see some time on the mound this season for the Panthers, where he has been clocked as high as 91 mph.
"I look forward to the opportunity to help my team out in any way I can," Campana said. "We are short on pitchers this year and we need people to step up."
Campana said he hopes to help lead a loaded Providence team back to the top as part of a lineup that includes N.C. State signees Brett Austin and Jake Fincher, two of the best players in the Charlotte area.
Hignight and all three of his star players hope they can lead Providence back to the state championship, which it hasn't won since 1995.
While Campana and the Panthers are focused on the on the present moment, he can't help but think about what the future may have in store for him.
"I don't get caught in thinking about the future too much," Campana said. "But it is exciting to think about playing in college and maybe even the pros someday.
"Just to know that I have the opportunity to do that is something that motivates me to work harder and harder on my game, every day."