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Men’s Basketball: Jackson growing up

Chris Hine | Wednesday, February 21, 2007

If Irish point guard Tory Jackson’s performance in Notre Dame’s 78-54 victory over DePaul is indicative of the future, then Irish fans have something to look forward to the next three years.Just when the Blue Demons were getting back in the game Tuesday, “Action” Jackson took over and ended DePaul’s hopes of a comeback. The Blue Demons were on a 7-0 run, cut Notre Dame’s lead to 45-33 with 15:04 remaining and applied full court pressure looking for a steal.The pressure did not faze Jackson. He took the inbound pass, dribbled through the defense and laid in two of his 13 points. He then scored on Notre Dame’s next two possessions and grabbed a rebound on defense that resulted in a Zach Hillesland jump shot to bump the Irish lead to 18. “I think that stretch where he scored six points in a row sealed the game,” Irish guard Colin Falls said. “They were fighting back and he made plays. That’s a freshman growing up.”Jackson finished with six assists and – despite his 5-foot-10 frame – a team-high nine rebounds. If Jackson looked more motivated than usual on the floor, there was good reason. On the opposing bench sat Will Walker, whom Michigan chose to recruit instead of Jackson. Even though Walker chose DePaul over the Wolverines, Jackson carried the memory of someone saying he was not good enough into Tuesday night. “We were recruited by Michigan and Michigan ditched me for him but he ditched Michigan for DePaul,” Jackson said after the game. “I took it to offense, but you know, things happen. Like all summer, I played against Will Walker during the summer circuit and a lot of people thought he was better than me.”I came in here with an attitude. … Once he got in I just felt that I knew I was a lot bigger than him so I got aggressive and took it to the rack a lot.”Jackson’s progression throughout this season shows, without a doubt, he can play with the best in the Big East. His biggest impact has come on the defensive side of the ball. When guard Kyle McAlarney was starting earlier in the year, Jackson came off the bench to provide a defensive spark. But after McAlarney’s suspension, Jackson had to sharpen his game on the other side of the ball and become the general of the offense. His confidence in the face of defensive pressure is unwavering, and throughout the course of the season, he has grown more self-assured with his ability to put the ball in the basket.Sure, he’s missed layups and made a couple of turnovers, and he still needs to work on his jumper, but these are growing pains. The confidence is there, the raw ability is there, and Tuesday night was a big step in refining that talent. Even with Jackson’s offensive responsibilities, Irish coach Mike Brey asked the point guard to shut down some of the best offensive players in the conference. Jackson answered the call and was especially effective against Villanova guard Scottie Reynolds in Notre Dame’s 66-63 win Jan. 27, holding him to just 5-for-14 from the field.With his talent for lockdown defense and ever-improving offense, Jackson will be one of the marquee players in the Big East in a few years.Michigan should be kicking itself right now.The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.Contact Chris Hine at chine@nd.edu.