Jackson shows promise for Irish in offseason
Zach Klonsinski | Monday, November 10, 2014
Sophomore guard Demetrius Jackson has proved himself to be one of Notre Dame’s early-season surprises.
Much of the early-season focus has surrounded Notre Dame’s returning seniors, guard Jerian Grant and guard/forward Pat Connaughton. However, the development of sophomore guard Demetrius Jackson looked promising this weekend. The Mishawaka product averaged 19.5 across Notre Dame’s two exhibition contests, surpassing his 17 points as a high all of last season. His development extends beyond just his scoring capability. Jackson showed he has become one of the team’s vocal leaders as well.
“I feel very confident talking to my guys, even if they don’t always listen,” Jackson said. “In the huddles I’m talking to the guys just trying to be a leader.”
“He’s becoming more of a voice,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “I think he will become even more of a leader month to month. That’s his personality, and when you’re the point guard, you’ve got to use your voice. I think he has a really good feel of our system and our sets and everything. I think as the year goes, he will become as strong a voice as Jerian or Pat.”
Brey first handed the role of starting point guard to Jackson this summer when the team traveled to play four exhibition games in Italy, and he said the sophomore has taken the ball and run with it.
“He couldn’t wait to get the ball in his hands,” Brey said. “He has a great feel for our system and our sets. I didn’t know he had that good a feel because I never had him at the throttle last year. But we start practicing for Italy, he goes, ‘Coach, what about we look at five and post Pat?’ [Graduated guard] Eric [Atkins] did all that last year. So he’s got a great feel for our stuff.”
Jackson was quick to credit his teammates and coaches with his development in the last year.
“I just feel like a year of maturity as well as getting closer to my teammates and coaches has really helped me out,” Jackson said. “I feel so close to my teammates, and the coaches also, that I can say anything and so I just want to communicate, be a good leader, help the team.”
While Jackson has come out and put up high point totals to start the season, Brey said he has been even more impressed with his defensive play.
“I’ll tell you what: to do what Demetrius can do offensively after pressuring the ball like he pressures it, that’s a workout,” Brey said. “When you pressure the ball like that, that’s an unbelievably unselfish act because it wears you out. So I’m trying to figure out how to sub for him to get him a rest because he’s got a heck of a workout the way he pressures the ball. He helps the rest of our defense that teams are at least having to start their offense out a little further.”
His unselfishness continues off the court. In addition to giving credit to his teammates and coaches for his development, Jackson is the first to point out what he thinks he can do better. When asked what he thought of his play against Minnesota Duluth on Nov. 1, in which he put up 20 points, Jackson did not mince words.
“I guess the first thing I noticed was my turnovers,” Jackson said. “I know how much we take pride in taking care of the ball, so that’s definitely something I want to work on, just being better with the ball, having more assists.”
“He had three turnovers in the first half [against Duluth],” Brey said. “Now, overall, his stats in 20 practices are very solid. But we’ve just got to be smart with that thing because he’s going to have his hands a lot.”
Yet Brey knows his young guard is still learning and will make mistakes occasionally. He said he does not want Jackson looking over at his coach on the bench when he plays though.
“He got creative [against Duluth],” Brey said. “He’s driving, he’s playing, he’s attacking, he’s going for it. … I don’t want you looking at the bench. I’m going to let you play through mistakes.”
As many have noticed, Jackson is much more vocal on the court already than he was last year. He has even started to develop a trademark for what he wants his team to focus on.
“One thing I want to work on personally [is] making sure we come out strong and finish strong, both halves,” Jackson said.
“His whole thing was we’ve got to get off to a good start,” Brey said. “He’s got a strong voice and he wants his team to be good.
“Ball’s in his hands [now]. Italy was great for him because he got to quarterback us for four games. … He’s a confident guy and he’s become a voice for us but he’s firmly at the controls of this thing.”
Don’t try to tell that to Jackson though. He just wants to help his team win.
“Throughout the whole year I just want to remain aggressive and play my role,” Jackson said. “I think that’s something that I can help our team do with my voice and communication.”