Jackson talks NBA Draft, legacy at Notre Dame
Alex Carson | Thursday, March 31, 2016
Demetrius Jackson was born in South Bend, hails from Mishawaka and attended Marian High School just five miles away.
But for the first time, the former Irish guard is going to leave Michiana: After talking it over with Irish head coach Mike Brey on Tuesday, Jackson’s headed to the NBA.
“This being my home, kind of leaving the home nest for the first time, [it’s] definitely tough,” Jackson said Wednesday at a press conference. “But talking with Coach and talking with my teammates and everybody, they’ve really helped encourage me and really helped me to understand that this is kind of the best decision.”
When he’s selected in June’s NBA Draft, Jackson will become the third Irish player to be picked following his junior year — the Golden State Warriors selected Troy Murphy 14th overall in 2001, while Adrian Dantley went sixth to the Buffalo Braves in 1976.
While Jackson could have headed to the draft combine without hiring an agent and retained his NCAA eligibility, he said he’ll do so in the next couple weeks after receiving “positive feedback.”
“I thought it was the best thing for me, just from the information I’ve received,” Jackson said on the plan to hire an agent. “[I] just wanted to take the opportunity.”
Jackson doesn’t plan to finish the spring semester at Notre Dame, instead opting to focus on prepping for his professional career, but said his time on campus isn’t coming to a close.
“I won’t be here for the rest of the semester to finish out academically, but I’ll still be around,” Jackson said. “As you know, this is my home, so my home is 15 minutes away, and Notre Dame is my home, so I’ll always be here. I’ll probably still be bothering these guys in the locker room and stuff like that.”
Though Jackson won’t be enrolled in classes for the rest of this semester, he said he still plans on getting his degree.
“I’m going to talk to our academic advisor and work on a plan to finish up,” Jackson said before quipping he’s “still got a long way to go.”
Jackson leaves a Notre Dame program that’s vastly different from the one he entered. When Jackson committed to the Irish in high school, Notre Dame hadn’t advanced to the Sweet 16 since 2003.
Now he departs a program coming off two consecutive Elite Eight appearances.
“I think that we really changed the culture of the postseason play,” Jackson said. “When I was in high school, people would talk about how Notre Dame would lose in the first round every year and things like that, but people don’t say that about us anymore. I just feel like we’ve really been able to accomplish some great things and make history.”
Jackson said he thought about what next year’s squad would look like with him still around, but says he’s confident the Irish will have success in the 2016-17 season without him.
“At the end of the day, this team is going to be great because of our coaches and just the players here,” Jackson said. “They work really hard every single day, and they bring — they really bring it.
“This team is going to be great, and I look forward to watching them in their future success.”
As a local product, Jackson said he’s proud of having the opportunity to represent the South Bend area.
“It means so much to just kind of represent the whole 574 and just be able to just be a role model for some of the young kids growing up in the area,” Jackson said. “It’s been such a blessing to go to such a great university and just have some of the teammates I had and have some of the people in my life I’ve had.”
Jackson thanked his foster parents, David and Beth Whitfield, at Tuesday’s press conference.
“Without them, I wouldn’t be here; they gave me an opportunity,” Jackson said of the Whitfields. “They gave me a home. They gave me love. Without my family, I wouldn’t be here today.”
When asked if there’s anything he’d been looking forward to buying after signing his first professional contract, Jackson said he’d like to get something for his mother, Juanita Jones.
“One thing when I was younger — I haven’t told very many people this — I promised my mother that I would kind of buy her a new home,” Jackson said. “That’s one of my goals, and hopefully something I’ll be able to accomplish in the next couple years.”
And when asked what his younger self would have thought watching the presser, Jackson thought of one lasting emotion:
“10-year-old me would probably be crying back there somewhere, just kind of happy, tears of joy.