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Old 08-27-2014, 03:24 PM   #1
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Old 08-27-2014, 03:27 PM   #2
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Old 08-27-2014, 03:50 PM   #3
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Old 08-27-2014, 04:04 PM   #4
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Old 09-05-2014, 10:32 AM   #5
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Old 09-17-2014, 03:25 PM   #6
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From start to finish, year one with the Irish did not go as planned for Jackson. In 30 games, 18 of which came after guard Jerian Grant’s suspension, Jackson averaged 6.0 points per game while recording 2.1 rebounds and 1.8 assists per contest. His assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.5 was much lower than what Notre Dame has become accustomed to with point guards during Mike Brey’s tenure.

On top of the on-court struggles, Jackson’s academic issues required a two-game respite from action while he focused on his studies.

With that season behind him, the sophomore claims to benefit from a year of added maturity now that point guard Eric Atkins has departed and it’s Jackson’s offense to run.

“It was tough,” Jackson said. “It was an adjustment that I don’t know if I was prepared the best for. Last year helped me a lot. I feel much better. I feel happy. I feel more comfortable. I feel closer to my teammates and I’m having more fun for sure.”

Notre Dame as a whole figures to have more fun this season after stumbling to a 15-17 (6-12 ACC) finish, the program’s first losing season since 1998-99. Grant is back from his suspension and senior swingman Pat Connaughton will play his senior year with the Irish despite signing a professional contract with the Baltimore Orioles during the summer. Interestingly, Brey puts sophomore guard Steve Vasturia, not Jackson, in the group with that duo as critical players.

Brey, however, notes that he saw progress from Jackson during the team’s foreign tour — a de facto preseason that allowed the team 22 extra sessions in the gym in all — in Italy in August.

“The first thing that helps is Atkins is not around,” Brey said. “He has the ball and he started all four games. We kind of found a simple role for him to start with here now that he’s a main guy. Pressure the ball and make good decisions and quarterback our team. Don’t worry about shooting or scoring or your jump shot. That will all happen. I thought his ball pressure was the key.”

Overall, Jackson is more confident version of himself this year, which he credits in part to the academic difficulties he faced in February.

“It’s very humbling,” he said. “It grounded me and let me know I needed to work hard on and off the court. All the lessons I learned last year, I applied them to the summer and had a good summer. Hopefully I’ll continue to do that in the fall.”

Jackson admitted feeling frustrated during much of the 2013-14 year, but he said it was mostly directed at himself rather than the university or the basketball program itself.

“I know I’m a better student than that,” he said. “Just frustrated with myself that I wasn’t working to the best of my ability. I took that lesson and that struggle and it helped me become a better person and student.”

While Brey’s offenses typically utilize a pair of guards as ball-handlers on the court at once — Jackson, Grant, Vasturia and freshman Matt Farrell could all do so this season — Jackson feels his role is clearer heading into camp this time around.

“Part of that was immaturity,” he said. “A year of experience definitely helped me mature as a basketball player to understand that I don’t always need the ball in my hands to contribute. I can do other things also. I just tried to apply those lessons.”

One constant during Brey’s tenure has been having a productive point guard directing the free-flowing offense. All eyes are now on Jackson to see whether he can become the next in line.

“That’s one of the duties of the point guard is to direct the team on the floor,” Jackson said. “I’ve been doing my best to be more vocal and to be more of a leader on and off the court.

“I learned a lot last year watching and playing. When I go out to the court or in the classroom, I try to use those lessons learned to be a better basketball player and a better person.”
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Old 09-17-2014, 07:05 PM   #7
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When will the Irish stop ducking the mighty Crusaders of Valpo?

It's been long enough to forget those painful losses at the hands of the Lutheran Bomb Squads

Time to renew the series!

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