Feb. 5, 2015
Demetrius Jackson, a 6-foot-1 sophomore point guard for the University of Notre Dame men’s basketball team, didn’t attempt a shot until the 3:39 mark of the first half in Wednesday night’s game against Boston College.
Jackson, though, played a big hand in helping the No. 10 ranked Fighting Irish roll to a 34-14 lead by that point.
By the time Jackson launched his three-point try, he had already fought to grab four rebounds and dish out three assists.
Jackson finished with a career-high 10 rebounds and four assists, scoring three points.
Notre Dame finished with a 71-63 victory against the Atlantic Coast Conference rival Eagles. Notre Dame’s next home game is at 7 p.m. EDT Feb. 17 against Wake Forest. Visit http://www.und.com/tickets/nd-tickets.html to purchase tickets.
Jackson has plenty of firepower in his game. He averages 12.9 points a game. What Jackson does when he isn’t firing up a three-pointer or blasting off for a rim-rattling dunk is proving just as critical to the success of the Irish, who are just one game off the lead in the Atlantic Coast Conference standings.
“We started this year off feeling like Demetrius could be a great defensive player and a great rebounder from the guard position for us, certainly with defensive rebounds,” Irish assistant coach Anthony Solomon said about Irish focus areas for contributions from Jackson. “Demetrius is more than capable of being a great rebounder. He has great elevation off of one step, his vertical is exceptional. It’s great to see him utilize that.”
Jackson came up with critical offensive rebounds down the stretch after Irish misses, but defensive rebounds from Jackson are even more valuable.
“What we like to say to him and to Jerian Grant, when you get rebounds there is no outlet pass needed,” Solomon said. “It’s the quickest way to get on a fast break. We like the transition in our offense this year. Those easy transition points, the lay-ups and the dunks–that’s been a big part of our offensive efficiency.”
Irish head coach Mike Brey loves Jackson’s ability to be a difference-maker even without scoring. He said Jackson’s defense and his rebounding have helped him emerge as one of the most dangerous guards in the nation.
“It was a workout chasing (Boston College’s Olivier) Hanlan around, and he did a great job,” Brey said of Jackson. “He’s taking a lot of pride in wanting to know throughout the game how many rebounds he has, which we’ve talked about. And then I look at the stat sheet and he gets 10 tonight. That’s a weapon we need. It’s clear we’re not the best defensive rebounding team, but we have a guard that can go get the ball like that. That really helps us.”
Jackson said being considered a big man as a youth helped him develop a passion for rebounding.
“Rebounding is something that comes naturally for me,” Jackson said. “I was a big man when I was young, so I was always told to get in there and rebound. I was just a screener and a rebounder. I’m trying to continue doing that. I think that experience helps me rebounding as a guard. It’s natural for me to crash the boards.”
Interestingly, Jackson took aim at double-digit rebounds and grabbed the career-high 10 boards against Boston College.
“It’s important to rebound,” Jackson said. “God gave me special abilities, and I just want to use them to the best of my ability. It would be a waste to sit out on the perimeter and watch shots. I just wanted to crash the boards. That was my goal going into the game. I wanted to get 10 rebounds and I got them.”
As one of the few point guards who can trigger a fast break by leaping for a defensive rebound, Jackson is a match-up nightmare for opponents. He’s also honing his skills as a lock-down defender.
“Demetrius has been one of the best guards in the country this year defensively, on-ball pressure, containing the dribble, contesting the way we like to contest from his position,” Solomon said. “Offensively, he’s still growing in that area, but he’s had some explosive nights for us offensively.
“When we think about our growth this year defensively, he’s been a big part of it. He’s the first face the opponent sees in terms of facing our defense. He’s made a big difference for us on the defensive side of the ball. He understands the importance of pressure in that point guard position. When we contain teams’ penetration, it allows us to keep teams away from the basket. When we’re able to get the first miss, we’re able to do what we do really well, which is play offense. Demetrius has been fantastic playing on the defensive side of the ball, and his game is going to continue to expand.”
Jackson said he has embraced his defensive challenges.
“I’m just trying to play defense, I’m just trying to stay engaged,” Jackson said. “Although I didn’t score much (against Boston College), I feel like I was pretty locked in on both ends of the floor. I felt like I was helping the offense flow. I was making good decisions with the ball, for the most part. I had a couple of turnovers early. I was just trying to do whatever my team needed me to do, and against Boston College my team needed me to play defense and rebound.”
Jackson intends to continue on a course that could lead him to all-star status.
“I feel like you can never stop getting better,” Jackson said. “I’ve always said that, ever since I was young. I want to grow in every aspect of the game. I especially want to make better decisions with the ball, be good on offense and keep the offense flowing, and I want to be locked in and disciplined on defense.”
Solomon said Jackson has the skills to carve out an impressive Irish legacy.
“Demetrius has some special gifts,” Solomon said. “As he’s continuing to adjust and make the transition to the college game, the sky is the limit for him. We’ve been really ecstatic to see his growth throughout the season.”
— by Curt Rallo, special correspondent