May 7, 2012

FEATURE: Jackson stands strong as MSU target

FORT WAYNE, Ind. - Demetrius Jackson made sure to bring his jump shot, strong-armed defense and leaping ability when he arrived at last weekend's Spiece Run-n-Slam All-Star Classic, a day late.

Earlier in the weekend, his checklist consisted of more academic items.

"I had to bring my own No. 2 pencils and my own calculator," Jackson said.

That was for the SAT, which he took on the morning of Saturday, May 5.

"Math has always been my best subject, so that was kind of simple for me," said Jackson, surely the only SAT-taker in the country who was asked questions by media as to how his exam went. "But the English, that was tougher."

A few hours after finishing the SAT, Jackson scored 18 points in a 73-69 victory over Ohio-based DB Hoops in the first round of the Silver Bracket (losers bracket) at Fort Wayne South Side High School.

"My brain is just fried," Jackson said after the game. "I'm surprised I didn't have 20 turnovers."

Far from it. He was sharp.

If that was what he considers an off-game, then it's clear to see why Michigan State has made him a Plan A recruiting target in recent months. Michigan State, Notre Dame, Xavier and Butler have been in Jackson's lead pack. Florida State and Illinois are working to get in the race.

Jackson (6-1, 180) will be a senior at Mishawaka (Ind.) Marian High in the fall. He is ranked the No. 61 player in the country by Rivals.com.

Jackson helped his MBA summer travel team to an unbeaten run and a tournament title during the last weekend of April at The Championships, an event held in Merrillville, Ind.

But MBA went 0-3 in pool play without him at the Spiece Run-n-Slam.

Jackson joined the team in time for the knockout round of the loser's bracket. Despite the mental energy spent on the SAT earlierin the morning, Jackson had eight rebounds and eight assists in leading his team to a come-from-behind victory.

What MSU Likes About Him

When watching Jackson play, it's clear that he possesses many of the characteristics Michigan State has valued from its guards in the past. He is a bigger, stronger, faster version of 2009 captain Travis Walton. He is a much better leaper than Walton and has a longer wingspan. Former Butler star Shelvin Mack would also be a good comparison.

Jackson has very good straight-line speed, agility, short-area quickness and lateral quickness. Plus he has an intense desire to play good defense.

Walton was a good player at MSU, with a great heart and great leadership ability. If Jackson's intangibles approach those of Walton, he is destined for a successful college career. Early indications are that he indeed is cut from the Walton cloth.

Jackson was supportive of teammates during the victory over DB Hoops, offering pats on the back and encouragement.

When asked what he would like to improve upon, Jackson had the right answer for an Izzo-scouted player.

"My communication," Jackson said, unprompted. "That's a big part of being a point guard, to keep communicating with my team, being a leader, lead all around the floor, on defense, on offense, vocally. A lot of times the guys look to the point guard for leadership."

Unlike Walton, Jackson has a quality jump shot. Jackson elevates higher than most guards in attempting the jumper. His shot release looks good, with high arch, good rotation. The ball behaves well on the rim for him.

Jackson's strong leaping ability comes into play with blocked shots and timely rebounds. He has a knack to go with all that horsepower.

As a passer, his process might not be Steve-Nash-smooth, but he sees the court well, leading to good decisions. His unselfishness was evident in that he passed up tough shots in order to defer to less-talented teammates who had easier ones. He drives to dish. But he can elevate to the rim and score in traffic if the situation arises.

He has the heart, mind, frame and horsepower. His jumper looks good and his ball handling ability is good, heading toward very good. He's just working to iron out some wrinkles.

What does MSU like about him?

"They say they like how aggressive I am," Jackson said. "They like how I'm leading my team, and attacking."

College recruiters should also like this: Jackson is his own worst critic.

"I'm still trying to keep developing as a player," Jackson said after Saturday's game. "As you can see I still have a lot to work on."

And this comment: "I thought I was lazy on defense and I really have to pick it up the next game."

SpartanMag.com thought his defense was a major plus in watching that same game. If that was his "lazy" game on defense, he must have an apocalyptic A-game. MSU and others have seen it.

"They said I'm similar to Mateen Cleaves with his size and aggressiveness, but other than that, just being my own type of player," Jackson said.

'Next-Level Speed'

Jackson isn't all that comfortable talking about his strengths, of which there are many. MBA coach Rod Creech took it from there.

"They (Michigan State) like the fact that he has an extra gear and be able to get by people with penetration and then get over people," Creech said. "Whether he is exploding for a pull-up jumper or getting to the rim, he just has next-level speed where he turns it to another gear. And they like the fact that he is able to shoot the 3 now consistently, whether it be from 19 feet or 24."

Jackson displayed his shooting skills at The Championships during the weekend of April 28. At that event, MBA avenged losses to a couple of teams that had beaten them the previous weekend at the Storm Classic in Grand Rapids, including a victory over the West Michigan Lakers in the title game.

Jackson scored 29 points in the title game against the Lakers.

"He hit four 3s in a row from about 25 feet, so they extended a little bit and then he got to the rim," Creech said. "He had about 12 assists and seven rebounds. He was real hard to guard. They didn't have a matchup for him."

Recruiting Picture

Jackson is taking in recruiting information, but that seems to be secondary on his mind right now.

"I will take some visits here and there, whenever the coaches invite us up, whenever we can set things up," he said. "Other than that, I just want to keep developing as a player."

There are no plans to attend the major exposure camps this summer. He might not be into all that stuff. He plans to participate in Butler's individual elite camp.

Jackson lives 10 minutes from Notre Dame and says he has been there "countless times."

"A lot of people like Notre Dame where I am but regardless of what school you go to, they will support you," Jackson said. "Just like when our team was in semi-state, we had fans from other schools that are around us, our rival schools, supporting us. That's the way it is where I'm from."

Jackson has made one visit to Michigan State.

"I was there for a football game, versus Michigan last fall," he said. "It was a great atmosphere. That being their rival, they had a lot of guys there, a lot of alumni back, Shannon Brown, Mateen Cleaves. I was hoping to see Magic, but he wasn't there. He's pretty busy. It was a great all-around atmosphere."

What does he like about Notre Dame?

"They are a great school and it is a blessing to have such a great academic school recruiting you," Jackson said. "From what I've heard, after you go to Notre Dame, if you work hard in college, you are pretty well set for the rest of your life.

"They have a great fan base. They have great coaches, great players, hard workers and they find ways to win games regardless of what the roster is."

What does he like about Michigan State?

"Everything. A lot of the same things: great fanbase, great coaches, great people, great alumni."

Jackson plans to make a decision in the early fall, prior to his senior season at Mishawaka Marian.




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