|Very small ears.|Desmar Jackson
, Southern Illinois, Senior, 6'5 180lbs2013/14 stats:
32.9 mpg, 18.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 2.1 apg, 2.4 spg, 0.4 bpg, 2.8 fpg, 3.0 TOpg, 46.6% FG, 26.8% 3PT, 78.0% FT
Jackson bore a big responsibility on both ends for Southern Illinois, particularly offensively. On a team with little ability to create offense or make shots that averaged only 66.9 points per game, it was Jackson's responsibility, as the best athlete, best player, stand-out talent and only future pro on the team, to shoulder a lot of the burden.
This was not something well suited to his skill set. Jackson is not a primary offensive creator - or should not be, at least - and his turnovers are evident of his limitations in this regard. Firstly, and clearly, Jackson lacks for three point range. He can make just enough that it is not a complete anomaly, and is slightly better when shooting jump shots from two point range, yet as a man who profiles otherwise quite well as a driver, he needs the jump shot to open up this game, and it does not. He cannot create separation on his jump shots, does not jump especially high on them, shoots them with quite a slow release, and yet takes them anyway.
Jackson does at least intersperse this with a slashing game, displaying good nuances of body control and fakes with little pivot moves, fakes, jinks and the like, alongside a nice floater. He is not the biggest or most athletic player that can just power through or rise over defense (which says a lot about the rest of the team if he was still the best athlete), and gets by more on aggressiveness than the tightness of his handle, but he can snake past opponents and get up to finish explosively when given a running start. Jackson further has a good change of speed, all of which is what sees him score and get to the line at a good rate, and occasionally demonstrates some passing vision. The knock on him often, however, is a tendency to be selfish offensively. Jackson tries to do too much, does not seem to trust his team mates, and goes for home run plays when he ought not, stops the ball around the perimeter and is all too reluctant to give it up when within or vaguely near the arc. He improved on this a tad as a senior, yet it is a question that still needs to be answered. So is his effort off the ball.
His effort and effectiveness on defense are more clear, as are his strengths and weaknesses. This is the better end of the court for Jackson. With long, skinny arms, Jackson is disruptive in the passing lanes with his reach and (normally) his energy, a combination of length, quickness and anticipation that sees him be a disruptive presence on the opponent's offense. The idea that steals do not automatically equate to defense has long been dealt with, yet it is now so automatically rejected that it has become absurd, and all steals numbers are ignored outright. Steals can still be a sign of good defense, and for Jackson, they are. He is a better off-the-ball defender than he is on it - skinny, and liable to give up if beaten, Jackson's instincts off the ball are better than his footwork fundamentals on it. Every now and then, he can also be caught coasting. Regardless of this, though, Jackson draws the toughest match-ups, and will also fight to do his share on the defensive rebounding glass.
All of Jackson's offensive problems, much like those of the team, could have been alleviated somewhat by having a quality point guard on the team. Jackson was brought in to the The Man, but he has not a The Man's game, which rather set him up to fail on offense. A point guard who could get him the ball in better positions off of cuts and run the break more regularly (an area Jackson does well in), who could find him for open spot-ups, and who would give him the ball in good situations often enough that he would feel more likely to give it back, could have helped wonders. Nonetheless, he has at least proven his defensive effectiveness.