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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Scouting Report: Pierre Jackson

Coming out of Southern Idaho as a JUCO player in 2011, Pierre Jackson was an already decorated player having been named MVP of the Junior College Tournament en route to winning the National Title. He was considered the #1 junior college recruit that year over the likes of Nurideen Lindsay and Sam Grooms and inked his letter of intent to Baylor. With Tweety Carter having graduated, Baylor was in need of a point guard and Scott Drew elected to go with AJ Walton to start the 2011-12 campaign. But right before conference play, he made the switch to Pierre Jackson and he never looked back from there. Jackson took the point guard spot and ran with it, leading Baylor to the Elite 8 while averaging over 17 points and 6 assists during their NCAA Tournament run. While most of his teammates headed for the NBA, he returned for one more year at Baylor - his senior season and has continued to post impressive numbers. Jackson led the Big 12 in both scoring and assisting this season, becoming the first player to lead a major conference in those two stats since Jason Terry did it in the late 90s for Arizona. Despite his strong individual play, Baylor underachieved to their talent level and winded up in the NIT - where they play Iowa in the championship game Thursday Night.

Pierre Jackson stands under 6 feet tall - listed at 5'10 - but has a good built to him. He's not the bowling ball type guard, but he is able to handle contact and use his strength to combat his lack of height. His athleticism and skillset is his biggest tool for compensating his height, however, as he possessing great quickness and solid explosiveness at the rim.

Ever the passer, Jackson holds the all-time assist record in the state of Nevada and has continued to carve up defenses at Baylor. He has an extremely tight handle that he is able to use to toy with defenses. There is nobody in college basketball who is able to dribble around defenders and make guys look silly quite like Jackson can. He is always in control with the ball and is able to get to whatever spot on the court he wants - often looking to deliver a pass to a teammate. He's great at pushing it in transition, driving and kicking, finding guys going to the rim, and uses angles to create looks for his teammates. When it comes to passing, Jackson appears to be a natural and more than willing.

Jackson is also able to provide scoring and often scores in bunches. He uses the same ability to get to whatever spot he wants on the court to set up jumpers, where he is able to stop on a dime and pull up from anywhere. He takes jumpers from all over the court and is not afraid to pull up early in the shot clock if he catches a defender trying to play off of him. He constantly looks to keep the defense honest with his jumper so he can beat them with the drive the very next play. Its the balance in Jackson's game that makes him so lethal as he literally can do just about anything on the court.

Jackson can rely on his jumpshot too much at times and is better when he is in attack mode. He can get jumpers at any point of time which makes it tough to pass up the looks, but its also the exact reason he should be patient and look to create more plays inside for himself and teammates. Jackson takes nearly half of his shots from 3-pt range and hits them at a 35% clip. For the undersized guard, range is not an issue and he does not hesitate to pull up from a few steps behind the arc.

For the most part, Jackson plays the game smart and does a good job balancing his own scoring and assisting. Its really hard to argue otherwise - after all  he did lead the league in both categories and he had a lot on his plate. There will be times where Jackson looks almost exclusively to pass the ball and racks up plenty of assists and there are other times where he knows his team needs him to score and he is able to flip that switch to score on and off. He seems to have a knack for stepping his play up at the most important times which speaks to just how much talent he has. There literally isn't anything or anybody he can't do/score against at the college level. He won MVP in the National JUCO tournament, posted big numbers in the NCAA tournament, and has scored over 20 points and 10 assists in each of this years NIT games. This is a big time player.

Saying that, it is hard to say there isn't a role for Jackson in the NBA. Put him in an environment with even better competition and you can guarantee that his play will take an even bigger step up. Jackson has shown the ability to run the pick and roll to perfection, showing the he is able to slow down his play and take apart a defense with more smart play rather than just quickness. This year, he has played with two good pick and pop big men (Jefferson and Austin) and has been able to manipulate the defense into getting them open looks. His pick and roll game can get even better because of his mastery of ball handling, his ability to dribble around defenses in traffic, the threat of his pull up game, his ability to split defenders, and his passing. Really, he has everything needed to be a good pick and roll player minus the idea size. Much like Isaiah Thomas, I see him being able to carve out a solid role off the bench providing both scoring and stability at the point - whatever the team needs on any given night.

I'd actually rate Jackson as a better prospect as Thomas coming out of college as well. His biggest concern that he will be able to answer is his defensive intensity. Jackson will never be a great defender because of the height he gives up - offensive players even in college have shown that you can score over top of him at will - but a better effort from him for a full game is expected.

Jackson is very young for a senior and won't turn 22 until late August. That combined with only two years at a D1 school give him a little bit more upside than a normal player in his position. If he had a chance to play one more year in D1, I think he'd have a very realistic shot at being a 1st team All-American. He is a high character guy and there is good reason to believe Jackson could carve out a long NBA career in a bench/spark plug role.

Jackson currently projects as a second rounder and he could even potentially go undrafted, but I think with good workouts and interviews - two things I expect - Jackson should find himself a home in Round 2. 

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