Softly spoken and laid-back off the court, a hint of fire appears in Cedric Jackson's eyes when quizzed about his Australian NBL awards snub.
The Breakers point guard was fourth in voting for the most valuable player award after a season that looked MVP-calibre to many observers.
Jackson was named in the All-ANBL first team at the ceremony in Melbourne on Monday, but he left little doubt missing out on the larger prize would add fuel to his fire when the Breakers open their playoff campaign against Townsville tomorrow night.
"Oh, yeah, most definitely," he said when asked if he had increased motivation. "It's definitely going to be something that I'll be looking at."
That spells bad news for the Crocs' chances at Auckland's Vector Arena and in the three-game semifinal series as a whole. Leading the league in assists and steals, as well as being the second-best rebounding guard, Jackson is a force at both ends of the court even when bereft of added incentive.
In the Breakers' three games against Townsville this season, the American has averaged 11 points, eight rebounds and seven assists - numbers which helped the Breakers sweep the season series.
Now the Crocs will be facing Jackson with the awards night slight in the back of his mind, and the results might not be pretty.
"I was a little bit [disappointed]," Jackson said, adding that the club's decision to not put his name forward for defensive player of the year also irked him. "It is what it is. The votes and everything like that, I don't know how they do it out here but it's all good."
Jackson was not the only Breaker to miss out on individual acclaim. Alex Pledger was overlooked in the sixth man and most improved categories, while Mika Vukona lost out in the defensive player award.
"I'm pretty sure everybody else, certain guys who didn't get honoured, will probably be a little more motivated as well," Jackson said. "But I'll be staying within myself and not doing anything different to what I've done all year. Just staying within the team and playing Breakers basketball."
To add insult to injury, Jackson and Tom Abercrombie, who both attended the awards ceremony, were subject to the rigours of an extended road trip to Melbourne after Sunday night's game on the Gold Coast. The Townsville Crocs, on the other hand, were conspicuous by their absence at the ceremony but Jackson thought that would give the north Queenslanders no extra advantage.
"No, I don't think so. I've been taking care of my body and staying fresh for playoffs. When I get out there, I'll be more fresh than some of the guys."
That will be music to the ears of Breakers fans, as will Jackson's assertion that his team are built to take on Townsville and triumph. He said that had less to do with the Breakers' success against the Crocs this season and was more about the Breakers' defence and its ability to nullify the Crocs' attacking talent.
"We're definitely up for a tough Townsville team. They have a lot of weapons but we're able to match up with them well with our defence.
"We definitely want to keep our eye on them - just because we beat them three times it doesn't mean anything. This is 0-0. This is what really counts.
"Finally the playoffs are here."
And if the Breakers go on to repeat as ANBL champions, you can bet the MVP ballot will be the furthest thing from Jackson's mind.
- APNZBy Kris Shannon Email Kris