Basketball: Jackson 2.0 better than original

By Kris Shannon

Cedric Jackson. Photo / Getty Images
Cedric Jackson. Photo / Getty Images

Cedric Jackson was the Breakers' best player in his first season at the franchise and, instead of enduring a sophomore slump, he has just got better.

But with the American no longer a novelty in the Australian NBL, how has it happened? Why, with defences able to adjust to his game, has Jackson thoroughly dominated the league through the first two months?

The answer lies largely with Jackson's work in the offseason, during his ultimately unsuccessful attempt to play his way back into the NBA.

Instead of returning to the North Shore burnt out and burdened by his failed dream, Jackson came back with increased powers. His shooting motion, which was never pretty, seemed more fluid and a glut of points arrived with the enhancements.

After averaging 12.8 points on 43 per cent shooting during last season - perfectly acceptable statistics for a pass-first point guard - Jackson has blown those numbers out of the water.

Through 10 games he leads the Breakers and sits second in the league in scoring 16.9 points per game. Jackson is shooting 50 per cent from the floor, trailing only the Breakers' bigs, while his success rate from deep is up 12 percentage points to 37 per cent, bettered only by shooting guard Darryl Corletto.

The scoring spree has been vital to the Breakers' cause, considering the loss of Gary Wilkinson and the inconsistent displays of Tom Abercrombie. But it has taken nothing away from his role running the offence.

In fact, it appears to have improved it. Jackson is creating more chances for his teammates than last season - his league-leading assist total of eight per game is 1.5 more than what he managed in his first year.

As the gaudy assist numbers show, when Jackson has the ball in his hands defences don't know which trick he is about to pull from his considerable bag.

And that is perhaps where Jackson 2.0 outperforms the original version. Teams last year would make Jackson try to beat them with his shooting - a preferred poison to letting him drive to the hoop or find an open teammate - but this year he is a triple threat.

Those shooting adjustments made to aid his NBA prospects have also boosted not only his own points totals but opportunities for the rest of the Breakers.

"It's hard to guard him with one person," coach Andrej Lemanis said. "His ability to get in the lane creates numbers advantages. And then he's a great decision-maker - he's one of those guys who can score himself or he can make a pass."

Jackson had another hypothesis for his surge to the front of the MVP race - an award he was denied last season - one backed up by feel rather than a line in a box score.

The 26-year-old said opposing teams' familiarity of him was countered by his knowledge of both the league and his own side, knowledge which has seen him step into a leadership role in the table-topping team.

"[2001/12] was my first year overseas, so I didn't really know what to expect. I was just chilling in the back and just trying to find my spot on the team. As the year went by I started to get more comfortable, started to know my role and started to know the guys.

"Now that I've had a taste of it, I came over this year ready to go from the start. I knew what to expect so I've just tried to take on the challenge."

- APNZ

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