Basketball: Jackson in action at both ends

By Kris Shannon

Breakers Cedric Jackson in action. Photo / Greg Bowker
Breakers Cedric Jackson in action. Photo / Greg Bowker

As the leader of the Breakers' offence and one of their best at the defensive end, Cedric Jackson knows more than most about the shifting dynamic between the two.

Ahead of tomorrow night's game against Sydney on the North Shore, this season has so far seen a departure from the Breakers' free-scoring ways from recent years - their 3-1 record has been built not on blowing teams out but on shutting them down.

They have scored 25 points fewer per game in their first three wins than at the same stage last season, but the 74 points they have averaged have been enough to triumph thanks to a miserly defence giving up only 65 points per game.

Jackson, though, insists there has been no change in philosophy as the side search for a third straight championship. As the captain of the ship, he is confident the offence is set for some smoother sailing.

"It's all about rhythm," Jackson said. "We want to just focus on the defensive end.

We know we have a lot of weapons and the offence will take care of itself. So that's something that we don't really focus on too much."

The point guard did concede, however, there has been a little more attention paid to that end of the court than in his first campaign with the club.

That's largely due to some ugly shooting numbers. The free burgers given to the home crowd when the side cracks three figures seem but a distant memory, and the fans will stay hungry as long as the Breakers continue to shoot just 41 per cent from the field.

Jackson has been something of an exception to that rule, with his improvements an evident benefit from a summer spent working on his game in an attempt to make it back to the NBA.

While his field goal percentage of 47 per cent is decent, the same number from beyond the arc leaves him in the league's top five in three-point percentage. Jackson's 15 points per game lead the Breakers, and it would by a considerably wider margin were it not for a woeful 38 per cent success rate from the free throw line.

Coach Andrej Lemanis spoke of a slight change in technique sparking Jackson's increased threat from deep, but the player said it was more a shift in mindset.

"I wouldn't say it's too different," he said of his shot. "Just a bit more emphasis on different aspects of the game. Trying to be more aggressive, learning when to take the wide-open shot. It was definitely a good, hard-working summer."

In the end, it was an unsuccessful summer, with the Breakers the benefactors from Jackson's inability to land an NBA contract. With the best league in the world resuming this week, Jackson said he had no longing for what might have been.

"No, I don't get the pangs. I'm still happy here and this is my main focus."

The 26-year-old will undoubtedly have another crack at the NBA during the next off-season, and said he still maintains contact with friends around the league.

"Some of the guys hit me up every now and then, checking up on me and seeing how I'm doing. One of my good buddies checked up on my stats last game and hit me up about free throws and turnovers and stuff like that," he said with a laugh. "A lot of them are point guards and say, 'watch those turnovers'."

- APNZ

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