Jackson deserves league honors
Reported by Scott Pitoniak
Heís regarded as a long-shot for Big East Player-of-the-Year honors and thatís too bad because Rick Jackson is clearly deserving. Without the 6-foot-9 senior post player, 12th-ranked Syracuse would be closing in on an NIT tournament bid instead of a high-seed in the upcoming NCAAs.
Statistics convey Jacksonís dominance and night-in, night-out consistency at both ends of the floor. He leads the league in rebounding (10.8 per game), field goal percentage (.591), blocked shots (2.4 pg) and double-doubles (17 in 30 games). Plus, heís shown his versatility, playing equally well on the wing or in the middle of SUís 2-3 zone.
And voters also should be impressed with the young manís work ethic. Motivated by his poor performance, while filling in for injured center Arinze Onuaku in last yearís Sweet 16 loss to Butler, Jackson spent the off-season sculpting himself into a stronger, quicker player. The Philadelphia native pared 25 pounds, and showed that less can be more.
He is sure to receive a well-deserved ovation when he plays his final game at the Carrier Dome in SUís regular-season finale against DePaul Saturday afternoon.
And if the people who vote on league honors do their homework, theyíll give him serious consideration for the Big Eastís highest honor the following week in New York. Heís definitely worthy.
Jacksonís performance this winter clearly has impressed NBA scouts. And heíll have additional opportunities during the Big East and NCAAs to inch up their draft boards. Most mock drafts Iíve checked have him going in the second round this June. The highest Iíve seen him projected is 36th overall to the New Jersey Nets (sixth pick of the second round).
Interestingly, although he still has another year of eligibility, one mock draft has junior forward Kris Joseph declaring early for the NBA and being chosen 33rd overall by the Toronto Raptors. I donít sense Joseph will leave early. He still has much work to do and would enhance his draft position by playing his senior year at SU.
With 27 consecutive free throws, Brandon Triche is just eight shy of breaking the school mark established by Mike Lee back in 1972. Gerry McNamara, SUís most accurate free-throw shooter of all-time, twice swished 30 straight. Interestingly, after ending his first streak of 30, he reeled off another 30 in a row. Sixty of 61. Thatís not too shabby.
Syracuse is 24-6 overall and 11-6 in the league. The Orange currently is in fifth place, a half-game behind St. Johnís. SU needs to beat DePaul and have either Seton Hall (Thursday) or South Florida (Saturday) defeat the red-hot Red Storm in order to move into fourth and receive one of the double-byes in next weekís Big East tournament. Because SU defeated St. Johnís in the regular season, it holds the tiebreaker, meaning the other scenario that would earn the Orange a double-bye would be if it lost to DePaul and St. Johnís lost its final two games. If the standings hold as they are today, Syracuse would open on Wednesday and would have to win four straight instead of three straight in order to capture the tourney title.
I was glad to see that Onuaku has fully recovered from the torn quadriceps tendon that felled him and his teamís national championship dreams last March. The schoolís all-time field goal percentage leader recently signed a contract to play for the Houston Rockets team in the NBA Developmental League.