Among NBA analysts, the term “pure” point guard is often tossed around. Experts are quick to call Steve Nash and Chris Paul pure point guards while Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose are scoring guards. Though the term itself may be a misnomer, there is no way to determine what would be the purest type of guard, a passing point guard can certainly make a team better.
Thankfully for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, they managed to recruit one of the best pure passers in the 2013 recruiting class. His name is Demetrius Jackson and the Indiana native played his high school ball at Marian High School.
While he was pursued by many schools, only three offered scholarships. The schools were: Kansas, Illinois and Notre Dame. It was a tough decision for Jackson, who officially visited with the Fighting Illini before eventually committing to Fighting Irish instead.
Here is a video put together from Jackson’s McDonald’s All American performance.
First and foremost, Jackson is a stereotypical pass first point guard. Think Andre Miller, he is always looking to set up his teammates for easy points and demonstrates exceptional unselfishness on the court. Jackson is blessed with terrific vision and anticipation which he uses to deliver some brilliant passes to open teammates. Often he will pass the ball to a spot where a teammate should be headed towards before his teammate even realizes it. That kind of superior anticipation will help him greatly at the NCAA level and should translate immediately.
In the transition game, Jackson is extremely dangerous thanks to his great speed and passing ability. If Jackson pulls down a defensive rebound, he will turn on the jets and immediately start a fast break. If his team has a numbers advantage on the opponent, Jackson will almost always make them pay with a perfectly delivered pass.
Passing is not his only positive trait though. Jackson is also a good shooter and scorer. His form is nice and smooth and looks good on release. As for his ability to score in the paint, his great explosiveness from the jump helps him finish at the rim despite his average height (6”1). Jackson’s range extends out to the three point line where he can make them when he is open though he is still a bit inconsistent with it.
Another advantage as an offensive player is that Jackson is really intelligent basketball wise. He understands how to run plays and essentially is a coach on the floor. When attacking the rim, he is good at keeping his dribble alive and not committing himself to a bad situation which a lot of young point guards are prone to do. Defensively, he is not great but again, he is smart. Jackson understands his role within a system and rarely commits any egregious errors.
On the court, he is also a natural leader, both by example and vocally. He is the guy who is always encouraging his teammates to keep shooting, helps guys up and generally doesn’t let them ease up on the defense. Since the point guard is often said to be an extension of the coach, they are often looked upon to provide leadership. Those that can do that naturally usually find it a lot easier to adapt to the NCAA game than a player who plays point guard more out of need than natural ability.
The biggest thing that will hurt Jackson going forward is his size. At 6”1 and 194 pounds, he is going to face against guys that are bigger, quicker and stronger than him. On the offensive end, that will make it harder for Jackson to get by his defender. At the rim, he will be met by even bigger and taller defenders who will make his life tough as a scorer. Defensively, the bigger guys will be able to bully Jackson around with their weight and the quicker ones should be able to drive around Jackson and have a lane to the rim.
Though he likely won’t be able to fix his height at this point, Jackson can work at gaining some muscle and adding some weight. While he is a quick guy, speed is not his biggest skill so he can afford to gain a little bit of weight without worrying too much about losing a lot of agility or speed. Once he has gained some mass, he should be able to hold his won defensively against the bigger guys and he can work on his lateral movement to keep up with the faster ones.
At times, Jackson can be a little too unselfish on the court. The same accusations have been made of Rajon Rondo so you could say he is in good company, but Jackson will occasionally not take an easy scoring opportunity to make an extra pass. Being a willing passer is important for a point guard but it is also a big thing to understand that there are also times when you have to score. If defenders start noticing that Jackson barely ever shoots, they will sag off on him and let his defender roam around like a free safety, playing the passing lanes and making it harder for Jackson to set up his teammates.
What to expect at Notre Dame:
While he probably could, Jackson likely will not start for the Fighting Irish next season. Eric Atkins will be finishing up his NCAA career and Big East all rookie team member Jerian Grant is back for his sophomore season. With those two sharing the backcourt minutes, Jackson should be coming off the bench to give them a rest and slowly get some experience and a taste of what the NCAA competition is like.
After Atkins graduates, whether or not Grant remains past this year, Jackson should find himself with the keys to the Fighting Irish offense. His potential as a point guard is limitless and given the right teammates, he could run an excellent high octane offense that could do some real damage at the NCAA level.
If he is able to bulk up a little bit and prove that he can score at a consistent, and efficient, level, Jackson should become one of the best players in the NCAA. Guys like him who work hard, understand the game and have a natural skill set are too good not to make an impact and the same should ring true for Jackson. He will just need a little bit of time to adjust.