Feb. 18, 2012
By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Insider
Lobbing one pass after another to Perry Jones III and Quincy Acy for highlight-reel dunks, Pierre Jackson was “like a little kid in a candy store.” He wanted to buy up everything in the place.
Or in this case: Where do I sign?
“It was ridiculous,” said Jackson, who signed with the Baylor basketball program last April after leading his College of Southern Idaho team to the NJCAA national championship. “I couldn’t stop talking about it. They made it real fun. My team that I was playing with was basically the starting five, I think, without Quincy Miller. So it was ridiculous. We kind of beat the heck out of the other team.”
During that open-gym session on his recruiting visit, the 5-foot-10 junior point guard also won over his future teammates.
“When I saw him in open gym, it was like, ‘We have to get him,’’’ said senior forward Quincy Acy. “He just has a great feel for the game. He’s unbelievably fast, he’s smart with the ball, he makes great passes and he can score. What else would you want? He’s like Tweety Carter.”
PJ3 said Jackson was “just amazed when he threw it up and saw that we were able to go get it.”
“He was like a little kid in a candy store. He was like, ‘I’m loving this!’’’ said Jones III, who’s been the beneficiary of many of Jackson’s alley-oop passes. “A point guard’s just got to have good communication with his bigs more than anything, because we’re the ones that finish around the rim. So if he goes to the hole and doesn’t have anywhere to go, he can always find us.”
Jackson has been a welcomed addition to a Baylor team that’s 22-4 overall, 9-4 in the Big 12 and ranked ninth in the nation going into Saturday’s 12:45 p.m. game against Kansas State (17-8, 6-7).
After a first semester that saw him turn it over almost as much as he dished it off, he’s been one of the most efficient point guards in the nation during conference play with a 2.00 assists-to-turnover ratio (96-48). He’s ranked second in the Big 12 and 27th nationally in assists (5.88 per game) and is also second in the league in steals (1.73 per game) and 3-point shooting percentage (44.0).
“I think Pierre, as with most junior college players, it takes about a semester to just adapt to the defensive schemes and the help-side (defense) and the scouting that goes into it at this level,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “At this point, you cannot worry about thinking the game and just play it. It seems natural to you rather than trying to run certain offenses or defenses. And then the other thing is you get a much better feel for what officials call and what passes your teammates can handle and not handle.”
Growing up in the shadows of the bright lights of Las Vegas, Nev., Jackson started developing his moves at the Boys & Girls Club when he would “dribble all the way there and dribble all the way back home.”
“I never really went to any basketball camps or anything,” said Jackson, who started dunking when he was just 13 years old. “Me and my brother used to take that walk (to the Boys & Girls Club) almost every day to the same gym around the corner.”
As a senior at Desert Pines High School, Jackson earned first-team All-State honors when he scored 736 points and led the state with 263 assists. He also was named MVP of the Las Vegas All-Star Game and co-MVP of Sunrise Division.
But when he failed to qualify academically for a Division I school, he went the junior college route. Following in the footsteps of Juan Pattillo, a former AAU teammate who went on to play for Oklahoma, Jackson signed with College of Southern Idaho.
During the summer before his freshman season at CSI, Jackson shattered his right elbow and underwent a surgery that left him with a plate and screws in the repaired area. Unable to extend the arm when he was shooting the ball, he averaged just 7.8 points while dishing out 4.6 assists that first season.
“Shattering my elbow, that just killed me,” he said. “I was in the gym a lot. I was in the gym probably more than the designated shooters we had at CSI. I just had to get it back.”
Going into his sophomore year, Jackson had little if any offers. But he averaged 18.6 points, 4.4 assists and 3.8 rebounds, leading CSI to a national championship and earning MVP honors at the national tournament to go along with NJCAA Division I Player of the Year.
That’s when the real offers started flying in and Baylor started showing interest.
“Once you know you want a player, you’re always looking around the gym, hoping no one else is there,” Drew said. “At the national tournament, a lot of people found out about him that probably didn’t know about him. But we were fortunate enough to get him.”
While Jackson didn’t start until 19 games into the season, his impact was immediate. He sealed an 86-83 win at BYU when he blocked 6-9 Brandon Davies’ 3-point shot at the buzzer and then hit a 3-pointer that forced overtime in an 83-81 win over West Virginia when he played back home at the Las Vegas Classic.
“As far as his clutch performances, that’s something you really don’t know about a player until you see him in the heat of battle in competition,” Drew said. “He thrives in that moment, and he doesn’t take bad shots. But the best thing is he wants the ball in his hands. Some players at crunch time don’t want it. Others want it and don’t make the right plays. He’s the best of both worlds.”
That knack for making the clutch plays carried over to Big 12 play as well. He hit a 3-pointer with 16.3 seconds left in a 63-60 win at Texas A&M and then buried the go-ahead try in a 76-71 win at home against Texas.
“I just like to win,” said Jackson, who’s second on the team with a 12.4-point scoring average. “So whatever I’ve got to do to win, I just try to do it. If I’ve got to get the ball and score or pass it to one of our big men, then I’m going to do it.”
Jackson is certainly capable of scoring 20 every night if he has to. But on a team loaded with scorers, he’s developed into more of a distributor. After averaging a shade over four assists in his first 14 games in a Baylor uniform, he’s bumped that up to 7.7 over a 12-game stretch that included 11 each in road games at Kansas State and Kansas and a career-high 15 in an 89-88 loss at home to Missouri.
“He’s made some mistakes,” Drew said. “But at the same time, he’s one of those guys who can turn the ball over and steal it back in the same possession before the other team even knows they had it. He just brings a lot to the table. With his scoring and passing, it makes him a dual threat. And I think defense is the big area where he’s continued to improve. And he still has a ways to go to reach his full potential, because he can be a lock-down defender and somebody that people don’t want to be guarded by.”
Now if he could just help one of his idols, the Miami Heat’s LeBron James, with that whole “clutch” mentality at the end of games.
“I hate it, because that’s my favorite player in the world. I love that dude,” Jackson said. “But I’ve seen it, so I can’t even argue it. If I could talk to LeBron, I’d try to get in his head and tell him that he’s the best player in the world, he’s got to over.”