When Demetrius Jackson committed to the University of Notre Dame, there was plenty of confusion. That was because, at the time, Jackson was a McDonald's All-American and looked at as one of the best point guards in the country.
During his senior season, he was recruited by Illinois, Notre Dame and even national powerhouse Kansas. Despite not normally regarded as a destination for a one-and-done type talent like Jackson, the Fighting Irish were able to sign the local product out of Elkhart, Indiana anyway. After spending three years under Mike Brey, learning from future NBA players Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton, Jackson developed into one of the most reliable point guard prospects in the class.
Standing at 6'2'' and 194 pounds, the young gun played a major role for the Irish, averaging 15.8 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 4.7 assists during his junior year. His wonderful conditioning, scoring ability, pesky defensive nature, and upside as a facilitator could all stand to make him tempting as a late-lottery pick. That said, there are still enough deficiencies in his game that could cause him to slip all the way into the second round.
If there is one thing that can be said about Jackson, it's that he is in incredible shape. His muscular frame helps him absorb and finish through contact. His explosiveness lets him finish above the rim. What's more, he plays a tough, downhill brand of basketball when attacking the rim. He can jump off of one or two feet and finish above the rim when given the chance.
Due to the log-jam at point guard during his freshman and sophomore seasons, Jackson was forced out of his natural position. Most of his minutes came at shooting guard. Because of Grant and Eric Atkins' offensive roles during Jackson's first two years, he became used to playing both on and off the ball.
Despite not playing for a team where defense was a key priority, Jackson still managed to show flashes of his potential. When focused, he is a great on-ball defender. He can stay in front of his man and uses his quickness and strength to contain his opponents. The youngster has quick hands, a good defensive stance, and a great wingspan of at 6'5''. Jackson serves as an the ideal full-court press defender because he is skilled at attacking the ball, keeping everything in front of him, and making plays in the open floor.
While there are some concerns with his ability to run an offense at the next level, he is a capable passer. Since becoming the primary ball handler, Jackson showed that he is an above average pick and roll passer and is great at dishing pocket passes to the screener as they roll towards the hoop. He is extremely dangerous on the drive, given his handles and ability to get to the rim. But what makes him almost lethal is his vision and ability to kick out to a wide open shooter.
Jackson's short height has hurt his draft stock considerably. Problems in his game are only magnified, due to a lack of height that would otherwise be acceptable if he was just three or four inches taller.
He will have trouble adjusting to the size and strength of the NBA. On offense, Jackson could struggle scoring in the paint. On defense, he can only guard one position, something that is very unattractive for a prospect coming into today's NBA.
The guard has relied on his physical gifts more than his skill in college. Players like Isaiah Thomas and Nate Robinson are extremely skilled and use craftiness to make up for what they lack in height. Jackson, on the other hand, did not work on becoming crafty or developing a game that is complementary to his stature
While playing off the ball for two years did wonders for his game, it stunted his growth as a true point guard. He lacks the creativity to create something out of nothing and his size limits his vision. While at Notre Dame, Jackson would routinely neglect wide open players. It is clear that the game still moves relatively fast for Jackson. His indecisiveness with the ball in his hands sometimes leads to dead possessions, because he either dribbles himself into trouble or makes the wrong pass. Jackson becomes flustered into turnovers and makes poor decisions when pressured; he sometimes puts teammates into a poor position.
Coach Brey has never been known to emphasize defense. He expects the team to be a juggernaut on offense and not give up the farm on defense. This philosophy trickled down to Jackson's game. There is no questioning his physical tools on defense, but there are still serious questions about his motivation. He would routinely take plays off, especially when he was the on-ball defender. He let opposing players drive past him, and would bite on just about any fake given his way. All of this could be a side-effect from Brey's defensive scheme.
Jackson will be a good player at the next level. If he can become a reliable perimeter player and a pesky on-ball defender, Jackson will for sure find a spot on just about any squad for years to come. Taking him in the lottery might be a stretch, but he should be taken somewhere in the first round. Jackson is two or three tweaks in his game away from becoming a dangerous player. Hopefully the right team can coax it out of him.