Diminutive point guard Pierre Jackson is used to being underestimated
Standing just 5-foot-10 and selected in the second round of the NBA draft Thursday night, the odds seem to be against former Baylor point guard Pierre Jackson.
He was chosen 42nd overall by the Philadelphia 76ers, but the pick was made for the New Orleans Pelicans as part of the Nerlens Noel/Jrue Holiday trade.
“I’ve been dealing with stuff like this my whole life,” he said Friday. “I’ve had a bunch of road blocks in my way, and I ended up getting past all that and being successful. People said I wouldn’t last a semester in junior college. Then they said I wouldn’t get a scholarship to a (Division I) college. They said I wasn’t going to the NBA, but I heard my name called (Thursday) night.”
Noel, a center from Kentucky who was expected to be the No. 1 pick, fell to the Pelicans at No. 6. He was traded along with a protected 2014 first-round pick to Philadelphia for the second-round pick and Holiday, an athletic point guard the Pelicans coveted.
The 76ers were picking for the Pelicans at No. 42, Jackson confirmed. He has the same agent as Holiday — Woodland, Texas-based Tony Dutt.
“That’s what I’ve been told,” Jackson said Friday. “I got traded.”
Jackson said he talked with Pelicans General Manager Dell Demps at the NBA combine.
“He asked me a bunch of questions,” he said. “And he said if I’d come out last year, he was thinking about drafting me. So ... he liked what he saw.”
As a junior at Baylor, Jackson often came off the bench. Bears coach Scott Drew said he gave the team a boost.
Jackson did that this season, too, but in a much bigger way. He led the Big 12 in scoring (19.1 points) and assists (7.1), and he was selected first-team all-conference. Baylor missed the NCAA tournament but won the NIT, and Jackson was named tournament MVP.
Drew said the Pelicans are getting an outstanding player.
“I think college coaches, the NBA scouts, sometimes we get caught up on size and length, and at the end of the day, production matters,” Drew said.
Asked to describe Jackson, Drew offered “unguardable with the new NBA rules” against hand-checking.
“Because of his speed, it’s real tough to stay in front of him. And because of his shot-making ability, you have to stay out on him, which allows him to drive,” Drew said. “He’s very, very good on the pick-and-roll. That’s the majority of what we do offensively.”
Because of his lack of height, there will be questions about Jackson’s ability to defend point guards who are just as quick but also are 3 to 5 inches taller — or more. Jackson said he has been guarding taller opponents for a long time.
“I’m quick, and I have quick hands as well,” he said. “Bigger guys don’t like me guarding them. I get under their skin, make ’em turn a lot, make ’em do what they don’t want to do.”
Former Reserve Christian High School and Baylor point guard Tweety Carter, who works out with Jackson to prepare for his seasons playing professionally overseas, said Jackson may be small, but he’s very athletic.
“He is very fast and surprisingly strong,” Carter said. “He holds his ground well, and he’s a good leaper. He’s a very smart player. I don’t think his size will be a problem.”
Jackson’s skills, including a 40-inch vertical leap, have yielded likenesses to Chicago dynamo Nate Robinson.
“I think that’s a good comparison,” Jackson said, “because of our athletic ability, speed, strength, toughness and the way we jump. And we both can shoot the ball.”
Jackson is one of five players to lead a BCS conference in scoring and assists in the same season, joining Gary Payton (Oregon State, 1989-90), Damon Stoudamire (Arizona, 1994-95), Andre Woolridge (Iowa, 1996-97) and Jason Terry (Arizona, 1997-98).
Jackson said he had expected to be picked in the first round, but he understood why he fell to the second, where contracts aren’t guaranteed. After meeting with Demps, he became ill and left the combine on the second day. Then, while working out for San Antonio three weeks ago, he injured his left patella.
“I just jumped and, once I came down, there was an awful feeling in my knee,” he said. “It was at the beginning of the workout.”
Jackson said the knee has gotten better, but it’s about 50-50 he’ll be able to play for the Pelicans during the NBA’s summer league.
More importantly, he said he knows he can help them during the regular season.
“I’m an energizing player,” he said. “I play with a lot of passion for the game. I like to play fast, in the open court, but I’m good in the half court, too. I can get my teammates the ball and, if I have to score, I can take on that responsibility.”