Sunday, July 09, 2000

XU courting Purcell star


Jackson's stock rises at Nike camp

By Mike DeCourcy
The Cincinnati Enquirer

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Keith Jackson
(Steven M. Herppich photo)
| ZOOM |
        INDIANAPOLIS — For the longest time, Purcell Marian basketball star Keith Jackson pictured himself in a red, white and black Cincinnati uniform when he competed in his first Crosstown Shootout. So, during his informal visit to the Xavier campus a few weeks ago, the Musketeers gave him an audio version of what it would be like to instead suit up for XU.

        The highlight of his tour of XU's new Cintas Center was a mock radio broadcast of a future Shootout matching Xavier and UC, with Jackson starring for the Musketeers.

        Jackson, a 6-foot-5 shooting guard who averaged 16 points and nine rebounds as a junior, is beginning to give serious consideration to crossing over from UC's side to XU's.

        “I don't really think of it like that, because I always liked both of them,” he said. “I never really cared who won the Shootout. I just liked UC's colors.”

        As the recruiting game for the class of 2001 has developed, Jackson has become more of a target for Xavier than the Bearcats. His play Saturday afternoon at the Nike All-American Camp had to please Musketeers coach Skip Prosser, whose program is in competition for Jackson with Michigan State and Dayton.

        It was the first day of the summer evaluation period for college basketball recruits, and Jackson was among 180 of the nation's top players whose first stop in a 24-day, nationwide tour was the Nike camp at the National Institute for Fitness and Sport.

        With Prosser and XU assistant coach Mark Schmidt seated in the first row of bleachers along the baseline and Michigan State assistant Brian Gregory leaning against a nearby wall, Jackson clearly outplayed Antonio Hudson of Grambling, La. Jackson continued to climb in the estimation of the folks who gauge high school talent.

        “He's very athletic, and he showed he could consistently shoot,” said Dan Wetzel of the HoopsTV.com website. “He had a high energy level, and I thought he played pretty tough defense, which is often a rare commodity at events like this.”

        Jackson concedes his shooting has improved since he attended the Nike Camp a year ago. He always had been a player who dunked first and shot jumpers only when there was no other option.

        In a scrimmage session Friday night, though, Jackson began by hitting an 18-foot pull-up jumper from the left corner and later hit another from two steps closer to the basket. In Saturday's game, he squeezed along the baseline for a reverse layup, scored twice on dunks and nailed a spot-up 15-foot jumper.

        Jackson is unusual among young players in that he is comfortable shooting off of dribble moves, but he has to develop a feel for making shots immediately after catching the ball. He's learning the game in the opposite direction from most of his peers.

        As his game progresses, he needs to extend his range to 3-point territory.

        “That's what everybody says I need to work on — a lot of college coaches,” Jackson said. “It takes away from me that I'm not an accurate shooter out there, so that's what I've been working on, to knock down the three. I'm a lot more comfortable out there than I used to be.”

        After he leaves the Nike Camp, Jackson will head to Louisville with the Cincinnati AAU No. 1 team for the Kentucky Hoopfest. From July 24-30 in Orlando, that team will be among the favorites in the AAU 17-under national championships.

        The experience of playing for coach Mike Price is valuable for Jackson, because the Cincinnati AAU team is not the prototypical roll-out-the-balls summer team. Price's team is more structured and precise, which forces Jackson to control his baseline-to-baseline impulses.

        “I like to move, so I'm just used to dribbling and pulling up,” Jackson said. “I don't like shooting just standing there, but I've got to do it if I want to get more points. I'd still rather drive. I feel like I can get to the basket on everybody.”

        Jackson believes he can fit into the Xavier system and finds the idea of playing home games throughout his career at the Cintas Center “one of the things that really appeals to me.'

        He believes Dayton similar in many respects to XU and likes the fact it also is a short drive from home. Michigan State is the defending national champion and is shopping for three perimeter players. The Spartans are fighting UC and Connecticut for top-five talent Kelvin Torbert of Flint, Mich., but Jackson is one of a few players who could fill the other vacancies.

        “All three of them are real tight-knit, not too big,” Jackson said. “That's really what I'm looking for.”

       



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