SOUTH BEND, Ind. — For Notre Dame sophomore guard Demetrius Jackson, college basketball was different from high school in one obvious but important way in his freshman season.
“Everybody was so good,” Jackson said. “There were a lot of good players we played against last year and in the ACC, everybody is really talented. It took some getting used to.”
This season, Notre Dame hopes the adjustment period is over and Jackson is ready to play an important role in the Irish’s attempt to get back to the NCAA tournament.
No longer is former Irish guard Eric Atkins around to clog the path to playing time. Jackson is the starting point guard and he will be playing — a lot.
That began Friday night when Jackson scored 10 points and had six assists in the Irish’s 82-39 season-opening victory against Binghamton at the Purcell Pavilion.
“I still was trying to understand decision-making and a year of experience and a year of learning, definitely has helped me out,” said Jackson, a rivals.com four-star recruit out of nearby Mishawaka. “I feel like I understand the game a little better, understand our system a little better.”
Jackson seemed at ease running the offense Friday and being the Irish’s backbone defensively, as coach Mike Brey needs him to be this season. In the first half, Jackson scored on a couple of nifty drives to the basket and smiled widely after taking an offensive foul as the Irish built an 18-poiint halftime lead.
No expectations, no disappointment
— Demetrius Jackson (@D_Jay24) November 9, 2014
Brey said he senses Jackson is looser and not as tentative on the court. That may have been the case last season, when Jackson came in with high expectations. Jackson’s struggles extended off the court as well. At one point last season, Brey suspended Jackson until he was able to get his academic priorities in order.
“I think he’s really coming,” Brey said. “He doesn’t have the weight of the world on his shoulders. He doesn’t have to carry us. We’ve simplified the role. Pressure the ball (on defense) — and he has done a fabulous job of unselfishly doing that and just running our team.”
On the court this season, Jackson doesn’t have to be looking over his shoulder after he makes a mistake. Jackson is Notre Dame’s best option at point guard and with senior guard Jerian Grant back to handle scoring duties at the two-guard position, the 6-foot-1 Jackson isn’t burdened with being the Irish’s go-to scorer.
The Irish just want him to be good.
“He’s going to get his minutes no matter what happens,” Grant said. “A turnover here, a turnover there is not going to take him out of the game. He’s going to be able to play the way he wants to play.”