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Your Rick Jackson Draft Status Update

Over the years, the NBA Draft has been one area from which Syracuse has kept its foothold as a college basketball power. In the Boeheim era, SU has averaged roughly one player drafted per year. They haven’t always been can’t-miss first-round types like Carmelo Anthony, but hearing the commissioner call your name from the podium and announce your school isn’t lost on recruits and analysts. In this department, the Orange has been on a hot streak as of late, with first round selections in three consecutive seasons and two lottery picks in Johnny Flynn and Wesley Johnson in the last two. Going back to 2007, Syracuse has had at least one player selected in each of the last four drafts, but that streak could be in jeopardy this summer.

As the Draft comes next month, the eyes of Cuse Nation are focused on one player – Rick Jackson. We don’t have to go back and walk all the way through his productive career and breakout senior season, but I’ve never been shy about my appreciation for his consistent style and steady efficiency. To the rest of the college basketball world, though, he’s been very much under the radar, perhaps best evidenced in March when the conference’s head coaches relegated him to the All-Big East Second Team, despite leading the conference in rebounding by a wide margin and averaging a double-double. Looking forward to the NBA Draft, it’s becoming evident that he’ll face another uphill battle in late June.

Jackson impressed in last month’s Portsmouth Invitational Tournament due to his intense motor, court smarts and superb conditioning. However, his weaknesses of limited range and perimeter defense, the latter which is partially a product of the zone defense in which he played, won’t translate very well at the next level. Rather, he’ll carve out a rep by setting picks, crashing the offensive glass and using his good hands to finish and make passes out of the low post. There’s a shade of irony in that many of those skills were embodied at the college level by Kristof Ongenaet, the man Jackson replaced as a full-time starter in his sophomore season, but Jackson’s size and offensive production are what separated him.

Where he sits right now is in the dreaded purgatory of late second round/undrafted free agent status. If worst comes to worst and he isn’t drafted, he stands a very good chance of being signed by a team, at the very least to provide competition and depth, and he’ll be back to a similar position in which he found himself in the early years of his SU career, fighting to improve his standing in the depth chart through hard work and conditioning.

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