Even though the entire frontcourt for the Bears will be freshmen or first-time starters, there is no question that the point-guard play of Pierre Jackson makes him the Baylor Bears most indispensable player for next season.
The Bears suffered from the lack of a great point guard in the 2010-11 season. After not receiving an invitation from the NCAA tournament or the NIT, the Bears had a long offseason to think about the roster.
In 2011, head coach Scott Drew set his sights on a young man from Las Vegas, who had recently won the NJCAA Division I National Title with the College of Southern Idaho. That player, Pierre Jackson, then transformed last season from a sixth man off the Bears bench to one of the team's best players and a Bob Cousy Award finalist in a little under three months.
In terms of athleticism, Jackson rivals the best of them. Though only 5’10’’, he is an absolute force in transition, both offensively and defensively, because of his pure speed.
Yet, it is his jumping ability that is most impressive; Jackson can throw down some of the most impressive dunks in college basketball.
His athleticism is going to be key to the Bears, as two of the likely starters in the paint, Cory Jefferson and Isaiah Austin, are two of the most athletic frontcourt players in the NCAA. With the ball in his hands, Jackson most certainly has the speed and ability to keep up with his teammates.
Even so, the best athletes do not always make the best basketball players. This is not the case for Jackson.
He is a point guard in the strictest sense of the word. Averaging almost six assists per game last season, Jackson is not afraid or unwilling to dump the ball off to his teammates for the score. Last season, he was most commonly seen lobbing alley-oops to Perry Jones III or finding Brady Heslip for the three-point shot.
His shooting ability is something to be lauded, as well. He can score off the dribble with a fadeaway or a pull-up shot. In addition, he shoots extremely well from beyond the arc, giving Baylor yet another deep scoring threat.
It must be a comfort for coach Drew to know that when teams decide to lock down on Heslip at the shooting-guard position, his point guard can put up game-winning points when given the chance.
Nonetheless, the most impressive aspects of Jackson’s game are his intangibles.
He is a fantastic leader on the court and has the basketball IQ and court vision to make him one of the most versatile and successful point guards in the league. He is also the coveted clutch player that every coach wants. Last season, Jackson had eight go-ahead, game-tying or game-winning plays in his effort to lead the Bears to the Elite Eight.
The great thing about sports is that each and every season offers an opportunity for players to rise and become great. For Baylor, 2011-12 saw the rise of Pierre Jackson, and he will be the most indispensable player for the Bears next season.