Pierre Jackson and Teammates Determined to Make This Year of the Bear

Max GoodwinContributor IIIOctober 18, 2012

ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 23:  Pierre Jackson #55 of the Baylor Bears celebrates a three-pointer against the Xavier Musketeers in the second half during the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball South Regional Semifinal game at the Georgia Dome on March 23, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

It's media day for the Big 12 and four Kansas seniors (Jeff Withey, Travis Releford, Kevin Young and Elijah Johnson) sit at a table surrounded by a cluster of reporters holding recorders, microphones and cameras.

The players have their hands up for the cameras as their 2011-2012 Big 12 championship rings glitter in the bright lights of the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

The Kansas Jayhawks have won eight of those rings consecutively and with each year, the pressure increases to continue that streak.

The biggest threat to that streak stands just 5 feet 9 inches tall, but at the moment he sits. About 25 feet directly across from him is the table of Jayhawks and the congregation of media around them.

Pierre Jackson, Baylor guard and Big 12 preseason player of the year, sits between seniors A.J. Walton and J'Mison Morgan.  On the end is 7'1' freshman, Isaiah Austin.

Jackson appears oblivious to the scene of chaos about 25 feet in front of him. So do his teammates.

"I don't really think that much about what they did in the past, this is a new year," J'Mison Morgan says when asked what the group thinks of how Kansas has dominated this conference for eight years.

"Uhhh-huh," Pierre Jackson agrees.

Morgan continues, "I feel like it's gonna be the year of the Bear too. We've got enough pieces to make a good run at the Big 12 title. I've got a lot of confidence in my team. I'm not saying it's gonna be easy, but we're up for it."

The Bears are of course up for it, but how many teams have said something similar in past years. Baylor lost their three best rebounders on the team last season in Perry Jones III, Quincy Acy and Quincy Miller. The 7'1" freshman, Austin, will help collect rebounds, but there is a lot to replace.

"I wouldn't say replace, we've got new players this year that do different things." A.J.Walton says.

Whatever these different things are, it will still be necessary for Baylor to find a way to rebound the ball. They are losing 20 rebounds per game between Jones, Acy and Miller. Between the players they have coming back, Baylor returns only 17 rebounds per game.

Another thing that is different this season for Baylor will be the expectations and nationwide focus on Pierre Jackson.

He came into last season overshadowed by teammates that are now in the NBA, though Jackson himself had just led the College of Southern Idaho to a junior college national title. He was mostly viewed as just a junior college transfer that provided another weapon for the loaded Bears.

This year, Pierre Jackson is the face of the Bears—and the conference. The coaches of the Big 12 have selected him as the best player in the conference this year before the season begins. He has done a photo shoot for ESPN the magazine and he is one of the most exciting players on one of the most exciting teams in the nation.

"It's a lot different," Jackson said. "Nobody really knew who I was, now people are really going to focus on me a lot more in their scouting reports. That's a great feeling, knowing that people have to scout for you."

It may be a great feeling, but being the focus of scouting reports will also make scoring more of a challenge for the 5'9" Jackson.

He was Baylor's highest scorer a year ago with 13.8 points per game.  This year he will be relied on for more points within the the Baylor offense, without Jones III, Acy or Miller.

Baylor head coach, Scott Drew, said that freshman Isaiah Austin is really effective at spreading the floor because he is a big man that has a consistent shot from deep. If that is true, that should give Jackson more room to get into the paint and cause trouble for the defense, but don't forget that he also made close to 40 percent of his 3-point shots last season.

"Defensively and offensively, everybody will focus their game plan around him," Drew said. "Things are going to be tougher for him, but at the same time, he's improved his game and is excited for that challenge."

Kansas Coach Bill Self made it clear that that would be the case, as he gave Jackson some high praise on media day.

"Without question, I think he's the best guard in the country," Self said.

Max Goodwin is a Contributor for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.