Friday, December 31, 2010

Senior Spotlight Part 2

In this article, I examine Xavier guard Dante Jackson.

Four year starter Dante Jackson has been a steady performer over the course of his college career. Hailing from Greenfield, Ohio originally, Jackson was a local product that demonstrated promise on a national level. While it may seem as though this once highly touted player has not improved much over the years, the game film tells a different story.

After consistently watching Jackson on the offensive end, it becomes clear that he constantly puts himself in the position to score from beyond the arc. However, he has struggled through a shooting slump much of this season. Hitting only 30% of his shots from beyond the arc, Dante Jackson is shooting more frequently, but generally taking more difficult shots. This is due to the fact that he is not always the recipient of passes from point guard Tu Holloway on drives and kick outs. Tu is a lot more ball dominant this season, and is more willing to feed interior players when he drives past his defender. While this has been somewhat beneficial for Xavier as a team (and led to the emergence of Kenny Frease), the characteristic Xavier perimeter ball movement of a year ago is no longer there. Given the fact that his degree of difficulty has increased on shot attempts, Jackson is drawing contact more often than he was a season ago. He is getting to the line, and shooting a higher percentage there than he had in year's past.

And, despite his shooting woes, Dante has demonstrated improvements as a facilitator. So far this season, Dante is turning the ball over less frequently than he had, while making positive contributions with the basketball. Never shying away from the difficult assist, Dante has looked to create for his teammates with bounce passes and over-the-top lob passes to big men Frease and MacLean in particular. While he probably will not be a primary ball handler at the professional level, Jackson is fairly composed and focused on offensive execution when he has the ball in his hands. During previous seasons, Dante had difficulty attacking the hoop and finishing in traffic- never really threatening teams as a slasher because of his limited ability to draw fouls. As such, he was never really able to collapse opposing defenses. With that said, his court vision has improved tremendously over the years, despite his limited ability as a facilitator. And, even though he has not looked to attack the basket all too often, Jackson has been effective when he does decide to score off the dribble. Yet, no one will really witness much of this facet of his game if Tu Holloway continues to maintain such a high usage rate.

Even though Dante Jackson may have some limitations within the Xavier offense, it is clear that his ability as an on-ball defender will translate at the next level- wherever that may be. When on defense, Dante gets low in his stance and has the length to really steal the ball from opposing players. Not only can he anticipate in the passing lanes when necessary, but he thrives as a position defender- moving his feet well and staying in front of his man. While his physical play on this end has been an asset for Xavier, Jackson must cut down on his hand checks- as this has gotten him into foul trouble in recent action. Moreover, Jackson is also a good help defender, rotating in order to stop drives, and corralling the basketball after tipping it etc.

Furthermore, it can be said that Dante Jackson's role has changed dramatically given the personnel changes to Xavier's roster over the years. During his sophomore campaign, he was called upon as a facilitator, and responded by driving to the basket more often. However, last season he was the beneficiary of drive and kick plays from Jordan Crawford and Tu Holloway (then Terrell), which helped him become one of the more efficient 3 point shooters in the Atlantic 10 Conference. This season, he is taking far more contested jump shots and is more responsible for attacking the basket once again.

In general, Jackson should look to move without the ball more often. Far too often, he camps out on the perimeter, hoping for the kick out pass. Instead, he should crash the boards and look to clean up misses with his decent combination of length and athleticism. Overall, Jackson's opportunities at the next level will be highly dependent on his ability to shoot the ball for Xavier during conference play. If he can break out of his slump and shoot more efficiently, he may receive some looks from minor leagues and European squads. However, he must continue to improve, as the physical tools are there.

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