Rick Jackson made a decision this past summer.
“I remember him telling me this summer that all he wants to do this year is average a double-double,” teammate Kris Joseph said. “He’s not worried about anything else.”
So far, Jackson has lived up to his word.
The senior forward has averaged 13.6 points and 12.2 rebounds this season and has led Syracuse (14-0, 1-0 Big East) to its best start since the 1988-89 season. On Saturday, he and the No. 5 Orange will host No. 15 Notre Dame (12-1, 1-0), which upset No. 9 Georgetown 69-55 Wednesday night.
Jackson is coming off of another stellar outing, with nine points and 17 rebounds in SU’s Big East opener against Providence College earlier this week.
In another showing of how much Jackson has improved over his career, he also added five assists, while committing zero turnovers.
“When I got the ball, guys would run at me, and sometimes I couldn’t get one dribble without a guy running at me,” Jackson said. “I think I did a good job at finding guys and making plays.”
One of the biggest assets of Jackson’s passing game has been his passing off of a rebound. In the second half of Tuesday’s game, Jackson hauled in a rebound and immediately quarterbacked a pass to Jardine, who streaked in for a layup.
“He’s a great outlet passer,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “We got it out and got some transition baskets.”
A lot of Jackson’s success is tied into his playing time. He is averaging a career-high 33.3 minutes per game, thanks in part to playing smarter. Jackson is averaging just 1.7 fouls per game this season, compared to 2.0 fouls per game the last two years.
Jackson has also attributed his play to his vigorous weight training program over the summer, which allowed him to shed 30 pounds.
“When you lose that much weight, you’re going to move better and faster,” Jackson said. “Coach [Boeheim] is more comfortable keeping me out there because I’m working hard and not getting tired.”
The rest is just pure determination.
“I just go after it, and I feel like that’s what I have to do in order for us to be successful,” Jackson said. “I think I’m doing a great job right now and have to keep it up.”
Wesley Cheng is the Editor in Chief for The Juice Online.