Today we continue our discussion about the Jackets group of returning players. Who will take on a bigger role? Who will be called upon in crunch time?
Countdown to tipoff: 30 days
I have been writing about Tech basketball for a couple of years now and there is something that really annoys me about Tadric Jackson. It has nothing to do with his play on the court, but for some reason I can never remember if his name has a “k” at the end or not. I should have it memorized, but I still need to look it up every single time. Anyways, back to your regularly scheduled programming.
I wrote an article earlier in this countdown about how I thought that Tadric was going to take yet another step forward and be a consistently important player for this team. I absolutely still think that is true. He has already done it every season of his career so far. His freshman year he struggled mightily and ended up only shooting a disastrous 27.4% from the field. He also struggled to fit into Gregory’s slow and post-oriented offensive scheme. His sophomore year saw some improvement in the efficiency department increasing to a 38.5% from the field. He spent a lot of time on the bench and seemingly in Gregory’s doghouse. Last season, the team needed Jackson to step up and he did so. He was put in a significantly increased role and greatly improved his efficiency on top of that. He ended up shooting 44.6% from the field (he also shot more threes so that dragged down his average). There were times when he absolutely carried this team and ended up taking 32% of shots when he was on the floor. He was absolutely vital to the relative success of last year’s offense.
There are a few things that I really love about Jackson’s game that I hope continue. More than any player on the team other than Josh Okogie, Tadric can create a shot for himself or others. He can beat defenders off the dribble which is something this team desperately needs. Secondly, he can shoot the three decently which for recent Georgia Tech has been about as good as it gets (Adam Smith is the exception). Once again the Yellow Jackets head into a season with no obvious perimeter threats so Tadric maintaining or improving his three point shooting is key to prevent teams from packing it in. Third, he is very aggressive on the fast break. For the last several years Tech coaches have promised to run the ball more, but the teams have not followed through. Jackson is an exception. He sometimes sells out on rebounds to get out ahead of the break and when he has numbers he doesn’t hesitate to push it. Sometimes this can get him in trouble, but more often than not it gets easy buckets. This team needs more of that aggressiveness.
That being said, Jackson has a few things I’d like to see him improve. The first is that he needs to see the floor. As one of the Yellow Jackets’ biggest offensive threats and best all-around players, he can’t be averaging just 23 minutes a game (when four other players were above 30). I’m not entirely sure why he wasn’t seeing the minutes, but it needs to change this year. He did have some early foul trouble, but for the most part he didn’t. Perhaps Josh Pastner wasn’t happy with his defense or he had conditioning issues or something else. This team needs Jackson on the floor. The second is consistency. He had some fantastic games last season where he willed the team to victory (VCU, Notre Dame, BC), but he had far too many games where he was a non-factor offensively. He was 1-10 in the loss to Louisville, 1-5 in the loss to Virginia, and 1-7 in the loss to Wake Forest. He is too important to this offense to have as many days like that this season. The final place for improvement is his free throws. He needs to do better at getting to the line and then taking his free points. His free throw rate (the ratio of free throw attempts to field goal attempts multiplied by a hundred) was only 27.1 (compare that to say Josh Okogie with a 56.4 FTR). Part of that is that Tadric takes more three pointers (which are less likely to lead to free throws), but part of it is that he too often shies away from contact at the rim. That makes him less likely to get the foul call and gives him a tougher layup. He could do a better job of anticipating contact (instead of avoiding it) and finishing through it. Last season he only shot 56.7% percent from the line. He is a good shooter so we know that he can do better. It has to be either a practice issue or a mental issue. Either way, I think he does a good bit better than that this season.
This season Jackson will be a critical player on this team. I expect him to play at least 30 minutes per game in close games and be one of the focal points on the offense.