Sunday, February 27, 2011

March 5th 2011: Rick Jackson Night

Ladies and gentleman, mark your calendars. Rick Jackson is the lone senior on the Syracuse Orangemen basketball team. So, in honor of the final home game of the season, the Carrier Dome will be hosting Rick Jackson Night starting at 4:ooPM on March 5th, when Syracuse plays host to the DePaul Blue Demons.

Jackson came to Syracuse in 2007 in a big four man recruiting class. Rick Jackson was joined as a freshmen with Donte Greene out of Towson, MD, Jonny Flynn out of Niagara Falls, NY and Scoop Jardine out of Rick Jackson's hometown of Philadelphia, PA where both players attended St. John Neuman High School.

After Scoop Jardine's freshman season it was revealed that he was playing with a stress fracture and it would require surgery. This earned Jardine a medical redshirt, and saved him a year of eligibility. Scoop Jardine sat out the entire 2008-09 season.

Donte Greene came to Syracuse as an extremely highly touted recruit out of Towson Catholic High School and was a McDonald's All-American. Donte Greene averaged 17.7 points per game during his freshman year at Syracuse and also picked up 7.2 rebounds per contest. Despite shooting 34.5% from three-point range, Greene relied heavily on the outside shot and spent most of the season around the perimeter.

In spite of the team's shortcomings (did not qualify for the NCAA Tournament and lost to Massachusetts in the 2nd round of the NIT in the Carrier Dome), Donte Greene declared for the NBA draft following his freshman season and was taken 28th overall by the Memphis Grizzlies. He was traded that night to the Houston Rockets before being dealt to the Sacramento Kings, where he currently plays.

Jonny Flynn played two seasons at Syracuse (2007-08 and 2008-09) before declaring for the NBA Draft and being taken 6th overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves. Jonny Flynn's draft stock skyrocketed following Syracuse's epic 6-overtime game against UCONN in the Big East Tournament, a game that saw Flynn play 67 of 70 minutes and finish with 34 points (16/16 from the foul line). Many believe that if not for the six overtime classic, it is very likely that Flynn would have returned for his junior season.

This leaves just Rick Jackson as the lone player from the 2007 recruiting class to be honored Saturday before tip off against DePaul.

Rick Jackson is one of those special players who significantly improved each season for Jim Boeheim's Syracuse Orangemen. During Jackson's freshman season he appeared in all 35 games without making a single start. Jackson shot 52.6% from the field while averaging 3.7 points and 3 rebounds per game while backing up Arinze Onuaku and Kristof Ogenaet. Jackson also blocked 44 shots that season.

Jackson's sophomore season began with him assuming a key role off the bench. Rick's improved footwork from his freshman to sophomore season was extremely noticeable and it showed on the floor. Rick increased his playing time from 12.9 to 22.1 minutes per game and doubled his scoring and rebounding to 8.3 points and 5.8 boards per game, earning a few starts along the way in the process. Jackson blocked 76 shots his second season, 22 more than the previous year. He also nearly doubled his assists and steals, going from 19 assists and 15 steals to 36 helpers and 34 steals.

Jackson's improvement from his sophomore season to his junior season was another big step in his development. This year, seniors Arinze Onuaku and Andy Rautins helped guide the Cuse to a #1 ranking in both the AP and ESPN/USA Today Coaches Polls. Rick Jackson stepped up his own game, averaging 9.7 points and 7 rebounds per game while shooting 59.1% from the field. Jackson's defense also improved, blocking 69 shots and stealing 36 balls while dishing 60 assists inside (24 more than his previous season).

This season's version of Rick Jackson is a slimmer, stronger, and more determined Rick Jackson than Syracuse fan's have ever seen. Jackson has put this Syracuse squad on his back for most of the season, leading the Cuse to as high as a #3 national ranking prior to the mid-season slide. Through it all, Rick Jackson has played more minutes than ever before.

Rick has seventeen double-doubles in thirty games this season. He had seven double-doubles his first three seasons combined on the Hill. Furthermore, Rick Jackson is currently leading the Big East in rebounds per game with 10.8. The next nearest Big East conference player is Oriakhi on Connecticut who averages 8.7.

Jackson also leads the Big East in field goal percentage and blocked shots. Jackson is making 59.1% of his shots from the floor, 4.2% higher than Terrence Jennings of Louisville who is second and has blocked 73 shots this season, eight more than John Flowers of West Virginia who has played in three less games. Rick is also 4th in the Big East in minutes played with 35.4 minutes on average and is 20th overall in scoring with 13.1 points per game.

Rick is the main reason for Syracuse's 18-0 start out of the gates, and his steady play on both offense and defense has certainly carried the Orangemen to their 24-6 (11-6 Big East) record. He's 2nd on the team in scoring and is one of the most reliable players on the floor.

When Rick Jackson takes the floor for the final time inside the Carrier Dome on Saturday, he will be able to look back on a solid four year career at Syracuse, however his time in Orange will not be over. There is still the Big East Tournament in Madison Square Garden and then there's the NCAA Tournament.

With so many big games potentially remaining in Rick Jackson's collegient career, we won't be saying good bye to the big man just yet.

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