Jackson: I’m ready for the NBA draft

Todd Zolecki

The suit Bobby Jackson wears for the NBA draft on June 25 won’t be the standard off-the-rack selection from Sears. Nothing personal against the national chain, but NBA first round picks tend to splurge a bit when it comes to draft day.
Jackson, 24, will attend the draft party in Charlotte, N.C., and wait for league commissioner David Stern to call his name. It’s a dream come true for Jackson, and he’s sure his agents will make sure he’s presentable to the public.
“My agent is pretty sharp, so I’m sure he’ll get me something flashy,” he said.
The shooting guard turned point guard has definitely moved on since the Final Four in April. He hooked up with two New York agents and is set with a private trainer. He still hopes he can slide into the lottery.
“I’m doing this for my mom,” Jackson said. “I don’t want her to work anymore. She busted her butt to support me and my sister. I just want her to be happy.”
His trainer, Evander Ford, has worked daily to improve Jackson’s skills and mold him into a true NBA point guard.
Jackson will attend the league’s Chicago draft camp June 3-9. It’s one of his last chances to impress the league’s scouts, coaches and general managers before the draft.
The Big Ten Player of the Year will make or break his NBA career as a point guard. It’s a position he didn’t play during his two years with the Gophers but one he knows he can play.
For the past three weeks, Jackson has worked with Ford doing what it takes to make him a “can’t-miss pick.”
“It’s been tough,” he said. “I’m trying to prove I can be a point guard. I feel real comfortable right now. I know everything a point guard needs to do, but once you get that scorer’s mentality it’s hard to break away from it.”
For the laid-back Salisbury, N.C., native, it also means becoming more vocal on the court. During the Gophers’ 31-4 run last year, Jackson became a strong leader by grabbing rebounds, making clutch shots and playing tough defense.
As far as being vocal, others took care of that. Jackson seemed to treat everything like a warm summer day at the beach. Sit back, relax and enjoy it. Of course Gophers coach Clem Haskins tried his best to make Jackson more outspoken, but to no avail.
That’s where Ford comes in.
“Bobby is a unique person in that area,” Ford said. “I can get him angry and bring out some things that weren’t brought out before. Some people are leaders and some people are followers. Bobby is a leader.”
One pre-draft expert has Jackson going No. 19 in the draft. Minnesota Timberwolves general manager and former Gophers star Kevin McHale told Ford he thinks Jackson has the savvy to play in the NBA.
There’s some buzz the Wolves might take Jackson if he’s available and if the Wolves have their first round pick. That’s intriguing for Jackson, but he’s just hoping to get selected by any team.
Ford, who almost plays a dual role as trainer and promoter, believes there’s no question Jackson will make it.
“I think a lot of teams are scared not to take him,” he said. “He’s a play-maker and not a play-breaker. They’re questioning his point guard skills because they haven’t seen it. All of it is there, but that’s where my transformation is coming in. I’ve got him leading the troupes out there.
“I believe he’s a lottery pick. They might not know it now, but they will know it when he comes back from Chicago.”
The camp looks at Jackson’s conditioning and ability. They also perform several tests to make sure he is the player they want to invest their future in. They watch everything. From skill to attitude to the “way he goes to the bathroom and the way he comes out,” as Ford puts it.
But before he heads to Chicago, Jackson has workouts set with the New Jersey Nets, Milwaukee Bucks, Detroit Pistons, Los Angeles Clippers and Cleveland Cavaliers.
That’s only a slight lifestyle change for the former junior college transfer from Western Nebraska Community College.
“It’s been nice,” he said. “My life has turned 180 degrees. But I can say I’ve worked really hard to get into this situation.”
He hopes it’s capped off with the ever-famous photograph with him, wearing the cap of the team that just selected him, shaking hands with Stern.