Joe Jackson has had a rough ride to make it where he is today. Some of the rockiness was fueled by the expectations of a Memphis kid going to play at the University of Memphis. Some of the rockiness was Jackson being a kid and making poor decisions like most kids make. But if it was not for Joe Jackson, and more specifically the maturation of Joe Jackson, the Tigers would not be where they are today.
The tenure of Jackson at Memphis has had its ups and downs. He started as a freshman and was going to be one of the guys that helped save the program after John Calipari left. In typical freshman fashion he struggled. I think sometimes people forget that not all McDonald’s All-Americans are great immediately, let alone the fact that not all of them go to the NBA. Joe’s struggles led to Joe’s frustrations. He listened to friends, or so-called friends, and others that told him it was Josh Pastner‘s fault; the new Tigers coach was going to stop Jackson from making the NBA. This frustration and anger led to Jackson almost transferring during his sophomore season. Joe eventually decided to stay, face his frustration, and grow up. Now he’s the reason Memphis is ranked 15th in the nation, and the maturation of Joe is evident all over the place, even in the Tigers’ 96-76 victory over Northwestern State on Saturday.
This offseason Memphis accepted the transfer of Michael Dixon from Missouri; this meant the Tigers had another guard. With Joe coming off of a junior season that saw him get back in the discussion of being an NBA player, a season in which he averaged 13.6 points per game, 4.8 assists per game, and shot 44.7 percent from three, Joe was expecting to run the show as a senior. Instead, Memphis would now have another senior guard to play alongside Jackson, Chris Crawford and Geron Johnson. Old Joe would have been upset, demanded the most playing time, started hogging the ball, and been an overall nuisance, but not the new more mature Joe. He took the addition as another competitor to help him improve in practice, and another player to help the Tigers have the best season possible.
Old Joe would have lashed out after Memphis got crushed by Oklahoma State earlier in the year; he would have blamed Pastner or teammates for his poor performance, but not the new Joe. New Joe took the loss on the chin and used it as a challenge to get better. He and the Tigers have fired off five straight wins since that loss, including a revenge victory over Oklahoma State in the Old Spice Classic finals. Granted, in the rematch against the Cowboys Jackson didn’t have a good game as he only shot 30 percent from the field for 11 points, but he did grab eight rebounds and committed zero turnovers. See, that’s the new Joe. Old Joe would have gotten down because he wasn’t playing well and tried to force the action, but new Joe stayed calm and did whatever else he could do to help his team.
Against Northwestern State, a team the Tigers knew they would handle easily, old Joe would have chucked up jumpers all day long trying to post big numbers. New Joe fed his bigs, Shaq Goodwin and Austin Nichols, and let them continue their recent surge. Goodwin led the team points and rebounds, Johnson led the team in assists and steals, and none of that matters to new Joe. Shoot-first guards who stand six-feet tall are not in high demand for NBA teams. New Joe realizes that being a good leader and fitting in is what will help him obtain his dream of the NBA. And that’s fine with new Joe.
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