Hoops Interview: Reggie Jackson

The 2007-2008 season brought Al Skinner's highest rated recruiting class during his first 11 years at Boston College. Rakim Sanders, Corey Raji, Josh Southern, Biko Paris, and transfer Joe Trapani made up a "Fab Five" of sorts at BC. The 2008-2009 season had three more freshman arrive on campus, with Reggie Jackson leading the way.

Reggie burst on to the scene providing energy off the bench and a unique ability to step up in big moments. His two biggest games of the season were at UNC (seventeen points) and at home versus Duke (fifteen points). Quite an achievement for a freshman who is supposed to be learning the ropes and getting adjusted to the rigors of ACC basketball.

"My motto since I have been raised as a child is, there are only two things you can do in this world. You can either prosper or you can fail. You might as well give it your all. I may have, from people's perspectives, had the ability to rise to the occasion. And I knew teams were going to key on Tyrese (Rice) and Rakim (Sanders) and the other great players that we have such as Joe (Trapani) and Josh (Southern). So I felt I was going to have to step it up, and when the opportunity presented itself I just tried to do the best that I can to win."

Teams won't be "keying" on Tyrese Rice next year as he has taken his game to the professional ranks. As a result, scoring the basketball is going to be tougher. Tyrese won't be there to take over games offensively and to draw defenders from his teammates. Reggie knows that replacing Tyrese's production and leadership is not going to be easy.

"You can't replace that. We're just doing our best to make this team have our identity. We're going to have to grind it out on defense and get out and run a little bit more. Coaches sat down with us and we all have our role and we all understand what we have to bring to the season. But we also know at the same time that we lost a great player in Tyrese Rice and a great leader. We're just hoping that come game one someone steps up and we start filling that role."

Playing under Tyrese Rice for a year had its benefits for Reggie. He learned a lot from both watching him from the bench and playing with him on the court.

"I thought it was a very tight offense and it was kinda hard. Seeing how he played. Somebody was out in Colorado Springs my senior year and after we beat their team he was talking about Tyrese, and they mentioned they had watched him play his senior year in high school and had coached against him his junior year.

"He mentioned what kind of player Tyrese was and our comparisons that we are both loose and have similar styles. I really didn't see BC being a fit at first because of the flex offense but then I began watching them more and more. Coach Skinner really lets you be you within the confines of his offense. He is not going to take away from your game.

"I had my ups and downs as any freshman does and Tyrese really coached me and has been a mentor for me. I still talk to him to this day and he is still teaching me how to play and play my game in Coach Skinner's offense."

With Tyrese moving on Reggie will be expected to see more minutes this season at point guard, along with teammate Biko Paris. However he will still be expected to back up Rakim Sanders at the two guard as well. Is Reggie expecting to see more minutes at the one or the two this upcoming season?

"The coaches and I sat down and talked, and I know I am going to have to fill in both spots. I am going to continue to play the two but I am going to have to learn to play the one a lot more and understand what Coach Skinner wants to get out of his team.

"I'm just studying every day and learning from a great point guard in Biko Paris and at the end of the day it really doesn't bother me where I play, I just want to be on the court and help the team win. I know Coach is going to be using me as a combo guard this year and I have to learn to score within the confines of the team and I also have to learn how to run the team."

Does Reggie find himself more comfortable at one of the guard spots compared to the other?

"Until I got here I never really played the off guard, I've always been more comfortable at the one. I'm getting more knowledge and learning how to do both. With my height I am a tall point guard but maybe a small shooting guard. Biko Paris is here to take the pressure off me too. I've always played with the ball in my hands so I feel more comfortable at the one, but I'm also learning how to run off screens and do everything that a two guard does."

Being more comfortable at the point and playing with the ball in his hands, doesn't necessarily mean he is more comfortable at the point in Coach Skinner's flex offense. Skinner's ‘tight' flex is dependent on motion and screens and not as much on dribble and drive as other offenses. So Reggie is still learning the point within the confines of Skinner's offense, but he is confident he can already lead the team at the point when needed.

"I'm feeling comfortable enough if we went and played today I would be fine. But I feel like I can never stop learning. I'm just doing my best to learn the ins and outs in every turn to every last step in every play inside Coach Skinner's offense."

The flex is a very structured offense with specific cuts and screens. Making it even more difficult for players new to Skinner's flex is how ‘tight' he runs it. It is not an offense easily mastered and takes a real commitment for all five guys on the floor to buy into and embrace the system. For Reggie he is still a work in progress but is making great strides.

"I take a step in the right direction every day. You really have to pick Al Skinner's mind to learn what he wants. At the end of the day whether you like the offense or not, it is what has made him such a prolific coach. And nobody in this world likes to be screened that many times, so at any given point you are going to find an easy elbow jumper or you're going to get a guy for a lay up. It is a great offense to run."

Reggie isn't just adjusting to a new offense but to a college more than 2000 miles away from his home in Colorado. For a kid that was born in a town outside Venice in Italy and has also called home to England, North Dakota, Georgia, and Florida, getting adjusted to new surroundings is nothing new.

"It's fairly the same, just a more busy city here in Boston. It rains more than it snows which is the opposite of Colorado with all the droughts. People here are still friendly as back at home and the thing I am getting more used to now during the summer is being out in the city with my teammates. Last year I just seemed to sit in my room or be at the gym all the time. I'm still at the gym a lot but just enjoying Boston and trying to get familiar with everything around here and just view the great city."

With Reggie being so well traveled, location probably didn't play as much a factor in his college choice as much as most students. Reggie based his choice of a college program primarily based on playing time and stability with the head coach. There may not be two smarter reasons to choose a college program, showing the type of head Reggie has on his shoulders.

"My brother lives about five minutes away from Evan Ravenel in Florida. So I did my research on him and knew a little something about him. Coming in I thought Shamari (Spears) was going to be here and I liked the way that he worked. And I knew I could learn under Tyrese (Rice) for a year. And just knowing Coach Al Skinner and that his job is secure here because he is such a great coach.

"Everywhere else that was recruiting me, everyone tells you that they are going to be there forever. But I wasn't really sure such as Steve Alford at New Mexico, the Texas A&M coach it was just going to be his first year, at Nevada the coach went down to a school in Florida I think. This was the only school that I really thought I can get early playing time and that had a stable coaching situation. It was a great fit for me."

Reggie got his early playing time as a freshman logging 20 minutes a game. That number should be increasing to about 30 minutes a game next season. With increased playing time comes increased responsibility and expectations. This off season he is working on improving his game and being the best combo guard he can be.

"I understand that I am a six foot three point guard/shooting guard, with a wing span of six foot nine. So coach is going to use me at times on the one through the three on defense. I understand I have to shut down the best player night in and night out.

"I have been trying to get my conditioning up for that and I feel if the opportunity presents itself I would have to fill in a lot of minutes for Tyrese plus the minutes I had last year. I know I'm not the fastest guy as a one, not the quickest, so I'm working on my change of speed and change of direction. I've always been told I have a quick first step, so I am working on that and my pull up game. Also I am working on becoming a better perimeter shooter."

Now that the entire team is back on campus for the second summer session, it isn't just individual games that are being worked on, but team basketball as well.

"As a team we need to improve on defense. We have to become really defensive minded, right now we are working really hard on help defense. Sometimes last year we left our teammates out there to dry and sometimes we over helped. We're just really working on that. When we are playing pick-up we try to get out there and run and try not to have dead balls. We want to work on our conditioning because when the season comes, you have great teams like UNC and Wake Forest who love to run."

With all the offseason pick-up games work outs underway, who does Reggie think will be the most improved player next season?

"That is a hard one to say. Corey (Raji) is getting more mentally tough and understanding that he is allowed to put up the ball and shoot the shots that he has been working on since he was a kid. What I see with Biko, he has always been able to do what he does, but his leash isn't as tight.

"Rakim, what I have seen with him, he is becoming more of a play-maker and handling the ball. Everybody has been improving but if I had to say someone right now it would be Evan Ravenel. He is starting to understand what Coach Skinner likes and he is starting to understand his role and being more relaxed."

During this summer session when Reggie isn't playing pick-up games and working out his focus is on the two classes he is taking.

"Right now I'm taking Techniques of Precise Language and Western European history (starting with the 1500's). The history class is part of the core curriculum. I am taking the language class to help with my language, speech, and for writing papers."

The off-season is not only a much needed break for these college athletes from the grind of the four plus month basketball season, but it is a good time for reflection. Boston College's final two games of the season were very tough losses, a nail biter versus Duke in the ACC tournament and a whooping versus USC in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Which was the tougher loss?

"USC was a great team, so was Duke. Both were really tough losses, and I got hurt and couldn't really be there to support my team like I wanted to and help them out on the court. The USC loss was the most devastating because that is when reality hit and we knew our season was over and we were losing a great player in Tyrese Rice. We didn't play as well as we wanted to, everybody wants to advance in the big dance, and we felt we had the opportunity but on that night USC was just better."

After such a great run in the ACC going 10-6 in the regular season and then taking ACC power Duke to the final shot in the ACC quarterfinals, what happened versus USC?

"We didn't really find our offense I feel, we tried to force a few things. One of our better players, Rakim, was in foul trouble. We weren't defensive minded and let Taj Gibson shoot 11 of 11, I think it was. Just defense and staying with our offense."

The end of the season almost always leaves a bitter taste in one's mouth, as there is only one division I NCAA champion. But there was plenty for this young team to build upon and plenty for Reggie to be proud of in his freshman campaign. Reggie's team highlight was a night to remember at Conte Forum.

"Definitely the Duke game at home. First time we beat them in eight competitions I think, been 24 years. It was the first time I experienced a team storm the court and the first time I had ever seen BC storm the court. That was the best feeling so far."

His personal highlight was that same thrilling 80-74 victory versus Duke on February 15th, 2009. When you put up fifteen points on six-of-eight shooting in 22 minutes, it is easy to see why. Not to mention, eleven of those fifteen points coming in the game's final thirteen minutes.

"It would have to be the Duke game again. 46 seconds left and hitting the shot that put us up for good. Didn't even know how much time was on the clock, was really just in the moment. And just helping us finally do what we knew we could do."

So the Duke game was more of a personal highlight than the seventeen point performance he put up down in Chapel Hill for the upset of #1 ranked UNC?

"UNC has always been my favorite team growing up and everybody dreams of playing there and it was great to go down there and have a good showing for it. But winning at home was better as we got to share the win with the fans. I think it was long awaited and well deserved."

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