Emery Making a Defensive Case

Jackson Emery emerged as one of the best Cougar defenders on the team as a sophomore, and his ball-hawking prowess hasn't stopped as a junior. The 6-foot-3-inch, 185-pound guard from Alpine, Utah continues to collect steals game after game, making the case that he could be one of the best Cougar defenders in recent memory.

As a sophomore, Jackson Emery robbed ball-handlers and pick-pocketed opponents 47 times. So far this year, he has stolen the ball from would-be scorers 68 times.

Emery was named to the MWC All-Defensive Team last year as a sophomore, and with his current numbers he seems like a lock to be selected again this season. His reasons for being a good defender are pretty straightforward.

"More than anything, I don't like to be scored on," Emery said. "I take it a little personal when guys score on me. On top of that I just like to get into the passing lanes."

Emery enjoys being able to anticipate his opponents' moves and then get into the passing lane to make the steal.

"For me, that's a lot of fun because it creates a lot of opportunities for getting steals and fast breaks and pushing the ball downcourt," said Emery. "That's a lot of fun and what we like to do here at BYU is get out and run, so more than anything you have to get yourself into a good position in order to set up an opportunity to makes steals."

Although Emery might be very good at taking the ball away, it isn't as easy as he might make it look.

"It's not easy being able to do this," Emery mentioned. "A lot of these guys that push the ball downcourt are really fast and quick, so trying to steal the ball from them can be tough. It's also hard because these guys throw the ball hard, and that can make it tough trying to get and even control the ball because of how fast it's being thrown around. What it comes down to is putting yourself in a good position so you can get those steals."

The Cougars often turn to zone defense to slow down opponents. Playing zone instead of man defense has certain benefits.

"It helps a lot because first of all I can play an area and [have] the freedom to roam a little more," he said. "Kind of like in football when you're a safety, you can see if the ball is kicked out and you can go out and get it. You're not so much worried about your guy and where he's going.

"Another thing about the zone is it slows down the other team, but at the same time we still have the mentality that we are playing at our same speed. If we miss we're going. If we steal the ball we're going. But with other teams they're like, ‘Oh, it's a zone so let's pass, pass, pass,' and that kind of gets them into a slower mode. It kind of lulls them to sleep, and so all of those things help me."

On Wednesday Emery will put his defensive skills to work against a San Diego State team that thrives on second chances. During practices the Cougars have emphasized preparing for the Aztecs' abilities to rebound the ball. Emery will be counted on to help the Cougars in the battle of the boards.

"I think the biggest thing with them is not giving them easy shots," Emery said. "They're big and athletic and are used to getting easy layups after dunk after dunk, and that's how they score a lot of their points. They just throw the ball up and go play, and you have to make teams beat you by outside shooting. Any team can make layups, and that's one of the easiest things to do in this game. With San Diego State, we're going to have to make them hit the outside shots. We're going to have to do a really good job of boxing out, and as guards we're going to have to do a really good job of getting down there and helping our big guys rebound because their big guys are really athletic."


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