JuCo Duo Offer Distinct Skills

Steve Gosar, the head coach at the College of Southern Idaho, has received calls recently from the North Carolina staff regarding two of his guards.

With the unexpected departure of Larry Drew at North Carolina the UNC staff turned its eyes to Twin Falls, Idaho where a pair of guards have emerged as possible replacements for Drew.

While Pierre Jackson and Darius Smith share the same locker room and backcourt, that's where the similarities end according to Gosar. Jackson is an electric athlete and scorer who can fill it up from behind the arch. Smith on the other hand is a quiet, defensive-minded leader who focuses on getting to the rim and setting up his teammates.

"I think Pierre athletically just catches your eye and with the way he shoots it," Gosar said. "He probably catches your eye a little bit more but at the end of the day Darius is a silent killer. He's the one who breaks the defense down time and time again."

Jackson's path to D-I recruit is unconventional even by JuCo standards. After being panned by most college coaches out of high school, Jackson broke his elbow on his shooting arm prior to his freshman season at Southern Idaho, forcing him to have major surgery and seriously adjust his game.

"He couldn't shoot the ball and that's one thing he really does well," Gosar said. "But I think it was a blessing and a curse for him because it made him learn how to set the table and be a true point guard and not rely on so much scoring from that point guard spot. He's better for it."

Since returning to full strength this season Jackson has become a more complete guard. Some people use the term combo guard to describe shooting guards who can't really play the point. But with Jackson, he can effectively play either position according to his coach.

"He's a true combo," Gosar said. "That's why it was so good for him last year not to be able to shoot the ball. He had to learn about setting up his teammates. He's done a wonderful job this year doing that."

But while Jackson developed as a playmaker this season, his biggest impact is still as a scorer. Gosar said Jackson is possibly the best JuCo athlete in the nation and uses his quickness to put the ball in the basket.

"He's about 5-foot-10 and he can just do crazy dunks," Gosar said. "His change of speed is unbelievable. He's just explosive. He can start and stop on a dime."

Gosar said Jackson made his presence felt quickly at Southern Idaho. In his first game after surgery, Jackson learned the team's playbook in the lobby of the team hotel with the intention of sitting the bench the entire game. After falling behind by 17 at the half, Jackson entered the game and led Southern Idaho to a 19-point win.

"He creates a lot of offense for us," Gosar said. "He can gets his own shot at the end of the shot clock effortlessly. He can break his guy down, get an advantage and set up his teammates."

While Jackson fills highlight reels it's Smith who does the dirty work.

Smith is a true point guard with a tight handle whose ability to penetrate and dish creates open shots for the shooters like Jackson at Southern Idaho.

"He just has a way where if one of those guys hits a three ball, you can bet he's going to find them the next time down court," Gosar said. "So few guys understand that concept but he's one that does."

Gosar says Smith is quietly efficient on the offensive end, picking his spots and getting a lot of his points at the free throw line.

"He's got a great first-step and unbelievable timing," Gosar said. "He just gets you leaning one way and he's gone the other way. Or he gets you to sit up a little bit and he's by you. He's so smooth you don't think it's going to happen."

Smith might make his biggest impact on the defensive end, where Gosar compares him to a safety in football. Smith, a former reserve point guard at UConn, is 6-foot-2 but plays bigger according to Gosar.

"He's got a great nose for the ball," Gosar said. "He anticipates well. He's a pass ahead of the play and consequently that's led to a lot of steals for us."

The next step in Smith's game needs to happen on the offensive end, according to his coach. Right now he's an OK shooter but in order to reach his potential he needs to develop his outside shot.

"He just needs to stretch his range out there a little bit more," Gosar said.

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