During pickup games this summer, Jackson's Notre Dame teammates caught on.
"We kind of sat back and joked around, me and some of the players and the coaches, we played a couple teams it kind of seemed like I was making the same move but I kept getting past different players," Jackson said. An all-Big East rookie team selection, the 5-foot-11, 193-pound Saginaw, Mich. product averaged 7.8 points and 4.3 assists per game. He took over the starting duties for the suspended Kyle McAlarney 12 games into the season, and scored in double figures six of the last nine games to help the Irish finish 24-8 overall and 11-5 in the league. "Using the same move, it seemed like it always worked, the little spin move. It was very very funny. Every time we play pickup and stuff, they always yell it out and I would have to stop playing because I'll start laughing. The players know, they know me down to the tee."
For the Irish to build on their first NCAA appearance in years, coach Mike Brey will need Jackson and his classmate, forward Luke Harangody, to step up and replace the firepower left behind by graduated all-conference performers Colin Falls and Russell Carter. They both showed they're capable, as the 6-foot-8, 245-pound Harangody was also an all-Big East rookie team selection, averaging, 11.2 points (fourth on the team), and 6.2 rebounds (second on the team) per game.
Jackson was really the catalyst for the Irish down the stretch. During Big East play, he led the conference in assists at six per game. He netted 21 points, grabbed seven rebounds and dished out seven assists in a home victory over Marquette. He went for 19 points, seven assists and three steals in a win at Syracuse on his 19th birthday. In the Big East tournament semifinal, Jackson scored 20 points, pulled down eight boards and had five assists against a Georgetown team that finished its season in the Final Four.
The rookie guard showed no problem getting anywhere he wanted to on the floor, penetrating at will, and did a nice job of distributing the basketball in Notre Dame's well-spaced attack.
"It gives me a lot of excitement, especially with the players that we have coming back and the chemistry we have," Jackson said of last season. "It gives me a lot of confidence and a lot to look forward to."
The area Jackson needed to work the hardest at this summer was with his shooting. Jackson's body really matured before and during his freshman season, and it threw off his shooting touch. He struggled from the perimeter, connecting on just 24.1 percent of his 3-point attempts (13-of-54), and shot at a 62.9 percent clip from the charity stripe (68-of-108).
"I had to get used to a bigger body," Jackson stated. "Coming in from high school, I was very very small. Coming into my first year of college I developed a different physique. I had to get used to it. I looked back at the stats, and I knew when my body changed it effected my jump shot. So I just came in the summer, especially when Kyle came back, shooting around with him, and shooting a lot with him and the older guys, I kind of took what they said, some of they're advice and put it in. I feel like I'm getting my shot back."
That's huge for the Irish, as no team uses the 3-point shot in the conference more than Notre Dame. But what Brey really wants from Jackson first and foremost is a floor general.
"With Tory, probably more than anything, I don't know if I really talked to him about any skill stuff," Brey said. "Certainly he got a lot of shots up because I think people will tend to play off him at times. But I didn't really want to harp on that because I think he's going to be a pretty solid shooter and I think when it's going to be a big shot, which he's proven in one year, his percentage when there is a lot riding on it, he's going to be one of those guys like a Falls where it's going to be an off-the-chart percentage.
"It was more, be confident taking this team, be the voice. Tell guys what to do, start to interact."
Jackson's voice is one that Brey thinks will become stronger and stronger each week, with the Irish beginning practice today. They open the season Nov. 12 at home against Long Island.
"Given the year that he had and I really pushed that and orchestrated that this summer," Brey said. "He's a very confident voice and he is a trusted voice by his teammates."
While Jackson was setting the tone, Harangody was the steady eddy all year. He quickly emerged as the Irish's top post threat, reaching double-figures 22 times. A big physical presence, Harangody really began toning his body following the season, going from 255 pounds to 245, though Brey joked that the Schererville, Ind., product won't be playing in a Speedo any time soon.
"He is still the guy from down in the Region that knocks people around, he better not forget that," Brey said. "I told him that this summer.
"I think the body fat, the conditioning, and it's interesting to see young guys when they get to college, see the older guys, learn about nutrition, learn about how to lift, how to workout, how to take care of their bodies. I think you've got a leaner even more athletic guy. That's the biggest thing he made a commitment too."
Harangody has noticed that he can get up and down the court a lot better this summer. After sitting down with the coaches, he new hitting the weights and dieting was something he was going to have to do in being able to log more minutes. He averaged 20.6 minutes per game last season, but will certainly be asked to play more this year.
"There was times during the end of the season, it was probably hitting that freshman wall, but I told myself this season that wasn't going to happen to me. I want to be able to go longer minutes in the game."
Harangody, who has shown in spots last season and regularly this summer that he can hit 15-foot jumpers, also had to develop a few more post moves.
"I got in the gym and worked on a lot of my post moves," he said. "Definitely going to my left and things like that. I also got into the gym with Kyle and Rob (Kurz) and worked on my jump shot a lot. Just stepping out a little bit more."
"One of the things we talked to him about was is coming back over that right shoulder a little bit more," Brey said. "He's been a left shoulder guy, but you know what, he's one of those guys, even though you take away his left shoulder he may come into you and break your nose. If he wants to keep breaking some noses of Big East guys coming over his left shoulder, that's not a bad thing either. But he does have to come back and use his left. We've had him working on that a bit."
Jackson also worked on his penetration this summer, so he can beat defenders with more than his sick spin move.
"I just worked on my game and tried to get better and develop different moves to get past the players this year."