Jackson and Jardine at Charm City Challenge

Syracuse-bound big man Rick Jackson was named to the Charm City Challenge all-tournament team after posting 10 points, 7 rebounds, 2 steals, and 2 blocks in his team's 116-113 loss to the Baltimore All-Stars on Sunday evening at Towson University. Fellow teammate Antonio "Scoop" Jardine added 17 points and 6 assists and led a late-game comeback that fell just short.

Jardine and Jackson became the first Syracuse recruits to play in the Charm City Challenge since 2001, when Craig Forth participated in the event. Both players showed off the type of skills that have made them coveted recruits, but their combined effort was not enough to come away with a win for the US All-Stars. The Baltimore All-Stars were by Malcolm Delaney (27 points) and Aric Brooks (24 points). [Side notes: During pre-game warmups in 2001, Forth threw down a dunk that collapsed the basket support and delayed the game by 20 minutes. Also, McDonald's All-American Donte Greene was on hand to cheer on his former and frofuture teammates.]

Rick Jackson and Antonio Jardine relax during a break in play at the Charm City Challenge.

The Baltimore All-Stars led for most of the first half before a late run by the US All-Stars closed the gap to 59-58 at the break. Pitt-bound swingman Darnell Dodson nailed 6 three-pointers and finished with 20 points. The US team pulled ahead in the third quarter, when Scoop Jardine began to assert himself. Jardine had a quiet first half with 4 points and 4 assists, but he was dynamic after halftime, scoring on a series of mid-range pull-ups and dishing out several nice passes. With Jardine in control, the US team pulled out to a 9 point lead at the end of the 3rd quarter, but they could not hold on as Virginia Tech-bound Delaney started to take over the game with 5 minutes remaining.

Leading the break: Jardine finished with a game-high 6 assists.

Simply put, Delaney was the best player on the court in this game. Midway through the 4th quarter, he tied the score on a coast to coast drive that ended in a three point play, then assisted on a fastbreak bucket by Brooks to give Baltimore its first lead since the end of the first half. Delaney then scored his team's next 5 points to extend the lead to 107-100. With 2:30 left, US head coach Carl Arringale got Jardine back in the game and Scoop put a temporary end to Delaney's run by blocking a layup attempt that would have given Baltimore a 9 point lead.

At this point, the competitive instincts of Jardine took center stage. He scored 6 straight points for the US team and eventually closed the gap to 109-107 on a floating jumper from the baseline that he coaxed in with his soft touch. Delaney came back with 2 free throws, but Jardine once again brought the US team to within 2 points when he connected on a 12-foot leaner in the paint that he set up with a beautiful ball-fake and spin move. Another pair of free throws from Delaney gave Baltimore a 4 point lead, but Jardine set up Georgia Tech recruit Maurice Miller for an open three from the corner to cut the lead to one at 114-113. Desmond Thomas hit a pair of freebies for Baltimore and Jardine raced down the court for a potential game-tying three pointer, but missed as the buzzer sounded.

Clutch performer: Scoop cans a late midrange jumper.

Needless to say, Jardine's showing over the game's final minutes was most impressive. He finished the game with 17 points (7-16 fg, 3-3 ft, 0-1 3pt), dished out 6 assists, grabbed 4 rebounds, and only committed 2 turnovers. Despite his strong finish, he was left off the all-tournament team as the votes were tallied with 3 minutes still remaining in the game.

In contrast to Jardine, Jackson did all of his damage in the first half. The crafty lefty immediately staked his claim as the most talented big man in the game. He blocked a shot on his first defensive possession, then scored on a putback on his first offensive possession. After just 3 minutes he had already posted 6 points and 4 rebounds. He showcased some very good footwork on the offensive end, hitting a pair of lefty baby-hooks after spinning on his pivot foot. After dominating the interior in the first half, Jackson had a lot of trouble getting going in the second stanza. He did not score a single point after halftime and looked tired and winded as the game wore on.

Jackson fires up a baseline jumper.

Evaluations:

Antonio Jardine. The man they call "Scoop" had an impressive game but didn't really look to exert his will until his team was down by 7 points with 2:30 left. Jardine took only a few shots in the first half, and these came when he got caught up with trying to match Delaney's hot shooting that featured a trio of triples during a 3 minute span. Jardine countered with back-to-back pull-up midrange shots, but for the most part he was content to distribute until later in the game.

"Scoop"

Jardine could have easily recorded double digit assists, but his teammates often had trouble finishing. When he was looking to score, he was most comfortable shooting from about 8 to 15 feet and it is apparent that his accuracy quickly decreases beyond the free throw line. He has a very quirky shot and release - when he shoots from deep, he tends to arch or lean backwards a bit, which results in poor balance. He also has poor elbow placement and his follow-through gets worse the deeper he shoots it. However, in midrange situations, his form is much better, as are the results. Most of the time he looks to set up the short or mid-range shot rather than take it all the way to the basket.

Jardine's form at the line needs some work.

His poise and understanding of game situations was very impressive. He never seemed to rush or get ahead of himself and always looked to find open teammates. He played the entire game at the point and it is very apparent that is his favored position, although he does have good size at about 6-2/6-3, so he may be able to move to shooting guard position. He also has very broad shoulders and seemed to be strong enough to ward off defenders, although it does look like he could stand to lose a bit of baby fat.

Athletically, he is not in the same class as fellow recruit Johnny Flynn. Jardine is not a burner in the open court and does not seem to have the ability to play "above the rim", but he is quick enough to get where he wants to go with the dribble. He makes up for his deficiencies with his excellent understanding of the game. In many respects, he reminded me of Billy Edelin in that he doesn't wow you with explosiveness, but he gets the job done by understanding angles and the finer points of the game. Unlike Edelin, however, he showed an ability to score in other ways than just lay-ups.

Jardine scrambles for a loose ball.

Rick Jackson. There is a lot to like about Jackson, but at the same time there is a lot that of adjusting that he will need to do to be a productive player for Syracuse. Jackson brings a more developed post game than any SU recruit in recent memory, but he doesn't really seem like a typical Syracuse player. I tried to envision him playing the wing of the zone and simply couldn't see it, at least not early in his career.

Dino Gregory and Rick Jackson go head to head in the post.

Unlike most big men his age, Jackson relies on positioning and footwork rather than athleticism and quickness. He had no trouble out-rebounding the game's opposing big-men, but when he was matched with smaller, quicker players he simply could not keep them off the boards (similar to Watkins in this respect). Jackson is not a quick jumper but has good size (looked to be about 6-8) and is wide enough to effectively block out when rebounding on the defensive end. His conditioning also needs a lot of work, as he was a complete non-factor in the second half after establishing himself as the game's best interior player before the break.

Jardine looks to get the ball to Jackson in the post.

In addition to the lefty spin moves and hook shots, Jackson also scored on a put-back, caught an alley-oop pass from Scoop, and made a face-up 7 footer from the baseline. He should be able to draw contact and get to the line a lot, but at this point his free throw shooting would give Terrence Roberts a run for his money. His elbow placement is very poor and rather than shooting with a fluid follow-through, he tends to flick the ball at the hoop. It does not appear that he will be an effective scorer outside of about 5 feet at this point in time.

Jackson at the free throw line.

One thing that Jackson did show was he has a surprisingly good handle. There were several times during the game when he turned a defensive rebound into a full-court sprint. Unfortunately, his decision-making on the break wasn't equal to his dribbling skills. He threw away 3 separate passes when he tried to lead the break. On the plus side, he was successful in setting up teammate Jeff Allen (Va. Tech) with two assists in high-low settings. Like Jardine, Jackson seems to be the type of player who plays smart ball and mostly understands his limitations (except when he tries to run a fastbreak).

 


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