Former Oregon star Jackson welcomes next step
TIMOTHY J. GONZALEZ / Statesman Journal
Luke Jackson has worked out for 16 NBA teams in preparation for today’s draft. Jackson is expected to be drafted in the first round.
Forward is expected to be selected in the top 14 picks
June 24, 2004
Despite coming from the small town of Creswell and playing high school basketball for a Class 3A school, Luke Jackson always believed he could play with the big boys of college basketball.
The proof was on display throughout a sterling career at the University of Oregon that culminated in being named second-team Associated Press All-American his senior year.
Now he’s ready to test his skills against the best players in the world. When Jackson’s name is called today in the NBA draft, it will be time to prove himself all over again.
“Every rookie wants to go in and prove they can play in the NBA,” Jackson said Wednesday. “I’m just hoping I can get on a team that’s a good fit for me. Hopefully I can and have a part in winning some games.”
Jackson refined his skills as a senior, displaying an all-around game that included 3-point shooting prowess, strong drives to the basket, the ability to handle the ball at the point and on the fast break, and the versatility to play every position on the floor except center.
Throughout predraft workouts in the past month, Jackson’s stock has been on the rise.
“I really felt that I deserved to be up there,” said Jackson, who averaged 21.2 points, 7.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists last season. “I went into all these workouts with a chip on my shoulder trying to prove that I should be up with the best guys in the draft. I’m just excited to see what team I go to.”
Jackson is projected as a lottery pick (top 14) in several mock drafts. NBAdraft.net has him going at No. 10 to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
At 6-foot-7, 215 pounds, Jackson figures to play shooting guard or small forward in the NBA. He is expected to be the third Oregon player selected in the first round in the past three years, joining Fred Jones (No. 14 pick by Indiana in 2002) and Luke Ridnour (No. 14 pick by Seattle in 2003).
“I’ve got him rated as one of the top 13 players in the draft. I think he should be a lottery pick,” said Jay Bilas, a college basketball analyst for ESPN who will be part of the network’s NBA draft coverage. “If he drops down a little, somebody will get a steal. He can really play. I’ve been a big believer in him since his sophomore year.”
In preparation for the draft, Jackson worked out for 16 teams in the past month, including stops in Denver, Seattle and Salt Lake City last week. Several teams have expressed considerable interest, including the Portland Trail Blazers, who currently have the 13th and 23rd picks in the first round.
“I’ve seen him play like 25 times with Fred Jones and Ridnour and all those guys, and in my mind he was the straw that stirred the Ducks’ drink,” said Mark Warkentien, director of player personnel for the Blazers. “I couldn’t be more supportive of him. It’s not along the lines of the choir boy stuff. I think he’s an assassin. He’ll shoot you dead.”
Warkentien was referring to Jackson’s ability to knock down 3-pointers. He hit .440 percent from beyond the arc last season for the Ducks and should have plenty of range to be a threat from the NBA 3-point line, which at 23-9 is four feet farther than college.
Jackson could be a good fit for the Blazers, who start Derek Anderson at shooting guard. Anderson averaged 13.6 points per game last season but struggled from the field, shooting .376 percent.
“I grew up being a Portland fan, and it would be nice to stay close to home,” Jackson said. “At the same time, there’s a lot of good places to play in the NBA.”
Jackson did not participate in the predraft camp June 8-11 in Chicago, but he had private workouts for several teams while he was there, including the Phoenix Suns, who have the seventh pick overall.
Dick Van Arsdale, senior vice president/player personnel for the Suns, said he would “not rule (Jackson) out at (No. 7).”
“His workout was very good,” Van Arsdale said. “There’s a lot of positive to like about him. He can shoot the ball really well. I think he’s increased his intensity on the defensive end.”
If Jackson falls out of the lottery, the Boston Celtics could be in line for his services at No. 15. He had a two-day workout in Boston.
“When I went out there I felt like I had a good workout and got along with Danny Ainge (Boston’s executive director of basketball operations),” Jackson said. “They have a nice tradition out there. Growing up, (Larry) Bird was my favorite player.”
At his best for the Ducks, Jackson was unstoppable on the offensive end. He scored a career-high 42 points in a February loss to Arizona at McArthur Court and notched 29 straight points during an extraordinary stretch late in the second half and overtime in the Ducks 77-72 overtime win at home March 17 against Colorado in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament.
A two-time all-Pacific-10 Conference selection, Jackson is the second leading scorer in school history. He played on two NCAA tournament teams at Oregon, including the 2001-02 Pac-10 championship team that reached the Elite Eight.
“He’s a very good basketball player,” said Marques Johnson, a college basketball analyst for Fox Sports Net and an NBA studio analyst. “He’s got all the stuff you need. He handles the ball, passes, shoots it, he’s tough, and he’s more athletic than people give him credit for.”
Johnson compared Jackson to Los Angeles Lakers’ rookie forward Luke Walton, who starred at Arizona.
“I think he may be more effective than Luke Walton,” Johnson said. “He’s a better offensive player and a better finisher.”
Before the draft evaluation process heated up, Jackson was considered a late first-round pick at best in a draft that includes a record nine high school players.
One of the few college seniors expected to be selected in the first round, there were concerns about Jackson’s quickness and his ability to defend. While those areas remain question marks, Jackson has apparently been impressive enough to merit strong lottery consideration.
“He’s done a terrific job in opening people’s eyes about how good he is in the last three weeks,” Oregon coach Ernie Kent said. “He shocked some people, and we knew that would be the case when they watched him closely and saw his ability to score.”
First-round picks receive three-year guaranteed contracts. Ridnour, a mid-first-round selection, signed a three-year contract for a reported $3.8 million.
Jackson plans to watch the draft at home with his family in Creswell.