Cedric 'Action' Jackson's NZ return a 'no-brainer'
In the end, the decision for Cedric Jackson was no decision at all. All he had to do was listen to his heart, which was beating an emphatic message he couldn't ignore.
The man dubbed "Action" Jackson has signed a two-year deal to return to the New Zealand Breakers in the Australian National Basketball League following a one-year hiatus playing his hoops in Slovenia.
The 28-year-old point guard said today from his home in the United States that it had been a decision as easy as his previous one had been difficult.
The money may have been better in Europe, and the level a smidgeon closer to the NBA he still aspired to be part of, but this time round he found his motivations were a little different.
A year away from the club he led to back-to-back-championships, and a title threepeat, had changed his perspective markedly. It was time, he discovered, for a "reunion".
"Coming back to New Zealand, that's where my heart was and I just couldn't fight it any more," Jackson said.
"So I just made that easy choice."
As Jackson spoke to a huddle of Kiwi media, a consistent message emerged of a basketballer at peace with this next stage in his career.
The athletic playmaker - a consistent triple-double threat - has always been passionate on the basketball court, and emotions had very much guided his decision to "come home".
"It was a no-brainer," he said.
"New Zealand had my heart, and it was tough for me to be in another place, still thinking about them often, trying to keep up with the games on weekends. I always felt this was the right decision for me to make, so I went with my gut feeling.
"I love the country so much. Everything was better for me there. I was pretty much homesick just being in another country and kept comparing it to my experiences in New Zealand. It was almost a no-brainer that this was a better fit coming back."
Jackson understood it was a new team under a new coach; gone were veteran leaders Dillon Boucher and CJ Bruton, and gone too was head coach Andrej Lemanis, who had brought out the very best in him.
But enough familiar pieces remained for Jackson to have hope the magic could be rekindled. Head coach Dean Vickerman was an influential figure in those championships, and the likes of Mika Vukona, Tom Abercrombie, Alex Pledger and Corey Webster were all still around.
"Hopefully I can come in and help the guys and we can all get better and have a better season than last year," he said of the dramatic fall from grace that saw the Breakers finish second from bottom in 2013-14.
"The most important thing to me is I'm back with the guys I've created a great relationship with, and I'll adjust to how things are."
Jackson's stint in Slovenia was undermined by a serious groin injury, but he said he was over that now and after a concerted off-season programme that included yoga he felt back to his best.
Yes, the NBA dream remained "the ultimate goal" but it was now more of a guiding light than a driving force. "I talked to Deano about that," said Jackson.
"He wanted to make sure that I was still thinking next level, and that it would drive me to do my best to help the club. But they're my family, they know my hopes and dreams, and they know what I need to work on to keep getting better."
One thing working in Jackson's favour this time round was the new league emphasis away from overly physical defending.
He'll be a handful to guard one on one - a situation Vickerman will be banking on - and it was hard to imagine he wouldn't be even more effective with his ability to penetrate and either finish at the rim or find open team-mates.
Jackson said he hadn't been aware of the change in refereeing emphasis, but admitted it was an "interesting" scenario for him. For interesting, read mouth-watering.
The former crowd favourite was also asked what he was looking forward to most about his return.
"Seeing the fans man - I can't wait to see them," he said.
"I went on a little social media rave yesterday, and just the familiarity about family and coming home, it felt great to get all the love and the attention. That's really huge to me."
Jackson will arrive in New Zealand in September to prepare for a season all about redemption for the fallen champs. It should be some homecoming.
CEDRIC JACKSON BREAKERS NUMBERS
2011-12: 12.8ppg, 6.5apg, 5.4rpg, 2.2spg
2012-13: 14.6ppg, 6.8apg, 5.9rpg, 2.8spg