Breakers point guard Jackson ready for action
Cedric Jackson has not given up on his NBA dream, which at the moment is great news for the NZ Breakers.
The dynamic point guard was the best player in the Australian NBL last season, though notably not its MVP - shaded by Perth's Kevin Lisch for that honour. He had to make do with the championship trophy instead as he crowned an electrifying debut season by leading his team past the Wildcats in an epic grand final that went the distance.
That just happens to be the marquee matchup as the ANBL tips off its new season Friday night - Jackson's Breakers hosting Lisch's Cats at the NSEC in a contest so sweet it should come with a health warning.
Jackson's numbers were staggering last season - 12.8 points, 5.4 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 2.2 steals. But his contribution went beyond that. He led the Breakers' defence with his great anticipation and fast hands, was a creative force with ball in hand and was as tough as hell - memorably shrugging off a serious ankle injury at playoff time.
The Breakers feared he would be lost to the NBA, and braced themselves for the bad/good news. But it was not to be as a summer league stint with the San Antonio Spurs presented just one opportunity, and no roster opening.
That saw Jackson decide to return to a team he loves, a league he feels familiar with and a city he's now comfortable in. The NBA dream still drives him - he just feels like the Breakers remain the ideal launching pad for him to achieve it.
"It was a good experience, finally getting a chance to play, showing everybody what I can do," said Jackson of his short stint with the Spurs. "I felt like I was very close, and had great feedback from the team. They just told me to keep doing what I'm doing, So I'm going to keep plugging away and go for it again this summer.
"It's a test of your resilience - not giving up on your dream and always working hard, because where there's a will, there's a way.
"That's why I came back here. This is a great situation for me because the guys and the coaches want to help me get better and give me a jump start back into the league."
Jackson said he had other offers, but the decision was "easy" to make his way back to Atlas Place where he has slipped back into a familiar environment.
"We're a new team, and we're still learning to play with each other, but we're a hard-working team, we play defence, we look after each other and we're a family.
"Nothing changes. It's still going at it every day in practice, still arguing and bickering just trying to make each other better."
Though Jackson promises more of the same in terms of his playing style, with maybe a dash more excitement, he does aim to do one thing differently in year two.
"I want to take on more of a leadership role. As a point guard you have to be vocal, and I've had a chance to learn what the guys are about, and what the league's about."
With those feral Wildcats back in town, Jackson's leadership will be needed from the off tomorrow night in what will be an early character check for the back-to-back champions.
"It was a great time, and a really good series," he said of the memorable grand finals. "It's exciting to start the season now against such a good team. They look very good again, so we definitely expect it to be another great one."