Badgers' Jackson works to control emotions
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
MADISON--Even without sleeves, Traevon Jackson’s emotions were exposed to thousands of college basketball fans every time he stepped onto the court last season.
The facial expressions and body language after mistakes and, in certain games, the on-court commentary aimed at opponents, left no doubt about Jackson’s mood.
Jackson started the final 29 games at point guard, and UW coach Bo Ryan has said the Badgers would have struggled to reach the NCAA Tournament without his varied contributions.
Yet the junior, who worked on all facets of his game in the off-season, acknowledged he has to be a better poker player when UW opens the season against St. John’s at 6 p.m. Friday in Sioux Falls, S.D.
“I have to have more of a poker-face type attitude where nothing can really get to you,” he said. “Just being a leader because there are going to be times in the game when stuff doesn’t go right.
“You’ve got to be consistent, consistent in everything you do.”
The experience gleaned from his 29 starts last season should provide voluminous reference material.
“Absolutely,” he said. “That all comes with maturity, just growing up and learning the game. Having that experience helps a lot.”
Josh Gasser was set to open last season at point guard until a knee injury ended that plan. George Marshall got the nod for the first six games but was inconsistent. The UW staff then turned to Jackson, who did not play point guard in high school, when the Badgers hosted Virginia on Nov. 28.
Jackson was uneven last season. His ball-handling and decision-making were suspect at times. His shot selection wasn’t always the best.
However, he provided grit and leadership on a team that needed both, hit several huge shots to help turn defeats into victories, defended well and improved as the season progressed.
Jackson finished at 6.9 points and 2.5 rebounds per game. He led the team in assists (2.8 per game) but also in turnovers (2.1). His three-point shooting (29.3%) was spotty, but he was named to the All-Big Ten tournament team after helping UW reach the title game.
With the return of Gasser and more offensive threats, Jackson shouldn’t have to shoot as often. He knows his primary role will be distributor.
“He has been very willing to accept anything we say,” assistant coach Lamont Paris said. “That wasn’t always the case. It’s not that he wasn’t coachable, but he is a very confident guy in his own ability.
“Now he is trying to lead more and distribute more. He has matured and he realizes that is a big part of—if you’re going to be the point guard—of what you have to do.”
Jackson’s fire, which at times burned out of control, was on display in UW’s 71-49 victory over Ohio State on Feb. 17 in Madison.
Jackson outplayed Aaron Craft on both ends of the floor and finished with 10 points, four assists, two turnovers, two rebounds and a steal in 35 minutes.
However, after burying a tough shot, Jackson had a few choice words for the Ohio State bench as he got back on defense.
Such outbursts can’t be repeated this season.
“If you’re good you never have to tell anybody,” Ryan said. “And if you’re doing your job you shouldn’t have to broadcast it. Every once in a while he would step out of character and maybe get into that a little bit.”