Scouting Report: It’s time for Demetrius Jackson to prove himself

Mar 26, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Demetrius Jackson (11) reacts during the second half against the Wichita State Shockers in the semifinals of the midwest regional of the 2015 NCAA Tournament at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 26, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Demetrius Jackson (11) reacts during the second half against the Wichita State Shockers in the semifinals of the midwest regional of the 2015 NCAA Tournament at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /
Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /

Last spring, Demetrius Jackson turned down the chance to be a late first rounder in the 2015 NBA Draft to return to school for his junior season at Notre Dame. With the departure of Jerian Grant, Jackson steps in as the team’s de facto star, and pre-season hype places him as a late-lottery to mid-first round prospect in the 2016 NBA Draft.

“Built like a running back” is an overused cliché, but in Jackson’s case it couldn’t be truer. Despite standing only 6-1 in shoes, Jackson is built at 201 pounds — heavier, even, than 6-9 Duke freshman Brandon Ingram (though that says as much about Ingram as it does about Jackson). His powerful build lends itself to explosiveness, and Jackson’s combination of quickness and leaping ability is almost unmatched at the college level.

Grant’s absence will force Jackson to take over lead ball handling duties, and how he transitions from the slightly more off ball role he played last year is imperative to convincing scouts that he can be a floor leader at the next level. Last year’s usage rating of 18.5 percent is shockingly low for a scoring guard, so Jackson will have to prove that he can carry both a heavier scoring and creating burden.


Along with his elite athleticism, the best part of Jackson’s game is his ability to shoot the ball. Over two years in college, he’s shot an outstanding 42.5 percent on 186 attempts from 3-point range. Last season, he shot an incredible 52.3 percent on mid-range jump shots, according to Hoop-Math.

People don’t seem to talk about him as an elite shooter, but Jackson’s performance to date makes it clear that shooting should be the first thing mentioned about his game. He’s adept both off the catch and the dribble, and his ability to stop on a dime for pull-up jumpers is fantastic. Last season, he scored a remarkable 1.73 points per guarded spot-up possession and 1.44 points per catch-and-shoot possession, according to Draft Express.

Part of what makes his pull-up so devastating is the elevation he gets on his shot, making it hard for opposing guards to bother him despite his size disadvantage. Jackson shot a healthy 3.3 attempts perimeter shots per game last season, but it would be nice to see if he can come close to maintaining his efficiency on a more sizeable 5-7 attempt basis. While Jackson is smooth and confident in his off the dribble shooting, his lack of on a string ball handling prevents him from creating more opportunities for himself.


For a small point guard, Jackson is a rather poor ball handler. He is not disastrous by any means — he has a nice step back crossover and can handle in pick-and-roll — but he seems slightly stiff and upright, and lacks the fluidity associated with great playmakers. Unless he becomes more fluid with the ball and keeps it lower to the ground, it is hard to envision him as a high volume pick-and-roll player.

Luckily for Jackson, his athletic gifts means he doesn’t need the world’s best handle to make space for himself. Simple crossovers and hesitations often do the trick for him, as he is able to get defenders on their heels with the incredible burst that he has with the ball. More creativity and change of pace to his off the bounce game would certainly help, but his speed makes it impossible for defenders to press up on his handle.

Jackson does a great job leveraging his speed and power to get to the rim in straight lines or with one or two hard moves. When attacking closeouts or coming downhill in pick-and-roll situations, he gets to the rim quickly and effectively. However, if he doesn’t turn the corner initially in pick-and-roll, he rarely flashes the wiggle or patience to probe and find space for himself.

Once he’s at the rim, Jackson does a solid job considering his size, but even with his vertical prowess he can sometimes struggle to finish over larger opponents. He does a great job initiating contact and jumping into defenders to create angles for himself, but in many cases the space he creates results in a difficult, off-balanced shot. His finishing isn’t a huge weakness, but to become a more effective finisher he needs to add more crafty Tony Parker-esque shots to his game and not solely rely on using his athleticism.

The area that Jackson’s biggest questions lie is his ability to pass the ball. He’s not a ball hog and doesn’t have noticeably bad vision, but he doesn’t have the type of advanced defensive reading skill of someone like his former teammate, Grant. His size certainly limits his ability to see passing lanes, but he often seems to only be making one read at a time on the offensive end. For example, he’s great at dumping passes off to bigs on his drives or kicking to the strong side when the defense overhelps, but he rarely makes crosscourt passes and never makes the type of pass where you didn’t even realize the man was open until the ball left his fingertips.

As a full-time point guard this year, Jackson will get the chance to show he’s improved as both a ball-handler and passer. From what I’ve seen, however, he’s a bit too mechanical and stiff in his playmaking to really excite me.


Jackson is a mixed bag as a defender, as many players of his stature are. He almost never gets outright beat guarding the ball (his combination of strength and quicks makes him nearly impossible to get around), yet he lacks the size and length to disrupt bigger point guards. At the college level, Jackson’s ability to pressure the ball alone can make him a valuable defender. In the NBA, though, where bigger guards are so prevalent, it is fair to wonder if he can effectively guard most starting point guards.

Patrick Beverley is an example of the type of point guard who has overcome his size to still be a premier guard defender, but Jackson hasn’t flashed the type of instincts and passion required to overcome his size disadvantage. He doesn’t have bad instincts by any means and generally does a good job navigating ball screens and making plays on the ball. At the same time, he’s not the type of defensive pest who disrupts the game with his energy and awareness.

The way he’s played defense so far in college indicates Jackson would be more suited to guarding backup point guard types rather than the NBA’s top tier.

2015-16 Outlook

I’m slightly more pessimistic on Jackson than the general public. He’s a phenomenal athlete and a great shooter, but until I see more playmaking ability from him on offense (both as a scorer and a distributor) or more impact on the game defensively, it is tough to get too excited about him. He certainly could play as a backup point guard who provides average defense, spot up shooting and some playmaking, but his current skill set doesn’t seem to be particularly start-able in the NBA.

His combination of shooting and athleticism alone makes him deserving of a late first round pick, but I’m not buying the top-15 hype based on what he’s shown to this point in his college career. If he can step things up and become more of a playmaker on both ends of the floor, I will re-evaluate my position come this June. For now, though, I’m off the Jackson bandwagon.