Jackson Just Getting Started For Aggies Hoops
COLLEGE STATION — Buzz Williams pulled Quenton Jackson aside before the start of practice. After making a name for himself in the Southeastern Conference for his acrobatic slam dunks and clutch shooting from the paint off the bench, the junior would nab his first start of the season.
Starts could come and go depending on a game's outcome — making Jackson's outing against Alabama dire for improvement. In return for Williams trusting him to start, the California kid delivered a performance to remember.
And now, this could be the start to a quality finish for Jackson and Texas A&M in the first season under the new man in command at Reed Arena.
“He had earned the right to start, not necessarily because Dre has done anything wrong," Williams said of Jackson's outing Wednesday evening. “Dre turned his ankle Monday at practice. Literally like 10 minutes before he turned his ankle, I had told the team that Q was going to start."
Jackson scored a season-high 20 points at Coleman Coliseum for the Aggies, including four free throws that would solidify a 74-68 victory over the Crimson Tide. A 12-0 run from A&M would come to an end off a deep three-pointer from the new starter, overcoming a nine-point deficient in the second half.
On a two-game winning streak, Jackson can see the change from the start of the season to now. Everything offensively is changing for the team — shootings improving, scores are higher and the shots taken are being made.
The team hopes to keep the same momentum heading down the stretch with top 25 matchups against Kentucky and Auburn in the coming week.
"We know every game is a big game and we know how much we got to fight coming into it," Jackson said. "I think that's the main reason why we're having a chance [to win] because we fight because we know we have a chance to win."
Before his start, Jackson's personal points have seen a quality rise. Against Georgia, he'd score 11. South Carolina? 16. Mizzou? Schools from Columbia seem to produce similar results. For the season, Jackson is currently averaging 8.4 points, 2.4 rebounds and is 73% from the free throw line.
Much like any player under a new regime, it will take time to learn Williams' new system. Jackson believes everything takes time, but slowly he's adjusted in the past several games. And the stat line doesn't lie in favor of both Jackson and the team's adjustment to what made Williams' a hot name in Blacksburg.
"I forgot how hard I have to play to be successful," Jackson said Thursday afternoon following shoot-around. "Just the confidence my teammates and my coaches are giving me is helping me as well."
That confidence will hope to travel over when Ben Howland's Mississippi State Bulldogs arrive on west campus Saturday afternoon. A win against the nation's top player and the nation's top riser could end in a trifecta against a former coach from one of the nation's top programs.
As for Jackson, things are just getting started. With new-found confidence, 12th Man fans can expect No.3 to be the No.1 option on the court for the remainder of the season.
"Our confidence level I would say would be through the roof," Jackson said heading into the final five games of the regular season. "I don't think there's any stopping us. We just know what we need to do to get these wins and that's fight."
The Aggies will tip-off against the Bulldogs at 2:30 p.m. at Reed Arena. The game will be nationally televised on SEC Network.