That got me to thinking- In a basketball season that has been tough to watch at times, there are still plenty of bright spots...Guys fighting through adversity...playing hard...frustrating the competition...etc.
The first guy I want to give tip of the cap to is Lewis Jackson.
If you've visited this site regularly for the last four years, you know what I think/feel about Jackson. His impact was immediate when he first suited up. He started pretty much right away and made JJ, Smooge and Rob's lives easier by driving, drawing the defense, and finding them when they're open. A pal of ours who is a regular reader told me that she was sick of watching LewJack play a few seasons ago- she didn't like the fact that he couldn't finish and he wasn't a good-enough shooter. But, the Decatur, Illinois product has figured out how make difficult shots in traffic while tempering his speed a bit...and has paid dearly for it.
|LewJack sans his beloved Jordans|
I've said it before, and will say it again now, this team has frustrated me because the defensive effort hasn't been consistent from the top to the bottom...but one thing seems to be a truth about this year as well- If LewJack is on, Purdue is a different team.
I'm not just talking about Jackson hitting jumpshots, which he does much more regularly than he did early in his career...but I mean on in every part of the game. His tempo is impossible to match for opposing guards when he's not hobbled...his defensive style is frustrating and embodies what Painter wants to see out of on-ball defenders...and his ball handling is the best I've ever seen as a Purdue fan.
When he came in, his ability to handle the ball was what excited me the most...and he hasn't disappointed in this aspect of the game for the last four years. Porter Robers and Alan Eldridge both were in command of the offense while running the point, but I don't think either had the confidence with the ball in their hands that Jackson displays versus a press. How many times in just the last two seasons has Jackson out-smarted a trap or simply been too quick to box in? That ability comes from the combo of hard work and God-given ability.
I've gotten to talk to Jackson a few times off the court...LBD is a big fan and Mrs. Boilerdowd puts Lewis on the spectrum somewhere between a Teddy Bear or puppy. But I often remind her that this dude is tough as nails. In fact, he and a few pals from back in Illinois get together and box...just for fun during the summers. In each of the matches I've seen (not in person, mind you), Jackson has been the smaller fighter by quite a bit...and has still managed to hold his own. Not surprising watching what he's been doing against bigger guys on the hardwood during his time in God's Country.
I'm 5'4" and after talking to Jackson, I find it hard to believe that Jackson is much taller than 5'7"...but his lack of height means nothing to me and seems to mean little to defenders as they've been forced to respect his ability to change the pace of the game and its complexion with just one drive. Like all of us who are below average in height, Jackson has developed the ability to revel in being the underdog...that attitude might be important as Purdue heads toward the final month of the regular season. Few people in the media, and almost no one outside of the Purdue family even sees Purdue as much of a story...but with 9 games left and plenty of time in the spotlight versus elite opponents, this season can still be made (or broken for that matter)...there's a lot of basketball left.
Lewis Jackson: Purdue Boilermaker