An unheralded prospect coming out of high school, receiving recruiting interest from the likes of Long Beach State and San Diego State, Pierre Jackson
was forced to spend his first two years of eligibility at the junior college level at Southern Idaho, after failing to qualify academically for Division I initially.
Two NJCAA championships and one NJCAA player of the year award later, Jackson was considered the #1 JUCO player in America, which paved his way to Scott Drew's Baylor squad in Waco.
Jackson came off the bench up until midway through the season, but for all intents and purposes he was Baylor's most important player virtually as soon as he stepped on campus, leading the team in minutes played on the season. He used more possessions than anyone else on the squad by a fairly wide margin, ranking second in the Big 12 in assists per-40, and sixth in 3-point percentage.
Severely undersized for a NBA point guard prospect at 5-10, Jackson makes up for what he lacks in height with outstanding athleticism. He has highlight reel caliber quickness and explosiveness, to go along with impressive ball-handling ability.
The majority of Jackson's offense comes on the pick and roll, where his excellent first step and ability to change speeds and directions quickly makes him difficult for opposing defenses to stay in front of. He can find the open man as the play develops, pull-up on a dime from the mid-range, or utilize a quick crossover to take the ball strong to the basket and finish above the rim with authority.
Jackson does a good job of finding open teammates in a variety of ways, be it making the extra pass in transition, improvising on the drive and dish or on lob plays within the set-offense. He anticipates teammates getting open and can make highly creative passes, showing solid court vision and unselfishness.
Jackson is an outstanding perimeter shooter with both his feet set and off the dribble, showing excellent mechanics, a quick release, deep range, and the ability to elevate and create separation sharply from his defender. He made 40% of his catch and shoot jumpers last season and an extremely impressive 41% of his pull-ups, sometimes from well beyond the college line.
While displaying a diverse skill-set and an overall impressive talent-level, Jackson still has plenty of work to do as a playmaker if he's to successfully transition his game from college to the NBA level. For starters, he ranked as the most turnover prone point guard amongst our top-100 prospects, coughing the ball up on a very high 27% of his used possessions last year.
Jackson isn't a solid and steady enough floor general at this stage, as he can be very up and down from game to game and sometimes possession to possession, looking extremely wild and suffering some serious mental lapses at times. He needs to improve his ability to control the rhythm of the game, as he can get very careless with the ball and try to force the issue badly at inopportune moments, being loose and unpredictable with the ball and attempting to make the spectacular play over the effective one when the scoreboard should dictate otherwise.
His shot-selection in particular can leave something to be desired, as for example, it's not entirely rare to see him bring the ball up the floor and jack up a contested 3-pointer early in the shot-clock before any of his teammates even touch the ball.
His lack of height doesn't leave him a huge margin of error in many cases with his decision making, as he just doesn't have the height to navigate his way through traffic against bigger defenders when he over-penetrates and runs into brick walls. Generally speaking, Jackson isn't a great finisher in traffic around the basket despite his ability to make highlight reel caliber plays, something that could become even more of an issue against taller and longer defenders in the NBA.
Like Baylor as a whole, Jackson was much better on the offensive end than he was on defense last season. With his quick feet and excellent hands, he has the ability to put pressure on the ball and will come up with a good number of steals every game, but he isn't terribly consistent in this area yet. His lack of size and length clearly affects him, making it difficult to contest the shots of bigger guards, but he also doesn't show great fundamentals or effort staying in front of opponents. He allows himself to get screened too easily and doesn't put up enough resistance on the perimeter, something that his team will try to mask at times by playing a good amount of zone.
All in all, Jackson did a very good job in his first season of real high-level organized basketball, coming out of the JUCO ranks. The transition to the division one ranks isn't always the smoothest for JUCO players, and he clearly still has room to continue to improve as he garners more experience running an offense against top competition. Jackson's lack of size will always work against him to a certain extent as far as NBA talent evaluators are concerned, but if he can find a way to iron out the weaknesses in his game, particularly with his decision making, he could certainly carve out a niche in the league.