Cedric Jackson was the Breakers' best player in his first
season at the franchise and, instead of enduring a sophomore
slump, he has just got better.
But with the American no longer a novelty in the Australian
NBL, how has it happened? Why, with defences able to adjust
to his game, has Jackson thoroughly dominated the league
through the first two months?
The answer lies largely with Jackson's work in the offseason,
during his ultimately unsuccessful attempt to play his way
back into the NBA.
Instead of returning to the North Shore burnt out and
burdened by his failed dream, Jackson came back with
increased powers. His shooting motion, which was never
pretty, seemed more fluid and a glut of points arrived with
After averaging 12.8 points on 43 per cent shooting during
last season - perfectly acceptable statistics for a
pass-first point guard - Jackson has blown those numbers out
of the water.
Through 10 games he leads the Breakers and sits second in the
league in scoring 16.9 points per game. Jackson is shooting
50 per cent from the floor, trailing only the Breakers' bigs,
while his success rate from deep is up 12 percentage points
to 37 per cent, bettered only by shooting guard Darryl
The scoring spree has been vital to the Breakers' cause,
considering the loss of Gary Wilkinson and the inconsistent
displays of Tom Abercrombie. But it has taken nothing away
from his role running the offence.
In fact, it appears to have improved it. Jackson is creating
more chances for his teammates than last season - his
league-leading assist total of eight per game is 1.5 more
than what he managed in his first year.
As the gaudy assist numbers show, when Jackson has the ball
in his hands defences don't know which trick he is about to
pull from his considerable bag.
And that is perhaps where Jackson 2.0 outperforms the
original version. Teams last year would make Jackson try to
beat them with his shooting - a preferred poison to letting
him drive to the hoop or find an open teammate - but this
year he is a triple threat.
Those shooting adjustments made to aid his NBA prospects have
also boosted not only his own points totals but opportunities
for the rest of the Breakers.
"It's hard to guard him with one person," coach Andrej
Lemanis said. "His ability to get in the lane creates numbers
advantages. And then he's a great decision-maker - he's one
of those guys who can score himself or he can make a pass."
Jackson had another hypothesis for his surge to the front of
the MVP race - an award he was denied last season - one
backed up by feel rather than a line in a box score.
The 26-year-old said opposing teams' familiarity of him was
countered by his knowledge of both the league and his own
side, knowledge which has seen him step into a leadership
role in the table-topping team.
"[2001/12] was my first year overseas, so I didn't really
know what to expect. I was just chilling in the back and just
trying to find my spot on the team. As the year went by I
started to get more comfortable, started to know my role and
started to know the guys.
"Now that I've had a taste of it, I came over this year ready
to go from the start. I knew what to expect so I've just
tried to take on the challenge."