Basketball: Tall Blacks chasing Jackson

Cedric Jackson of the Breakers is in hot demand. Photo by Getty
Cedric Jackson of the Breakers is in hot demand. Photo by Getty
Cedric Jackson has excelled when wearing a blue Breakers singlet, and the Tall Blacks are now hoping he might consider also donning a black one to play for New Zealand.

Jackson is well on his way to being named this season's league MVP and yesterday collected his fourth ANBL Player of the Week award for his dominant performance in the 98-81 dismantling of main rivals Perth.

He leads the league in assists and steals, is second in total points, fifth on total three-pointers made and has also played a massive part in the Breakers' 10-game winning streak that sees them perched on top of the ladder.

The prospect of playing for New Zealand has been raised with him and Jackson, who is in his second season as a Breakers' import, is keen. It would normally take five years to qualify, but athletes can sometimes qualify more quickly depending on their commitment to New Zealand.

"I have been approached about getting naturalised so that would be another great accomplishment for me because I had never considered [international basketball] before," he said. "If I get naturalised I would definitely play for the Tall Blacks. That would be pretty cool but we'll have to see how it goes. There are a lot of things for me to think about in the off-season."

The biggest one is the prospect of reviving his NBA career.

Jackson is desperate to return to the NBA - he played a handful of games for the Cleveland Cavaliers, San Antonio Spurs and Washington Wizards in 2010 - and make his mark in the world's best league.

There are many who are convinced he will pick up a contract in the Breakers' off-season and the 26-year-old will once again head back to the US for summer leagues when clubs run their eye over NBA aspirants.

He wouldn't give details but said "more than five" NBA outfits had been in contact with his agent and were tracking his progress.

"Teams are noticing," he said. "The hard work is really paying off and a lot of teams are keeping an eye on me and keeping contact with my agent.

"It would be a dream come true [to make it] but just because you're there doesn't mean you're going to stay there. You always have to continue to work until you get a longer-term contract. I never get too complacent with things that happen but I'm striving to get back there."

Any possibility of him playing for New Zealand is a long shot and would disappear if he earned an NBA contract because of residency requirements.

"The Tall Blacks would love to have him if it didn't work out for him in the NBA and he stayed in New Zealand longer term," Tall Blacks' assistant coach Paul Henare said.

"It would obviously benefit the team and benefit our chances on the international stage.

"I'm sure we would do everything possible to help make it happen. We can endorse the person but immigration officials don't do any special favours. No matter how special the person is, they still have to tick all the boxes."

There have been a handful of Americans who have qualified in the past, including Ed Book, Willie Burton and Casey Frank. Marcel Jones qualified last year but hasn't won Tall Blacks selection and former Breakers' guard Kevin Braswell is also keen but hasn't so far satisfied immigration requirements.

The Breakers would dearly love to hang onto Jackson next season and will closely monitor his progress in the off-season. They signed him to a deal last year that saw him commit to the Breakers for a second season if he hadn't picked up an NBA deal by August 1 and are hopeful of working out a similar arrangement this time around.

- Michael Brown of APNZ

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