Tigers still have serious bite


Joe Jackson's commitment to the University of Memphis is major news for both the program and first-year head coach Josh Pastner. Jackson is ranked as the 21st overall prospect in the country and is the fifth-ranked point guard. This not only continues to emphasize that Memphis is a major player on the national recruiting scene and one that can still attract the best players from its backyard, but it also helps solidify the Tigers' 2010 recruiting class as one of the best in the country.

While landing the No. 5 overall player, SG Will Barton, was a big commitment nationally and very important for Memphis, nothing makes a bigger statement locally than when a new head coach and his staff can put a net around its fertile recruiting area and keep the best player(s) home. Pastner & Co. have sent a strong message to the competition that the University of Memphis still has a stranglehold on the best players in its own backyard. Jackson's pledge legitimizes the Tigers as a strong option for other Memphis-area players to consider.

Jackson will be exciting for the Memphis faithful to watch and rally around; he will be the toast of the town, a local hero who becomes as big a celebrity as any player in the city. Because he is as quick and explosive as any player in the country, the 5-foot-11 point guard excels in an up-tempo transition game. A blur with the ball, he is almost impossible to stop from getting into the paint and creating havoc when attacking in the open floor. Jackson is a scoring point guard in the mold of the Knicks' Nate Robinson. With some concentration, he could also be one of the best defensive point guards at the college level. He has the anticipation and feet of an NFL cornerback and is outstanding playing off the ball in passing lanes. He could be relentless as an on-ball defender for 94 feet.

He will need to develop more of a point guard's mentality and become an extension of the head coach on the floor who understands time and score situations as well as how to play in the half court when the defense slows the game down. As Jackson gains more experience running a collegiate team against top-level competition, his stock as a point guard for the NBA, which is every top player's goal, should also continue to rise. It will be imperative that he learns how to effectively read and use ball screens as his ability to shoot the 3 behind the screen or turn the corner and attack the defense would become a potent weapon in Memphis' arsenal.

Obviously, securing players who can help a team win is vital. What is also extremely important and talked about far less is helping them to reach their potential. Jackson should develop and excel under Pastner's tutelage. Pastner is great in this phase of coaching, and with a strong staff in place, led by former Rice head coach Willis Wilson, this process will evolve.

The future combination of Jackson and Barton gives Pastner and the Tigers potentially one of the best backcourts in the country. Individually, these two players are in the elite category of explosive scorers in the 2010 class; collectively, they could give Memphis the top-scoring backcourt in the nation. With two integral pieces of the puzzle in place, it will be interesting to see what kind of effect this success in the early going has on the Tigers' ability to attract an elite-level post player.

Paul Biancardi is a veteran of the coaching ranks with years of college experience. He has recruited on a national level with stops as an assistant coach at Boston University and Boston College, associate head coach at Ohio State and most recently as an assistant at Saint Louis University. Biancardi was head coach at Wright State University from 2003 to 2006. In 2003, he was named Horizon League Coach of the Year. He is a selection committee member for the prestigious McDonald's All-America Game and the Gatorade Player of the Year award.