By Matt Winkeljohn | The Good Word
- With but a single school year between Tadric Jackson and a Georgia Tech diploma, he’s thinking less may lead to more, so he’s going light in chow lines and long on workouts.
The shooting guard cut weight before last season, and had – by far – his best campaign, so the 6-foot-2 senior from Tifton is trying to one-up, or downsize, himself again. He sure looks the leaner part; fans may hardly recognize him this fall.
“It was 212 [pounds] last year. Today, I’m at 203,” Jackson said last week. “We started on my weight 10 weeks ago. I was at 213 coming back [for summer school, conditioning and workouts. I’ve been losing about a pound a week.”
If Jackson’s improvement last year is taken as a harbinger of hoops to come, fans of the Yellow Jackets are going to be in for a treat this season.
Jackson put up career bests across the board as a junior, averaging 12.1 points off the bench (he started five of 36 games, including two ACC contests) on 44.6 percent shooting while making 32.5 percent of his 3-pointers.
His averages over his first two college seasons: 5.0 points per game, 32.2 percent shooting, 21.9 percent on 3-pointers.
No wonder he was runner-up in voting for the ACC Sixth Man of the Year award after scoring in double figures 23 times, 11 of those games coming in conference action.
Four times Jackson scored 20 or more points in ACC games, including a career-best 29-point outing against Boston College, against whom he scored 20 second-half points as the Jackets rallied from an eight-point deficit to win.
Even though Jackson was in the best condition of his career last season, Tech head coach Josh Pastner told him that he could be better. “Coach was on me about getting in shape, looking better, looking more like a guard, a basketball player ...
“I had the same goal last year, to trim down from the year before,” he recalled. “I’m just trying to see what I can be comfortable at while maintaining performance and speed, jumping, running. I’m just trying to play longer.”
Free from the ankle injuries that slowed him in previous summers, Jackson’s ahead of his conditioning paces of the past, and his diet is hardly recognizable.
Under the guidance of strength and conditioning coach Dan Taylor, he’s starting most days with a protein shake, and then eating efficiently at lunch and dinner. He may snack occasionally on something like a banana or some beef jerky.
Sure, there are times where he thinks about other foods, but Jackson remains committed to being the best he can be in his final season as a Jacket.
“This week, Dan Taylor’s been having me eat rice and salmon, and a little lettuce on the side [for lunches]. A little pasta with chicken for dinner,” he said. “It was hard [at the beginning], but on the other end it’s not worth it [to stray]. I might as well keep doing what I’m doing. I just had to put my mind to it.”
Jackson’s looking forward to rewards beyond improved conditioning and increased quickness.
Mindful that Tech has already surpassed last year’s season ticket sales, he knows there is likely to be even more excitement in McCamish Pavilion, where in 2016-17 the Jackets beat North Carolina, Florida State and Notre Dame, among others in a surprising season that went all the way to the NIT championship game.
He wants to be ready.
“It makes you feel like on game night you’re important. These fans come out and support us,” Jackson said. “They bring the energy, and we feel it. We appreciate it a lot because when they bring the energy it’s like we feed off of it.”
“Jose . . . he’s crafty, he can shoot the ball well from 15 feet on back, 3-pointers. He’s a quick guard. Quick feet, he can defend real well,” Jackson said.
“Curtis . . . he can shoot the ball really well. He’s got size, like 6-4. He’s got length to defend and can run the floor real well.
“Moses . . . Extremely athletic, 6-8 small forward/power forward. Explosive, long arms. He can deflect passes, and definitely get offensive rebounds all the time.
“Evan . . . Exceptional shooter. He’s a great cutter. He can get out and run the floor really well, and he finishes well around the rim.
“They’re going to help us a lot. I believe all four of them will definitely get a chance.”
Jackson wants to help more than he has in the past, and he’s pushing himself out of another comfort zone as he tries to become more vocal in leadership.
“I’m trying to get comfortable not feeling bad telling somebody what to do, just speaking up,” he said. “We’ve only got two seniors this year, me and Ben [Lammers].”
On the court, there’s extra work being put in on Jackson’s weak spot: free throw shooting. He made a modest 56.2 percent last season, so, “I’m putting up 1,000 a week; 250 four days a week.”
Tech surprised folks last season while going 21-16, and 8-10 in the ACC, and Jackson’s doing all that he can on and off the court to help the Jackets better that, and reward fans for their energy investments.
“We expected this. We knew we were going to kind of shock people,” he said of last season. “Coach was like, ‘let them think we’re not going to win any games.’ We weren’t worried about the outside, just the inside, the family. We knew the fans were going to come along when we started winning games.
“We’ve surpassed season tickets from last year, so now we’ve got to do better than last year so next year’s seniors will have even more people, and they’ll sell out every game instead of some games. We’re trying to get it back to how it was with the Final Four team back in 2004 ... just trying to get more people in here.”