Ostrout: Jackson makes missed shots a thrill for UConn

Published on Thursday, 20 January 2022 12:53

Journal Inquirer

HARTFORD - Andre Jackson’s leaping ability, and by extension his dunking prowess, is almost unparalleled in UConn basketball history.

“It’s sick,” is how UConn coach Dan Hurley puts it.

Indeed, coach, it is.

The 6-foot-6 sophomore from Amsterdam, New York, is such the aerial acrobat that even his missed dunks draw gasps from onlookers.

That certainly was the case Tuesday night at the XL Center when a tip-dunk attempt by Jackson was perhaps the most impressive play in the No. 25 Huskies’ 76-59 victory over Butler.

The late Stanley Robinson remains the best dunker in UConn history, we’d wager, but Jackson has a chance to eclipse even the great “Sticks.”

But it’s Jackson’s non-dunking plays that have thrilled his coaches lately. Jackson drilled three 3-pointers against the Bulldogs, and finished with his first career double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds. He also had three assists, a steal, and a blocked shot.

“It’s great to see him get rewarded with the made 3’s because he’s in the gym as much as anyone I’ve ever seen,” Hurley said.

What used to be one of Jackson’s biggest liabilities is suddenly a super power.

He made just two of his 17 attempts from behind the 3-point arc last season as a freshman with the Huskies. This season he’s a whopping 13-for-25, connecting at a team-high 52 percent.

Jackson’s shot isn’t the most traditional. And for a man who spends most of the game soaring three feet off the ground, his feet barely leave the floor when he shoots from the outside.

“I don’t want to critique his form, because he does have good rotation,” Hurley said. “He’s got good arc. He’s not shooting a knuckleball.”

Jackson’s shot style seems to have been tweaked just slightly from a year ago, though he questions that observation.

“I don’t think I changed my form, I just worked on it. Starting last year, every day I was in the gym,” Jackson said. “I’m just starting to see some payoff from the work I put in over the summer, over the time since I’ve been at UConn, and before I got to UConn. I knew that was a big weakness, now I’m trying to make it a strength.”

Consecutive 3-pointers by Jackson in the first half Tuesday helped UConn pull away, and never really look back, from Butler.

His 12 points gave him double figures in points for the fourth straight game, but Jackson wasn’t overly pleased with his performance Tuesday. He felt his defense on the likes of Butler’s Simas Lukosius could have been better.

Still, his one-handed tip that nearly brought the house down in Hartford was amazing even though it counted for zero points.

“I was running the floor and I seen somebody ahead of me going to finish. I kind of just went for it,” Jackson said. “It bounced the right way, I just should have dunked it harder and I think would have made it. But after I missed it, I seen R.J. (Cole) got the rebound, so I was excited.”

And although his miss was much more impressive than the others, Jackson’s missed dunk was one of many miscues at the rim on offense for UConn Tuesday.

Hurley actually thinks Jackson has relied a little too much on his dunks in the past - not that the coach is dissuading Jackson from dunking any time he feels he can.

“The thing with Andre is he was able to dunk so much as a high school player,” Hurley said.

“It was a constant highlight. He didn’t have to develop finishes and nuance around the basket,” Hurley continued. “But he’s starting to figure that piece out. And that makes him a very, very dangerous man as he understands how to get to rim and develop different creativities with how to finish in there.”

UConn (12-4, 3-2 Big East) is starting to benefit from Jackson’s creativity, though his coaches believe he’s just scratching the surface. Or, to change the idiom to fit Jackson’s abilities better, he’s just scratching the ceiling.

“The fruits of that labor is just beginning to show itself,” Hurley said. “But he’s got another level that he can take his game to.”

We are assuming Hurley means a metaphorical level. On a physical level, he’s already jumping out of the gym.

Posted in The Bristol Press, UConn on Thursday, 20 January 2022 12:53. Updated: Thursday, 20 January 2022 12:56.