Thursday, November 2, 2006

Jackson motivated by mishaps


It has been a difficult 18 months for junior forward Darnell Jackson.

In November of 2005, he was suspended for nine games by the NCAA for accepting $5,000 in gifts from family friend, and Kansas booster, Don Davis.

Just a few months earlier, in May, his mother, Shawn, and grandmother, Evon, were in a car accident in Nevada. Evon would die a few weeks after the accident.

Then just a few weeks ago, Jackson's relationship with Davis was again in the news, this time as part of the investigation by the NCAA that will cause Kansas to lose a scholarship for two years.

Through all of that, Jackson has used it as motivation.

"I just have a lot of anger inside, that you just want to let out on the court and just play," Jackson said. "I use my grandma as motivation. I use my mom as motivation when she is sitting in a room with all those broken bones from the car wreck. It helps me a lot to go out there and play."

Jackson said the feeling of anger comes and goes, but he has accepted responsibility for the incident with Davis.

"It hurts a little bit because I wish someone had told me before that it was wrong," Jackson said of the relationship with Davis that began in 2002. "I can't do anything about it so I am just going to have to take my medicine and move on."


Journal-World File Photo

After sitting out an NCAA suspension, Darnell Jackson proved last season he can be a force inside.

Jackson said that he wished he could still speak with Davis, but now, because of the NCAA ruling, he was not able to.

Since the investigation is over, Jackson is focused on being a better basketball player. Last season he showed an improved outside game, hitting jump shots with ease, when a year before he struggled shooting the basketball. The outside game helped improve his numbers, averaging 6.3 points per game and 4.9 rebounds.

"My role is always going to be the same since I got here," Jackson said. "I am not coming out here trying to prove anything. When I came back from the nine games that I sat out I did well, so I am just going to try to do the same thing to help the team win."

The 6-foot-9, 250-pound Oklahoma City native used his body to get positioning on the block and fight for rebounds, in which he was third on the team last season.

Jackson will be fighting for minutes with junior center Sasha Kaun, sophomore forward Julian Wright, and freshman forward Darrell Arthur. Jackson who has played with Kaun for two years now, feels like they have a good idea as to each other's tendencies.

"We are always going to hit each other," Jackson said. "I got hit the other day by Sasha. Man, it was bad. It just reminds us of all the things we have been through, you can never get mad at each other because we are just a family."

If junior center C.J. Giles does not return to the team, Jackson's minutes should increase from the 15.3 he averaged last season.

Jackson always has been a hard-working player in practice, with multiple players citing his work last year, trying to get the team going, even during his suspension.

Kansas coach Bill Self has seen moments from Jackson in practice that make him believe Jackson could be one of the better offensive post players on the roster.

"He is one of those guys that some days I can see him being our best big-man scorer and some days I can see three other guys being better," Self said. "We just haven't developed that consistency with those guys yet, that we know that one has distanced themselves from the other. In a lot of ways that is exciting because you have depth and you have competition, but it would be nice if one of those three guys really step up and play at a level that warrants them being on the floor the majority of the minutes."


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