Each month, TexLegends.com will take you inside the Legends and Dallas Mavericks organization and showcase a Rising Star. Thanks to BBVA Compass, each piece will showcase a player or front office member who is rising in the ranks and taking the next step to get to the NBA.
Controversy is to life what bread is to a sandwich. You will always have it, there’s no way around it. Pierre Jackson has gone through leaps and hurdles of naysayers and dodged limits and bounds of all kinds to achieve his dream and get to where he is.
That place is the National Basketball Association.
December 25th was a very merry Christmas indeed for Jackson. His agent tried to keep the surprise from him until Christmas morning, but Pierre had to book a plane ticket to Austin, where the Legends would play the Spurs’ farm team on the 28th.
“There were talks before but I wasn’t sure,” says Jackson. “I was at home on Christmas Eve kind of asking my agent ‘when’ and ‘what’s going on’ because I had to get a flight back to Austin for our next game.”
The surprise could wait no longer.
“My agent told me he was trying to hold it in for the next morning so he could give me a great Christmas present,” he laughs. “But I kind of ruined it because I was trying to rush to get my plane ticket.”
The 5-foot-10, 180-pound point guard was a JuCo player before transferring to Baylor. Once he hit the spotlight, the curtain stayed up.
He was one of the NCAA’s most exciting performers. In his college basketball swan song, his Baylor team won the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) and Jackson was named the NIT Most Outstanding Player.
In the 2013 NBA Draft, the Philadelphia 76ers selected the Las Vegas native 42nd overall and his rights were subsequently traded to the New Orleans Pelicans. His first professional experience came overseas.
“When I got sent overseas that kind of killed my confidence. I thought I was an NBA player, I thought I got drafted for a reason. I was ready to play right away. I had to mature pretty fast in a hurry and I was able to do that.”
He quickly returned to the States when the Idaho Stampede selected him 4th overall in the 2013 NBA D-League Draft.
Just over three months after his D-League debut, Jackson set the league’s scoring record with 58 points in a single game. Ironically, it came against the Texas Legends. He was thriving in the D-League, showing the world his potent capabilities as a guard.
“Once I got to the D-League my first year, my role on (Idaho) was pretty much score the ball. We had a pass-first point guard in Dee Bost (8.4 assists a game, was 2nd in the league among players with 36 or more games played), so I kind of got labeled as just a scorer. People kind of forgot about what I can do on offense when it comes to facilitating the ball.”
His rights were eventually dealt back to Philly, and on July 5, 2014 in an NBA Summer League game, he was dealt a critical blow. He ruptured his right Achilles, a devastating injury.
“I had a few setbacks as you know,” he recalls. “A lot of words sum up what I had to go through which was, I guess you could say tough, and just bad timing. I read up on the injury I had and you don’t really get good feedback from that.”
Because I’ve met this man, I don’t have one surprised bone in my body that he’s made the laborious climb back. Many would forfeit the effort and be thankful for what they’ve already accomplished.
“I’m a relentless kind of guy. It was just a tough, tough road for me mentally. Obviously physically, too. The mental part is probably the biggest thing to get over for me.”
He returned to action in the Las Vegas Summer League and earned an invite to 76ers training camp. He appeared in three preseason games before he was reacquired by the Stampede.
After a brief soiree with his future team, the Legends, he played for the Portland Trail Blazers Summer League team and then headed to Croatia to begin the 2016 season.
Then came the return to Texas, with all systems go.
“When I got to the Legends I got the chance to be more of a point guard. Back to my Baylor roots. When I was there I got the chance to lead the team.”
He did indeed average a very good six assists per game. He also collected a healthy 1.9 steals and 4.5 rebounds a game. But it was his scoring that drew the attention of NBA teams, always looking for more of the game’s most important ingredient.
In his 10 games with the Legends, Jackson led the league in scoring with 29.1 points per game. Just as impressive was his remarkable efficiency. He shot 54 percent from the field, 42.9 percent from the three point line and made almost seven free throws a game.
He’s quite the gentleman about his completely dominant display. “I shot the ball at a great clip, a great percentage so I guess that’s why my points were as high as they were. I really focused on getting everybody involved before I got mine.”
Jackson made the most of his brief stay in the D-League this season on and off the court. “It was extremely fun. I had a great group of guys to play around.”
“Coach MacKinnon is a really positive guy. He just wants to see people succeed. He lifted my confidence, he knew what I was capable of, and he just put the ball in my hands and trusted me with the team.”
“I was able to do a pretty good job while I was down there.”
The admiration for his Head Coach is mutual, and the word ‘fun’ is echoed.
“He’s obviously a very talented player and an NBA-level point guard,” says the Legends Coach. “Whenever you have someone like that you can trust with the ball in his hands, it makes it a lot easier to coach. It was a lot of fun.”
“He has a great awareness of the game and how the game should be played. He can play it at a very fast pace but he keeps the game slow. The game remains slow to him even while it seems so fast to everyone else.”
A treat for Jackson on the Legends was the presence of good friend and former Baylor teammate Quincy Acy. Acy, like Jackson, has spent time with both the Mavericks and the Legends this season, giving the two a lot to talk about.
“Super positive, man,” he says about having Acy around. “He was my roommate on the road as well so we kind of got to see what was on each other’s mind. We had questions for each other on both levels. I played in the D-League a little bit more than he did so he had questions and I had mine about the NBA.”
It wasn’t all x’s and o’s for the college teammates, though. “We caught up on old times as well.”
The next step for Pierre Jackson is not a step, but a leap. He’s climbed the stairs. He’s where he wants to be. Now it’s about taking his NBA game to the level he knows he can, citing several examples of similar skillsets around the Association, including his own team.
“You got your guys in the NBA, Devin (Harris) mentioned this to me how multiple guys my height are doing amazing things. My teammate J.J. Barea is the same size as me. Jameer Nelson same height, Nate Robinson same height.”
“And now you have Isaiah Thomas excelling through the roof. It’s the same thing they had to go through, the same thing and prove people wrong. It’s my time to do the same.”
Upon his call-up, the 25-year old made an immediate impression on the Dallas Mavericks organization. Against the Houston Rockets, he had seven points, two assists and a rebound in 10 and a half minutes of action.
Three days later in Oakland, he got the chance to play in front of his family, friends and his agent and dished out five assists, had a three-point play, and grabbed a steal.
The NBA journey may be just beginning, but for Pierre Jackson the journey has been going on a long, long time. Already way too familiar with adversity, injury and waiting for his moment, he’s here now, and he’s here to stay. It’s his time.