Getting thrust into a position that you’re completely ready for isn’t something that people clamor for.
Traevon Jackson didn’t expect to be handed the point guard reins of the Badgers basketball team but the sophomore didn’t have much choice after Josh Gasser blew out his knee in preseason practice, which shut him down for the season.
There is an obvious learning curve but when things began to go sour, the knee-jerk reaction was to sit Jackson and let freshman George Marshall figure it out.
And plenty of Badgers fans know things got rancid before they were rosy. Jackson has committed three-plus turnovers eight times and he has tied or committed more turnovers than assists 12 times.
Everyone knows Jackson is the son of Jim Jackson who was the fourth overall pick in the 1992 NBA Draft and spent 14 years in the Association after being a two-time Big Ten Conference Player of the Year at Ohio State.
As if stepping into a starting role wasn’t enough pressure after topping out the previous season with 14 minutes vs. Mississippi Valley State, he had the expectations of living up to his father.
For every game-winning kiss off the glass, which he executed at home against Minnesota, there is also the litany of missed layups and questionable ball pressure defense in a loss against Creighton.
Jackson will still have his bad games where his shot cannot find the bottom of the net or he can’t find the handle by losing a few key turnovers.
But the game that really surprised me in his development and showed that he is starting to turn the corner was against Ohio State. The Buckeyes came into the game ranked No. 13 with a veteran lineup. Jackson’s objective was to manage the game with the Big Ten’s best point guard defender, Aaron Craft, crawling all over him on every possession.
Jackson owned Craft by beating him off the bounce, hitting clutch shots — even the magic 17-foot fadeaway as the shot clock expired — and ran the floor with superiority by squeezing passes into tight windows.
I’m not saying this one game makes Jackson’s season because that’s far from the case. He has a lot of growing up to do on each end of the court before that happens. But against the Buckeyes, his dad’s team and the team that overlooked him even though he grew up only 16 miles from Columbus.
Jared Berggren and Ben Brust will continue to get fawning media attention because they are the Badgers’ best players. But, besides Frank Kaminsky — who spells Berggren in times of foul trouble and rest and doesn’t miss a beat — the Badgers need Jackson to play with that veteran confidence during the next month.
The biggest thing Jackson has to realize is the Badgers can live with him shooting 1-for-6 from the floor. What they can’t live with is the four turnovers he committed at Marquette.
The Badgers are outscoring their last two opponents 140-90 primarily based on more efficient play at the point guard position. Jackson had never played in the glorified high school gym that is Welsh-Ryan Arena but he tied a season-best with five assists against Northwestern by moving the ball well and rarely forcing a pass.
Jackson doesn’t look pretty all the time. But if you win with a pickup truck or a Porsche it doesn’t really matter.