Friar Basketball

Isaiah Jackson’s Versatility a Key for Friars

Isaiah Jackson Driving

Entering the 2017-18 season, Providence is loaded with versatile 6’6-6’8 wings.

Rodney Bullock is coming off of a 2nd Team All Big East season, Jalen Lindsey turned himself into one of the top outside shooting and defensive wings in the league as a junior, while many have Alpha Diallo pegged as the breakout performer in the conference.

Yet, none may be as versatile on both sides of the ball as Isaiah Jackson.

Jackson transferred to Providence after a productive freshman year at George Mason in which he averaged just under nine points per game.

It took a while before Friar fans saw the Isaiah Jackson that assistant coach Jeff Battle recruited to PC, but he played a critical role in Providence’s late season turnaround.

There were glimpses early in the conference portion of the schedule (17 points at Xavier, 12 points and 4 rebounds in 19 minutes against Villanova), but Jackson’s game wasn’t fully revealed until February — when the Friars were most in need of a boost.

Few would have believed an NCAA Tournament berth was possible even as late as the first week of February, but Providence closed with six straight wins, as its role players started to emerge.

Not coincidentally, Jackson’s game flourished during the six game stretch. He scored nearly 11 points per game throughout the winning streak, shooting a sizzling 65% (24-37) from the field.

“During the second half of the season I just played instead of overthinking,” Jackson said. “Coach Cooley and them (the staff) were on me a lot about playing with more energy. When I started to bring more energy and focus on that part of the game it helped me overall.”

It was the little things Jackson did that made an impact.

Take the first game of the winning streak, for instance. The Friar offense stagnated when #22 Butler visited the Dunk on Feb. 11. Providence scored just 17 points in the first 19 minutes of the game, but Jackson knocked down a pair of 3-pointers in the final minute of the first half to ignite PC.

In the second half, Jackson scored on a left handed scoop to push PC’s lead to four late in the game. After Lindsey and Diallo struggled with the girth Andrew Chrabascz in the paint defensively, Cooley switched Jackson onto him and Jackson forced a difficult miss in the final two minutes.

During the six game stretch, Jackson scored at least eight points in every game, but his true breakout came in the regular season finale against St. John’s in which he bullied their wings inside on his way to an 18 point, seven rebound, three assist afternoon.

Jackson wouldn’t be at Providence if it weren’t for Battle — the coach he spoke so highly of this week, “It was a hard decision to leave Mason. Coach Battle reached out to me and he’s been my guy ever since. We have a close relationship,” Jackson explained.

“He means a lot to me honestly,” Jackson said of Battle. “He’s on me every day about becoming a better player, a better leader, and bringing energy. He’s not just pointing out everything I do good, he points out what I do bad which helps me out a lot. He spent a lot of time this offseason working with me on my game which every coach doesn’t have to do, but he took a lot of time out and made sure he was there for me every time I needed him.”

Jackson certainly looks more comfortable on the court now than he did a year ago. In last week’s exhibition against UConn he scored 16 points by making all four of his shots from the field, and 7-8 at the free throw line.

“My pace was a big thing last year — being quicker with my decisions. Not holding the ball as long and just catching and going instead of catching and holding,” Jackson said of the difference in his game between this year and last.

“My shot definitely has improved. I spent a lot of time in the offseason with Coach Battle working on midrange and movement shots versus set shots… I can guard pretty much 1-4, even the five if I have to, so I’m willing to do anything honestly.”

Ed Cooley has seen growth not only in Jackson’s skill set, but his presence, “Isaiah’s personality is really growing. I think he’s been a quiet assassin for us. We have played him at multiple positions. We’re going to need him this year just because he’s so multi-faceted.”

Twitter: @Kevin_Farrahar



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