SIU men’s basketball has a rich history full of versatile guards like Jamal Tatum, Troy Hudson, Dick Garrett and Walt Frazier. Saluki forward Desmar Jackson plays like his name belongs on this list as well
In his first Saluki season, Desmar Jackson posts numbers comparable to some of the greatest players to ever wear a Saluki jersey.
The junior averages 16.3 points and six rebounds per game, and he is one of only four Salukis to see more than 30 minutes of play per contest. In the beginning of the Missouri Valley Conference schedule, Jackson scored 28, 29 and 21 points against Wichita State, Indiana State and Bradley respectively.
After transferring from the University of Wyoming in 2011 and sitting of all of last season, Jackson still has two eligible years of Saluki play.
Jackson led his Wyoming team in scoring as a sophomore with 14.6 points per game. He was also the Mountain West Conference’s fifth-highest scorer and led his team in scoring 14 times. His freshman year was also impressive, as he averaged 11.8 points per contest and was named to the CollegeInsider.com Freshman All- American Team.
Although he considers himself a pretty good all-around player, Jackson said his best asset is his offensive ability.
“I try to score any way I can,” he said. “If I’ve got the lane, attack the lane, if not, shoot the jump shot.”
Senior guard Jeff Early said Jackson is the team’s quiet leader.
“Sometimes I can be very vocal and loud when it comes to motivating the team, but Des can get us all pumped up by hitting a couple of 3-pointers in the clutch,” Early said.
Fellow senior T.J Lindsay said Jackson will be one of the Salukis’ most valued players next season.
“With me, Jeff, and Kendall (Brown-Surles) all leaving after this season, Desmar will have to step up even more next year,” he said. “With freshmen like J.P (Jalen Pendleton) and Anthony (Beane Jr.), I think the team will be pretty good.”
In a Jan. 14 teleconference, coach Barry Hinson said he almost dismissed Jackson from the team.
“We asked him and gave him a road map of things we expected him to do during that week,” he said. “He did everything that we asked of him and consequently he played better.”
Hinson said despite Jackson’s scoring potency, he isn’t going to allow the junior to misbehave.
“I could care less about the points, and I know people laugh when I say that,” Hinson said. “We have bigger issues than him scoring points right now. We’re just going to need him to grow up and be a young man that can be responsible and held accountable for.”
Despite Hinson’s reprimands for poor conduct, the junior has thrived in opportunities to make court amendments.
“I try to go out there every game and give it my all,” Jackson said.”I want us to be the best team we can be, so I will do a better job on and off the court.”
Jackson said Hinson is a great role model, especially regarding matters outside of basketball.
“He’s always trying to teach me lessons about life (and) how to be a better person,” Jackson said. “He doesn’t just talk to me about things on the court, it’s more stuff off the court like doing my homework and keeping out of trouble.”
Jackson said he hopes to make a career of basketball. He said he gets his athletic ability and physical stature from his father, but he credits his mom for keeping him level-headed.
“My mother keeps me going and keeps me focused,” he said. “I’m still cool with my dad, and we talk every week. That’s the only dad I have, so I have to keep in touch with him.”
Jackson said his father played two years of college football as a speedy slot receiver and kick returner.
“He was very talented,” Jackson said. “Everybody tells me he should have been in the league.”
While Jackson’s father never reached the professional athletic level, his son said he is driven to accomplish the goal.
“Everybody’s dream is to make it to the NBA, but if I don’t make it, I’ll probably try to play overseas,” he said. “I have to stay focused because I have a family back home that I want to be able to look after. I can’t give up.”