Marquette's Jackson makes a name for himselfPosted: Saturday March 29, 2003 9:46 PM
Updated: Saturday March 29, 2003 10:39 PM
By Brian Hamilton, Special to SI.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- All it took were some fairly innocuous comments from Kentucky’s most laid-back, understated player -- comments probably not meant to be incendiary at all -- and the Wildcats’ Final Four aspirations crumbled to pieces Saturday at the Metrodome.
Maybe Marquis Estill was just being honest. He said he didn’t know that Marquette center Robert Jackson once attended Mississippi State. He didn’t remember anything about him, didn’t know who he was.
Unfortunately, Estill's comments made their way into print.
And the print made its way into Jackson’s hands and then into his head.
"I’m quite sure he knows me now," Jackson said after Marquette’s emphatic 83-69 win sent the school to its first Final Four since 1977.
Undoubtedly and deservedly, Dwyane Wade’s triple-double will merit the big headlines. But this trip to New Orleans was booked in no small part by Jackson’s utter dominance against a frontcourt that just two nights earlier had established permanent citizenship within three feet of the rim.
That citizenship was revoked by Jackson, a three-year player for Mississippi State before he transferred to Tom Crean’s club. The senior had a double-double at the end of the first half and finished with 24 points and 15 rebounds, a monster effort considering that Estill had lit up Wisconsin for 28 points just 48 hours earlier.
Oh, and Estill? He was all but invisible, scoring 10 harmless points and going just 3-of-8 from the field. Backup center Jules Camara took only two shots in 17 minutes. Yes, they know who Robert Jackson is now.
"My teammates were joking about that with me on the ride over," Jackson said. "I just took it as motivation and tried to establish myself early. I just tried to play with a lot of emotion tonight, because I knew my team would feed off of it."
"He was good at Mississippi State," Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said, exhibiting a better memory than his players. "He’s always been physical, and that was the problem that Marquis and Jules had with him. They couldn’t battle him very well because of that."
Which is fairly shocking, considering that Estill is listed at 239 pounds in the Kentucky media guide but probably had only one foot on the scale when the trainers took that measurement. And against Wisconsin in the regional semifinal, Estill bullied his way to the rim and hit 12 of 18 shots from the floor, most from within a whisker of the iron.
But Jackson, a load at 6-foot-10, 260 pounds, negated all that and then some. With the Wildcats’ perimeter shooting struggling throughout their time in Minneapolis and Keith Bogans still feeling the effects of a sprained ankle, Kentucky had nowhere to go.
"He’s a big, strong, physical guy," Estill said. "Things just went his way."
If Marquette is to continue this march, such efforts from Jackson will be critical to balancing the production the Golden Eagles get from Wade. Yes, Wade remains the first and sometimes the second and third options. But as the junior guard said after Saturday’s win, Robert Jackson was his MVP for the regional final.
That’s Robert Jackson, J-A-C-K-S-O-N. He used to play for Mississippi State.
Heard of him?Brian Hamilton covers college basketball for the St. Paul Pioneer Press. He is a regular contributor to SI.com.