CHICAGO – Fresh from helping the University of Connecticut capture the NCAA national title a little over a month ago, Andre Jackson Jr. is one of several dozen prospects at this week’s NBA Combine trying to show NBA scouts, general managers and other executives that he’s more than ready to take the next step in his basketball journey.
After scrimmaging and going through various drills, Jackson believes he got the attention of the folks who will determine how high he’ll be selected in the NBA Draft on June 22 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. On his interviews with the various NBA personnel, Jackson said:
“I don’t get nervous or intimidated. I just try to be 100 percent up front with everybody. I think I’m definitely a unique kind of guy in terms of my perspective on the game of basketball and the way I approach it. I feel like if those guys bring me in, then they understand that as well.
“I just have a mutual respect and understand that these guys, a lot of them are legends — guys that I really look up to and can learn a lot from. I just try to go in there like a sponge and soak it all up, and then also I try to give them a perspective of how I look at basketball and the reason why I do the things I do.”
A 6-6, 210-pound shooting guard and point guard, Jackson doesn’t have the head-turning eye-popping stats that brings immediate attention to his game. During his three-year career at UConn, he only averaged six points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists while shooting 42.8 percent from the field and 29.3 percent from three-point range.
But Jackson explained that no one should judge his abilities solely by numbers.
“I’m not a guy that is really focused on stats,” he said. “I’m more just trying to focus on winning the game. That’s definitely different. A lot of people value stats and stuff like that.
“Not a lot of people that are averaging the kind of stats I’m averaging are in this position, and I think that’s because of my selfless style of play. And then also, my coaches being able to put me in the best position to be successful.”
Like Jackson, Olivier-Maxence Prosper has been asked dozens of questions about his background and life in general since he’s been at the NBA Combine.
“They just what to know who I am as a person and my journey,” Prosper said. “They ask me questions about myself, my family, how I got to this point, what has been the challenging parts of my career so far and how I overcame those challenges.”
A 6-8, 230-pound power forward, Prosper hails from Montreal, which he admits is not exactly a basketball hotbed.
“Montreal is not known as a basketball city, and I want to change that,” Prosper said. “Growing up there, there wasn’t as many opportunities for the people coming out of Montreal to be in this positron, to go to college and to be here. Guys coming out of Montreal have that chip on their shoulders.
“We don’t have all the high school hype, but they keep working, and when they get it done on those platforms under the lights they’re going to show up. For every single guy coming out of Montreal, that’s what I feel we all have. We all have that chip on our shoulders that we’re going to show what we’re capable of no matter if we have attention or not on us. We’re going to prove people wrong. That’s our mindset.”
Prosper averaged 12.5 points and 4.7 rebounds at Marquette this past season. And he feels he has more to offer any NBA team that acquires his services.
“At Marquette I didn’t really show my passing ability because I was in a role,” Prosper said. “But I feel like I’m a pretty good passer and can read the defense and make the right play.”
Hunter Tyson also believes he can make the right play and become a major contributor on an NBA team. A 6-7, 180-pound small forward from Clemson, Tyson averaged a team-high tying 15.3 points and a team-high 9.6 rebounds this past season.
Tyson said he has benefitted from the fact that he and his Clemson teammate — center PJ Hall — attended the G League Elite camp last week and has been in Chicago for over a week honing their skills.
“Me and PJ, we’re very competitive guys,” Tyson said. “We just get out there and try and play hard every opportunity we’ve had, and it’s been awesome.
“He’s been here with me this week and last week at the G League camp. We’re roommates back home at Clemson. That’s one of my best friends, and I’ve really enjoyed hanging out with him this week.”
After this week, Tyson, Jackson and Prosper hope they’ll all be hanging out in the NBA next season.
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