Stampede's top pick out to prove himself yet again

Former Baylor standout Pierre Jackson and the Stampede play season opener tonight in Boise.

clangrill@idahostatesman.comNovember 22, 2013 

Before the season, the NBA Development League website lists Stampede guard Pierre Jackson as Idaho’s top NBA prospect at No. 15 overall. Jackson is now the top prospect in the league.

JOE JASZEWSKI — jjaszewski@idahostatesman.com

Three words immediately came to mind when Pierre Jackson learned the Stampede selected him in the first round of the NBA Development League Draft on Nov. 1.

Back to Idaho.

You see, Jackson has been to the Gem State before. He came here for the same reason he’s here now: to prove himself on the basketball court.

“It was a great experience,” Jackson said Thursday as the Stampede prepared to play their season opener against Bakersfield at 7 p.m. Friday at CenturyLink Arena. “So when my agent told me that I was coming back to my old stomping grounds, I was pretty excited to get back.”

Jackson was an unheralded player when he came to Idaho out of high school in Las Vegas. He took his game to Twin Falls, where he led the College of Southern Idaho to its third national championship as a sophomore.

“That was very fun,” said Jackson, who was named the NJCAA Division I Player of the Year. “I was lucky to be a part of that and enjoy that moment with those players.”

It was a bit of a culture shock, but Jackson enjoyed his years in Idaho.

“I went straight from Vegas to Twin Falls,” Jackson said. “You know, that’s a great city. They look out for their players, and CSI is a big deal there.”

And his success at the school created a new opportunity.

“After we made it to the national tournament, I opened a lot of eyes and Baylor was one of the teams that recruited me,” Jackson said.

In his first season at Baylor, the Bears advanced to the Elite Eight. He scored a team-high 21 points as Baylor lost to eventual national champion Kentucky.

“Amazing, amazing, amazing,” Jackson said. “That’s something I’m going to remember the rest of my life. … That coaching staff, they were all just great people.”

Baylor missed out on the NCAA Tournament during Jackson’s senior year, but he wasn’t denied a championship.

“Once we found out we weren’t making it to the tournament and made it to the NIT, we knew there was another championship out there,” he said. “Only two teams were going to be happy at the end of the year, and we were lucky to be one of them.”

After his career at Baylor, he was hopeful that the NBA was the next step in his career. He was selected in the second round of the draft by 76ers and then had his rights traded to New Orleans.

Jackson played in the summer league for the Pelicans, but decided to leave the team to play in France. I didn’t take him long to realize it wasn’t the right fit. Jackson left the team in September before playing a game.

His name was entered in the player pool for the D-League draft, and by the fourth overall pick he discovered he was returning to Idaho.

To prove himself all over again.

“I think I can be one of the better guards in the D-League,” Jackson said. “We’re a pretty young team, so I’m going to try to be a leader … both on and off the court.”

Second-year coach Mike Peck said he thinks Jackson can shine with the Stampede. He knows that opposing teams will have their hands full trying to guard the 5-10, 176-pound speedster.

“He’s like a wet bar of soap,” Peck said.

Idaho played one preseason game, and Jackson led the team in scoring. If he wasn’t already aware of the fact, Peck knew after that contest Jackson was going to be instrumental in the team’s success.

“I told him, ‘You’re a big part of this for us. You scored 26 points in 23 minutes,’ ” Peck said. “Nobody had that kind of efficiency for us last year. … So we’re going to need that.”

Fellow rookie Dee Bost has also been impressed with his new teammate.

“He’s a smaller guy, but he can score with the best of them,” Bost said.

Peck said the next step for Jackson is proving to NBA scouts that he can play consistently, night in and night out.

Jackson said he is ready for that next challenge, beginning Friday night.

“It’s just another steppingstone for me,” he said. “I’m used to having to prove my point, so this is just another steppingstone.”

Chris Langrill: 377-6424

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