After what most Domers would consider a disappointing season, the Fighting Irish will look to bounce back from a 15-17 (6-12 ACC) year. While the competition in the ACC was a bit of a step up from the Big East, where the Irish competed previously, not many could foresee Notre Dame finishing 13th in the conference standings. The loss of Jerian Grant due to an academic matter definitely played a factor on how the season went, as he led the Irish in scoring through the first 12 games.
Now with a year of understanding what the ACC has to offer, Notre Dame is ready to take the next step in moving towards elite status. However, it won’t be Jerian Grant paving the path to glory. Rising sophomore Demetrius Jackson is going to be the key to whether or not Notre Dame can become one of the top teams in the nation this season.
Coming out of Marian High School in Mishawaka, Indiana, Jackson was rated the sixth best point guard in the country, according to ESPN’s Top 100. He also finished his career as the all-time leading scorer in the St. Joseph County and Marian High School scoring 1,934 points. On top of those accolades, Jackson was named first-team all-state selection, and he was invited to play in Chicago’s McDonald’s All-Star game.
Despite all of his high school success, Jackson was forced to play behind senior captain Eric Atkins. Jackson came off the bench and played a decent amount of minutes averaging 22.2 minutes per game. He also averaged six points per game and about two assists and two rebounds per game. Jackson rarely made plays that changed the momentum of a game, but when he did, he flashed signs of incredible potential. Now that Atkins is gone, Jackson will have to step in and take control of Mike Brey’s offense.
When Jackson came out of high school, college recruits celebrated his athleticism and explosiveness as the intangibles that set him apart from most point guards coming out of high school. If Mike Brey can help Jackson find a way to hone in on those intangibles on a consistent basis, the Fighting Irish will be a legitimate threat in the ACC. The supporting cast for the Irish is already set in stone with Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton returning. Rising sophomores V.J Beachem and Steve Vasturia are also developing into deep threat shooters, so the athleticism and good shooting are already a lock for Notre Dame.
If all goes well during the off-season for Jackson, Notre Dame will have a solid chance to make some noise not only in the ACC, but hopefully in next year’s NCAA tournament.