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October 27, 2008Junior Albert Jackson is a big believer in momentum, not just as it pertains to the Georgia basketball team but to his individual game as well.
And why wouldn't be feel that way?
Through the first 24 games of last season, the 6-foot-10, 260-pound Jackson averaged a mere 1.2 points and 2.3 rebounds. In his last 20, his numbers rose to 7.4 points and 6.4 boards.
The reason is actually quite simple.
As a freshman in 2007, Jackson suffered three shoulder dislocations before the team decided to shut him down. He wasn't healthy until the midway point of last year.
Once he was, head coach Dennis Felton began to see an almost immediate change.
After failing to score in double-figures for over half of last season's campaign, Jackson broke through with a 12-point, seven-rebound effort against Florida followed by a career-best 16-point outing against Auburn.
He wasn't done.
Jackson scored 10 points in the SEC tournament opener against Ole Miss before tallying 12 in the semifinals against Mississippi State.
"Albert's career is really on precisely the track that I expected it to be. It was only delayed by the injuries. When we recruited Albert, we felt we knew exactly what we were getting," Felton said. "We were getting a powerful athlete that was very raw at the skills and knowledge of basketball but he had the athletic talent and strength that you see to be a really good player. "
There are still plenty of aspects of Jackson's game that he still wants to improve.
"The biggest change for me this year is going to be my aggressiveness. I'm not talking about just being a leader or more of a scorer, I'm talking about asserting myself a lot more on offense now, like use my size and my athleticism to my advantage more," Jackson said. "I have a lot more confidence now. "
That said, he is taking on more of a leadership role.
Although Jackson shakes his head at the notion that he's now in that leadership position, he's excited about working with some of the team's younger big men like 6-foot-8 freshman Howard Thompkins.
"The biggest thing that I'll be able to help him with is the physicality of the game and how tough he'll have to play. When you come out of high school, things come so easy. Here, you don't realize your freshman year how hard you've got to play and how tough people are," Jackson said. "I think I can help him develop that through practice so when he gets to that first series of games he won't be shocked."
Jackson can certainly speak from experience on that.
"It takes a while to realize how fast-pace, how hard you've got to play, how fast you've got to run, how hard you've got to block out. Some guys don't get it until their senior year," he said. "It's a process you have to adjust to after playing four years of high school being the man."
Jackson chuckled after those words left his lips.
To him, it's still a bit humorous that he's the one talking about a leadership role.
"It's kind of a weird feeling after being behind somebody like Dave Bliss, but also having to be the oldest big man to teach the freshmen and even some of the sophomores what guys like Dave taught me," Jackson said. "It's different but also one of those things you kind of take on, accept it and do what you have to do."
With the Bulldogs in the midst of preseason drills, Felton said Jackson's game continues to take shape.
"Albert has built off the momentum that he created with his performances later in the year. He has had a great spring, summer, and fall," Felton said. "He's doing things with much more confidence and aggression that he ever has. He's much more of a confident offensive player which has brought aggressiveness. So yeah, I'm extremely excited about the kind of production we're continuing to get from Albert."