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December 10, 2008
Albert Jackson appeared calm, cool and very much collected as he leaned against the wall outside the team's lockerrom at the Georgia basketball facility following the Bulldogs' 67-66 win over Virginia Tech Tuesday night.
Approximately 20 minutes earlier, he was a man possessed. At least he played like one.
Jackson's go-ahead basket with 37 seconds coupled with his game-saving rebounding in the final seconds saved the Bulldogs' victory over the ACC Hokies to help Georgia snap its brief two-game losing skid.
Georgia trailed by one when guard Corey Butler worked the perimeter, passed up a shot before dumping the ball low to the 6-11 Jackson who muscled his way up for what turned out to be the game-winning points.
"I was really proud of A.J. The crowd was kind of mad at me when I turned down that last shot with 12 seconds on the shot clock but I was going to have some patience and see what else could turn up at the end of the shot clock," Butler said. "Albert posted up. We knew they couldn't guard him or any of our big guys inside, and Albert really came through. If he hadn't we'd have been sitting up here disappointed."
Jackson laughed that the entire sequence seemed like it dragged on in slow motion.
"I looked up once when Corey had the ball and I could have sworn it said 10 seconds," Jackson said. "When I got the ball, they had been trapping, but they didn't trap so I told myself I'm bigger than this guy so I might as well take it to him.
"Dave (former teammate Dave Bliss) was telling me not to get frustrated, just take it to his nose and make the shot. The rest is history."
It's been a remarkable run of sorts for Jackson, who went he came to Georgia three years ago, was considered by most to be a project that had to make some serious advancement in his game before he could become a contributing force.
It appears his time has come.
Jackson flashed those abilities late last season and appeared on track to do so again until he tweaked his ankle during the season-opener against South Carolina Upstate.
He started to get better only to tweak it against Eastern Michigan but has continued to battle through to the point that Jackson's as healthy as he has been all season.
"Albert's been coming back the last several game and has been getting back to playing good basketball like he did down the stretch last year and the reason is he's getting healthier," Georgia coach Dennis Felton said. "His ankle, he hasn't tweaked it too badly in the last 10 days to two weeks so it's gotten better and better and through that he's gotten his explosion back and is doing real well."
His effort against Virginia Tech typified the progress he has made.
As one of the team's three co-captains along with Terrance Woodbury and Butler, Jackson is taking his role of leader to heart.
On Monday, Jackson chastised his teammates for their effort three days before against Illinois, noting a lack of hustle and effort in the second half.
There were no such issues against Virginia Tech.
"It definitely felt like we needed to play well but we needed a win for our team morale," Jackson said. "We had three good teams (Virginia Tech, Western Kentucky and Illinois) that we just played and you want to come out with some kind of confidence just to let the young guys know that we can compete with anybody in the country. I think this built that for us."
But Jackson said the Bulldogs (6-3) can't get complacent.
With upcoming games against Missouri and Georgia Tech before kicking off SEC play, the schedule ahead certainly won't allow for that.
"We've got 10 days of practice just to improve on ourselves," he said. "With this game we've got confidence now that what we did the previous two days before Virginia Tech in practice is working so they're going to work harder to do the things that Coach wants us to do."