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Andre Jackson getting ready for first season at UConn

Andre Jackson is doing whatever he can under challenging circumstances to prepare for his first season at UConn.

With the Albany Academy gym closed, Jackson is shooting outside, doing body weight exercises at home and trying to stay as fit as possible.

He sees the break as an opportunity to recover from a long senior season, reflect on his high school career and get ready for the next chapter in his life.

"I try not to get too frustrated with it, I try to be patient," Jackson said. "It happened, so I'm just going to wait it out and during this time to try to get an advantage over other people and just push myself and strengthen my body in ways that I didn't in the season because I didn't have as much time to because we were playing games every weekend."

Jackson, a versatile 6-foot-7 wing from Albany, N.Y., will be one of four newcomers next season for the Huskies. He'll join fellow incoming recruit Javonte Brown-Ferguson, a 7-foot, 240-pound center out of the Thornlea Secondary School in Thornhill, Ontario, as well as transfer R.J. Cole and forward Richie Springs, who sat out as a redshirt. Both Cole, a guard, and Springs practiced with the team this past season.

"We feel like we're going to get a big infusion of talent with those four guys and we're going to continue to look on the court the way that UConn should look in uniform," coach Dan Hurley said recently.

During an impressive senior season, Jackson put his all-around skills on display, averaging 18.8 points, 10.1 rebounds, 6.6 assists and 2.7 blocks while shooting 51 percent from the field, 45 percent from 3-point range and 80.5 percent from the foul line. He finished with over 1,100 career points.

In some ways, Jackson models his game after NBA Hall of Famer Pete Maravich — yes, Pistol Pete — and it shows with his flashy moves, creative passing and passion for basketball. He gets more joy out of setting up a teammate with a nifty pass than slicing through traffic for a basket.

"His ball-handling and passing is where Pistol Pete comes through in his game," Albany Academy coach Brian Fruscio said. "Andre is an elite passer and is willing to share the ball. If you are a shooter and you're open, he will find you. He's a winner and will (use) all his talents and abilities to help his team."

Jackson fell in love with Maravich's game after mentor and family friend Clyde Clymer convinced him to watch "The Pistol: The Birth of Legend." The biographical film focuses on Maravich's life as an eighth grade basketball player in 1959 and his relationship with his father Press.

Watching that movie opened Jackson's eyes and altered the way he plays.

"Pistol Pete was the first player that I started watching," Jackson said. "Clyde Clymer taught me how to play basketball and he introduced me to Pistol Pete. From then, I just started seeing the behind the back passes. I just fell in love with it and I started finding crazy passes, watching Pistol Pete, Magic Johnson, Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, all those guys. Growing up, that's who I always watched.

"... Once I found Pistol Pete, that's when I really figured out there's just so much more to the game. The love for the game is so crazy."

Jackson is eager to start his UConn career. He planned on arriving on campus in May but that likely won't happen now until at least June due to the coronavirus crisis.

Until then, he'll continue to work on building relationships with the members of his UConn basketball family. He speaks to the coaching staff about twice a week and regularly reaches out to his future teammates.

From attending a few UConn games and watching others on television, he came away impressed with the team's talent level and their selfless style of basketball.

"I really love their energy," Jackson said. "I can't wait to get started. I wanted to get down there so much earlier. I just want to get there and get to basketball, really just work over the summer to really compete in the Big East next year."

Hurley believes Jackson will make an immediate impact.

"We expect Andre to have a similar impact to what James (Bouknight) had for us this year," Hurley said "It might not always be as a pure scorer but as a player, as a playmaker and as a guy that's in passing lanes, as a guy that's making big time blocks, big time plays in transition.

"He's an underrated player with the ball as a passer and a guy that can get in the paint and make plays for himself and for others. I think his shooting has come a long way this year."

Just don't expect Jackson to show off his flashy Pistol Pete type passes that he broke out on occasion at Albany Academy.

"Next year at UConn I'm probably not going to be throwing behind the back passes," Jackson said. "Maybe if it's needed, I'll use it. If it's not, I won't. Things like that naturally happen for me, the behind the back things and those weird behind the back dunks that I have. I do them by accident."

g.keefe@theday.com

 

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