Feature: Former UO Star Jackson Expects To Surprise In Toronto

May 18, 2007

By Luke Andrews
Oregon Daily Emerald

May 18, 2007

Eugene, OR (CSTV U-WIRE) -- Quickly after former Oregon standout Luke Jackson received his break with the Toronto Raptors this season, a fantasy sports expert on NBA.com wrote, 'Even being signed for next season, Jackson has no fantasy value.'

Don't tell that to Jackson.

'I really feel like next year could be a breakout year for me because honestly this is the first healthy year I've played in the league,' Jackson said. 'I am thinking I am going to surprise a lot of people.

'I'm just excited to go back and play next year and show everyone what I'm capable of. That's really one of the biggest things for me; I like to prove everybody wrong.'

Jackson, a 2004 Oregon graduate and the 10th overall pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers, has finally found a home in the NBA recently with the Toronto Raptors after the organization snatched him up for their playoff run this season and signed him for next season as well.

'Toronto is really a first-class organization,' Jackson said. 'I've been to a few different teams in the league, and I can honestly say that Toronto has been the best so far. I definitely feel there could be a spot for me, just the way they play.'

But it's hardly been a fairy-tale ride to get to this point for the Creswell, Ore. native.

Jackson spent two injury-riddled seasons in Cleveland as he underwent two back surgeries and a wrist surgery, before he was eventually traded to Boston last October.

'From coming out of college where I was a lottery pick, it was unbelievable,' Jackson said. 'Just to be hurt the last couple of years, it just tore me up inside and it was frustrating just watching and knowing that I was better than a lot of people, but I just couldn't show it.

'I just tried to stay really determined and just never forget what got me there and how much I love the game. There were a lot of times I was just lying in a hospital bed for weeks. It was hard. It just makes you appreciate everything that you have. It's made me want it even more.'

The journey continued for Jackson when the Celtics released him the same month. He then spent less than a month with the NBDL's Idaho Stampede before entertaining the idea of playing overseas.

In fact, Jackson nearly signed with an Italian team but the night he was supposed to sign the papers, the coach suffered a heart attack.

'I took that as a sign, and I wasn't going to go,' Jackson said. The Los Angeles Clippers signed him to a 10-day contract before another stint with the Stampede until ultimately landing with the Raptors.

'It's been a crazy, crazy experience for the last six months,' Jackson said.

He finished the regular season averaging career highs in points per game (4.5) and minutes per game (12.2) with the Raptors, including a 30-point outburst in the regular-season finale.

But there's encouragement not simply from statistics.

'I'm just excited for next year, going to play with guys I get along with and an organization that believes in me,' Jackson said. 'I can still play and I've got a long career ahead of me.'

Jackson is back home in Oregon for now and as healthy as ever after taking part in a rehab program from one of the country's top physical therapists, the same used by NBA stars Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal and Baron Davis.

He plans to visit Toronto once a month this offseason to check in and will take part in Denver Nuggets assistant coach Tim Grgurich's summer camp in Las Vegas, which includes 'at least 80 NBA guys.'

'I just want to get a lot stronger, and you can always improve on your game,' Jackson said.

For now, Jackson is getting back in the routine of daily workouts and is even mixing in some scrimmages with current Oregon players, some of whom he projects he'll see at the next level.

'There's a couple guys on that squad that have potential,' said Jackson, who added that he was 'all over' Oregon's Elite Eight run last season, even betting some of his teammates. 'The name that keeps coming up the most with me (from scouts) is Bryce Taylor.

'I just like to see how Oregon's squad is looking and it's nice to play close to home.'

And, of course, it's nice to reunite with some of the locals.

'Everyone comes up to me and says 'we've been following you...we're so happy that you're back,'' Jackson said. 'That really feels good that people have always had my back in the community. I always like coming back home because people are always so friendly here.'

(C) 2007 Oregon Daily Emerald via CSTV U-WIRE

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