As a basketball fan, I have always had a love for the lesser known, obscure and/or underappreciated. At school, when most kids were wearing Penny Hardaway, Shaquille O’Neal or Michael Jordan jerseys, I was wearing Bobby Hurley, Derek Harper and Dino Radja.
This is my open tribute to the lesser known players in today’s game. This is Spotted on the Pine.
Name: Darnell Jackson
Team: Indiana Pacers
Jersey Number: 37
Rookie Year: 2008-09
Drafted: 2nd round, 52nd pick
Darnell Jackson is back in the NBA. Returning to the NBA seems fitting based on his history with the sport and also well deserved.
Jackson is another one of those players that didn’t really pick up the sport until high school. While not playing basketball formally until the 9th grade, Jackson found himself leaving his home in Midwest City, Oklahoma to suit up for the Jayhawks of Kansas.
Jackson had a quiet start to his college career and faced a great deal of adversity in his sophomore season. Darnell lost his grandmother in a car accident and subsequently received a nine-game suspension in regards to how the NCAA viewed a gift he received from a family friend that also happened to be a Kansas booster.
Jackson continued to work, build momentum and in 2007-08, he just clicked. The development of Darnell became apparent to the entire nation in his senior season. Jackson would be named a Big 12 Player of the Week following a monster 25-point, 9-rebound game against Boston College, great up his stat totals and be a large contributor in the Jayhawks run to the National Championship.
Then the 2008 NBA Draft came along. While several of the championship Jayhawks would be entering the draft, the big talk was who should go First Overall: Derrick Rose or Michael Beasley? Has that one officially hit Manning-Leaf territory yet?
Jackson’s teammates Brandon Rush and Darrell Arthur would be drafted in the first-round. Mario Chalmers would go at the start of the second. When the Miami Heat’s 52nd pick came, Darnell Jackson heard his name called. A few picks later, Sasha Kaun would be drafted for a total of five champion Jayhawks to be selected.
Mario Chalmers would get traded to Miami but Darnell would get moved to Cleveland for a 2009 second round pick. Sasha, who was selected by the soon-to-be Oklahoma City Thunder was also moved to Cleveland.
Being picked in the second round, Darnell had to set out and prove himself again. With solid performances in the Las Vegas Summer League, Jackson would earn a contract with the Cavaliers. He got through training camp but during the preseason suffered a wrist injury.
By later November 2008, Jackson was ready to go and got to play six minutes in his NBA debut against the New York Knicks. He’d get a handful of minutes in games throughout the winter for Mike Brown’s squad with the peak being 24 minutes in a December win over Philadelphia.
By February, in an effort to give the rookie some more playing time, Darnell would find himself in the D-League with Cleveland’s then-affiliate the Erie Bayhawks.
Jackson would get 26 minutes against the Utah Flash and score 24 points on 10-14 shooting as the Bayhawks went on to win 101-89.
This would lead to Cleveland calling Jackson right back up to the Cavaliers.
Jackson would continue to get mostly limited minutes until the end of the season, when the team would start resting the regulars for playoffs. In this time, Jackson received 24 minutes in a victory over the San Antonio Spurs as well as playing 42 minutes and getting 15/8 against Philadelphia in the regular season finale.
Jackson would get limited minutes in the Atlanta and Detroit playoff games before Cleveland would be eliminated in the Eastern Conference Championship by Orlando.
Jackson was back again for the 2009-10 campaign. Cleveland was changing because Shaquille O’Neal arrived to “Win a Ring for the King”. All he really did was turn bench players into toys, as seen in this picture of Shaq with Darnell and future stud for the Spurs, Danny Green.
He also sometimes held Delonte West.
With more big men on the roster, Jackson didn’t get as many minutes. Once again, he was sent in late February for a brief stint in the D-League but was once again recalled early when Shaq would get injured against his next (and final) team, the Boston Celtics.
In March, Jackson would get sent to the D-League once more but as all-time Cavalier Zydrunas Ilgauskas returned from injury, Jackson would find himself cut from the team. While on the waiver wire, the Milwaukee Bucks scooped him up, although as late in the season as it was, Jackson would only appear in one game with Milwaukee.
During the summer, Milwaukee would flip Jackson to Sacramento for former All-Pac 10 First team member Jon Brockmon. Jackson’s season with the Kings would mirror his rookie year, as Darnell would get spotty minutes yet produce when called upon.
And this was nice:
Jackson would be one of the players heavily impacted by the lockout. With no contract pending, Jackson needed to look overseas for a paycheck and found himself in the Ukrainian SuperLeague with BC Donetsk.
It isn’t always easy to find stat lines from the Ukrainian SuperLeague but it was easy to find this:
Darnell went to training camp with the Utah Jazz in 2012 but along with former Heat point guard Chris Quinn, was one of the final cuts before the season started. He did make an impact with the Jazz by keeping the Clippers in line:
Game is wrapped but he isn’t going to take that normal Turiaf nonsense. Blakely wants to get involved? Better know how to take a clothesline.
Darnell would join the Reno Bighorns of the D-League and score double digits nearly every game.
This would catch the eye of the Xinjiang Flying Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association. He would have a nice couple months before returning to the D-League and finishing strong for Reno once more.
This summer, Jackson became a member of the Indiana Pacers. As Indiana grows in stature in the Eastern Conference, Darnell will be another solid piece to fit nicely in Indiana’s current system.