Future in mind for CJ in West Coast Classic

CJ Jackson wants the West Coast Classic to set the stage for the Perth Redbacks to return to being a powerhouse championship contender in 2021 but he’s still expecting a bit more than the baby steps they’ve taken the opening two weeks.

It’s been quite the stunning rollercoaster ride over the opening two weekends of the West Coast Classic for the Redbacks marking the return to the club of 1990 championship winning point guard Jackson.

Things got underway on the opening night with an 18-point loss to the Joondalup Wolves at HBF Arena before the Redbacks hit back 24 hours later in Mandurah to defeat the Magic by 11 points to open their account.

Then last Friday night at Belmont Oasis, the Redbacks looked as though they were really clicking as they beat the Cockburn Cougars 112-76 with Joel Wagner running the point, Caleb White and Tevin Jackson unstoppable on the wings, Marshall Nelson his usual self and a host of young players shining.

It looked like some exciting momentum was building but it was extinguished the very next night with a 28-point defeat at the hands of the Perry Lakes Hawks at Bendat Basketball Centre.

In the bigger picture, Jackson is looking at the West Coast Classic as a chance to build for the future and to work out which players he will want to take forward into the 2021 campaign when hopefully we can have a full, regular season once more.

But at the same time, any time he is out on the floor coaching a team he wants to win and wants to see full effort and more consistency than he is getting two weeks in.

“I think it’s a combination of both. I see it as an opportunity for us to put the Redbacks back on the map and to show my vision for us of being a championship contender,” Jackson said.

“But at the same token it is like the pre-season and we just have to find out who is going to fit in, who is going to be able to play the most court time and those type of things.”

The three players that Jackson wants to build around moving forward include the exciting and versatile wings Tevin Jackson and Caleb White, and inspirational captain Joel Wagner who is the all-time SBL assists leader.

As long as he has those three, Jackson knows fitting in the other pieces of the puzzle around them will be a significantly easier task.

“Tevin and Caleb are very important pieces for us and I also think that the captain Wags is very instrumental for us because he’s just a cool head who gets us together,” he said.

“What we have to do is around those three we need to put the rest of the pieces in there so that we can do good next week. Like we’ve got DT and he’s big and strong, and he can do some things so we just have to figure out how we put the pieces around and then we’ll be good.”

It’s still very much a learning curve for the new-look playing squad at the Redbacks but Jackson is confident that if they keep putting the work in together, that it will be all worth it in the long run.

“We have some exciting players but we probably need them to understand how good they can be by matching up against the top five players,” Jackson said.

“We do split it up at practice every week so the guys are all playing together, and we fit them all together. Once they understand how good and strong they can be, then we’ll be good as a club.”

Jackson is taking the big picture view for the Redbacks right now and every decision made now is with an eye of building things for sustained success down the track, and he couldn’t be prouder that his original SBL club is providing him with such an opportunity at this point of his life.

“I think we had to put things into perspective after Round 1 and just get out on the court and play,” Jackson said.

“And for me, I see myself as a long-term coach for the club so there’s a system and process that I’ve put in that might not start and be completed until April next year. But at least if we are starting to head in the right direction then I’ll be happy. We are crawling and taking baby steps right now.

“I’m actually in a fantastic space being back here. I love the club, I love the team and I love the players. I think they’ve embraced me so we have embraced each other and it’s a combination of me embracing the club, the team and players, and we are embracing each other.

“They know that I’m strict in ways but I’m still a player’s coach and I’ll just say that I am very happy to be back.”

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