COMING up against old faces continues to warm his heart, but it’s the competitor inside CJ Jackson that now wants to help reward his Perth Redbacks for their efforts and that’s making finals in the West Coast Classic.
When the SBL season was cancelled and then ultimately the West Coast Classic was created in its place and then a strong group of 20 players, largely teenagers, pulled together to represent the Redbacks, Jackson put it back on them what they wanted to achieve.
When the overwhelming response from the young group with strong leaders Joel Wagner, Tevin Jackson, Caleb White, Dennis Tawhiti and Marshall Nelson came back and said their goal was to win the whole thing, then Jackson wanted to do all he could as coach to give them that opportunity.
Now after five rounds of the West Coast Classic, finals remains a possibility for the Redbacks as they currently hold a 6-3 record to sit just outside the top four with a home game to Kalamunda and road games against Rockingham, Goldfields and Lakeside to finish.
Whit it is a tough run home with none of those four matches a gimme especially finishing with the road trip to Kalgoorlie and then being away to Lakeside, should the Redbacks win all four they should be just about guaranteed playing finals.
And really while the goal for this West Coast Classic remains about building a group ready to fire for the start of 2021 whether it’s an SBL or NBL1 West season, now that finals is within reach it’s well and truly worth shooting for as far as Jackson sees it for the Redbacks.
“The good thing that we do know is that we are still in control of our own destiny with this amount of games left, and some of those teams above us will be playing each other including a key match up this week with Perry Lakes playing Joondalup,” Jackson said.
“We need to solidify and control our own destiny, and that’s what I’ve spoken to the guys about. We need to just control our own destiny and win the games that we can.
“That is something that we have talked about from the beginning of the season and I asked the boys what they wanted to get out of this. They said they wanted to win and then I told them what would be required to do that, and what my expectations would be and how I see us playing.
“We have 20 guys on the roster so there’s a lot of guys who can’t play every week so we needed everyone to understand what we are actually trying to achieve, and they are dialled in.
“I’m pretty happy with how they have all come together and are working off each other. They’re a really good group to be around, I love those kids.”
The growth the Redbacks have shown over the opening five weeks of the West Coast Classic has been impressive too.
It was a bit of a rollercoaster ride early on as the group was trying to find some consistency with the disappointing losses to the Wolves and Hawks highlighting that, but the last five games for four wins and a narrow loss to the Senators have shown a much greater sense of consistent output.
“If you look at our games against Joondalup and Perry Lakes, those two losses were actually terrible performances from us but you look at this game against the Senators,” Jackson said.
“We can take some things out of it because of the fact that we played against some experienced players who have been playing together for a while, and they just executed which is what our downfall was. We didn’t execute when we were required to execute, but I was happy with the effort in a lot of ways.”
Jackson also continues to get a pleasant surprise just about every game he turns up to in terms of the coaches he comes up against. Last weekend, he enjoyed the chance to reconnect with Mark Worthington, James Fitch and Aaron Edwards at the Slammers on Saturday night.
Then on Sunday, it was a memorable occasion for everyone involved with Jackson coaching his son Tevin up against a Senators team where Mike Ellis was coaching his son Cody.
There were those things plus plenty more than continues to bring a smile to Jackson’s face.
“It’s not only the connection with me and Mike and our sons, there’s also a lot of synergy with Caleb and Tevin who played together on state teams together as well,” he said.
“It’s just a good feel to be playing against Mike and Cody because we have so much respect and love for those guys, and so much history with them.
“I actually see Mike quite a bit because I work at Scotch College so I see him on the Monday when he comes to school and we always bounce things back and forth together.
“Then there’s also Jason Cuperus who is Mike’s assistant coach and we have coached a lot of these kids together on the bronze medal winning state team. There’s a lot of synergy and I’ve always had a lot of respect and love for those guys.”
The fact that coaches the calibre of Worthington, Fitch, Edwards, Ellis and now this Friday night Mark Utley and Ben Ettridge at the Eastern Suns is exactly what Jackson hopes happens in terms of former players turning into coaching to pass on their expertise to the next generation.
“Even going against Wortho on Saturday night, he always tells me the story about when he first came to Perth and we had a basketball camp where he was playing two-on-two with me, Ricky Grace and another kid,” Jackson said.
“He got a photo of that and he still has that in his house so we have a lot of mutual respect there as well and then for me to go against Fitch and Aaron Edwards and all those guys, it brought back a lot of old memories about our playing days together.
“It’s good for all of us because it feels in me that’s where the basketball game should be going as far as the coaching. It should be a lot of the older guys who have played in the league giving back to the league that has done a lot for them. I’m really happy that all these cats are actually giving back to the game.”