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October 2, 2013

Jackson studies up

After one of his first full practices in a Notre Dame uniform this week, while some teammates were hoisting near half-court shots, Demetrius Jackson strode over to assistant coach Anthony Solomon to ask some questions.

Turns out that is pretty typical. Jackson, a freshman point guard and one of the most highly touted recruits of the Mike Brey era, often seeks out Solomon before and after practice.

It's all in hopes of gaining a little more perspective and a little more knowledge before the season begins.

"It's great just learning every day," said Jackson, who attended Marian Catholic in nearby Mishawaka. "I have a great coaching staff and team. They just help me learn. I feel like I'm a student of the game, so every day I feel like I'm learning something new about the game."

That's been Jackson's makeup for years.

Throughout the recruiting process Jackson and Solomon would carry on conversations less about the possibility of pairing up in college and more about the game itself. Jackson would study some of his favorite point guards on video then apply those lessons.

He also made a point of getting to know point guard Eric Atkins during that time. Jackson would attend open gyms on campus and match up against Atkins. All that carried over once Jackson enrolled.

"Working with him all summer, he's somebody that really just wants to get better every single day," Atkins said. "He's a gritty defender, gets after it on the defensive side of the ball. Offensively, he can really create his own shot. He can get to the hole usually at will.

"I think he'll be somebody to really help Jerian (Grant) and I take some of the handing responsibilities away from us a little bit. Give us a break there. I just think he's a huge boost for our team."

Getting on the court early seems like a given for Jackson, who finished his prep career ranked No. 38 overall and ninth at his position in the Rivals.com rankings.

Brey and staff have emphasized playing with pace. Jackson has been adjusting to the speed and overall physical play at the college level while attempting to settle in with fellow freshmen V.J. Beachem, Steve Vasturia and Austin Torres.

"On the court, really just the speed," Jackson said of the biggest changes. "In high school I would have the ball in my hands all the time so I could get in a rhythm. So just getting in a rhythm and also the ball screens and then off ball screens. I'm not used to all the screening going on. We've got great screeners, so it's tough.

"That's probably one of the biggest adjustments, to fight through those screens."

Whatever Jackson has been doing so far appears to be working. Atkins drew a quick comparison to a recent Notre Dame guard.

"I think the last person I've had push me like this every single day was Ben (Hansbrough)," Atkins said. "That was my freshman year. It feels good to have a really good defender every single day on you."

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