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January 31, 2011

Boilermaker point guard's shooting makes a jump

Standing just 5-foot-9, if that, Lewis Jackson is accustomed to being told what he can't do.

But after years of being talked about as - and defended like - a deficient jump-shooter, the Boilermaker point guard took action this summer.

"I stayed (on campus) in May, then was here in June and July," Jackson said. "I'd go to class at 8 a.m., then come in here and get some shots up. I'd go have lunch, watch a little film and come back and get back in and get some more shooting in. It was like three times a day, in here taking a thousand shots, just trying to make as many as I could.

"I just wanted to keep shooting and shooting until I got tired of it."

As soon as Jackson's foot healed from post-season surgery, his attention turned to his shooting, the glaring void in the otherwise dynamic guard's skill set.

Jackson will likely never be confused with an elite shooter, the fruits of his summertime labor have come to bear in recent weeks for Purdue.

Against Minnesota on Saturday afternoon, Jackson made his first three three-pointers, triggering the juncture in which the Boilermakers pulled away from the Gophers for good toward the end of the first half and into the second.

Jackson made 3-of-4 threes against the Gophers, as the junior set career-highs for both made and attempted threes in a game.

As a freshman, Jackson shot a respectable 33 percent from long range, making 11 of 33. In the 16 games he played during a sophomore year marred by injury, he was 1-for-10.

But though the sample size remains small, Jackson's 6-of-12 mark this season, highlighted by his three threes against Minnesota, show marked improvement, as he's also done with a newfound ability to knock down open pull-up jumpers from inside the arc also.

Jackson's shooting 54.5 percent, exactly 10 percent higher than he shot as a freshman, his only other fully healthy season at Purdue. Among all players 6-feet tall or shorter, Jackson's field goal percentage leads the nation.

Only big man Travis Carroll, at 57.1 percent, boasts a better shooting percentage on Purdue's roster, and he's done so on roughly a fourth of the shots as Jackson's taken.

The majority of the point guard's baskets have come off the dribble, but he's mixed in perimeter shooting with great success.

Jackson's newfound perimeter acumen, though, won't change him, he says.

"I'm extremely confident," Jackson said, "but at the same time, I don't want to take bad shots. Even though I feel like I can make a lot of shots, I still want to get the ball to the right person at the right time and just take the right shot when it's there."

Jackson said he's already noticed defenders treating him differently, which he says should help him penetrate and create space for others.

"It opens up everything for everyone," JaJuan Johnson said.

Coach Matt Painter said Jackson's taken advantage of those who've chosen to concede the open jumper to one of the Big Ten's quickest players, a cushion Jackson may not enjoy much longer.

"He's not a guy who's going to go out there to try to prove he can shoot over doing what's best for the team," Painter said. "You're starting to see some of his hard work in the summer coming out in conference play, because they really scout. They know he defers to others and they know he looks to set up his teammates and he does a good job getting to the basket.

"I think some Big Ten teams have backed up more than some non-conference teams and he's made them pay a little bit. That puts him in a good position, because now they might be guarding him a little closer, staying with him a little more and that allows him to feed our other guys and break people down."


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