Jan. 5, 2005
By Simit Shah – Jarrett Jack loves basketball.
That fact was apparent Saturday. Twenty minutes after a masterful 26-point performance against Kansas in the Jackets’ 70-68 overtime loss, the junior point guard stood in a hallway outside Tech’s locker room fielding questions from the media.
He was one of the few wearing a Tech uniform that appreciated the magnificence of the game they had just played, despite the sting of the final result.
“Keith Langford walked by me and said, `This is going to be on ESPN Classic for a long time.’ This was a great game, overtime game on the road,” he said. “They probably have the best fans in the country. I’ve never been in a building with the atmosphere quite like this.”
Minutes earlier, he displayed his extensive knowledge of the game by comparing Alex Galindo’s late three-pointer to a moment in the 1994 national championship game.
“That was tough,” he said of the overtime shot that cut Tech’s lead to one point. “It kind of reminded me of Scotty Thurman (of Arkansas) when he hit that three in the NCAA Tournament (against Duke).”
Saturday in a nutshell captured what Jack, who was named the ACC’s player of the week, means to the Jackets. On the court, he delivers clutch performances in big games as one of the best point guards in the nation. Off the court, he’s one of the team’s leaders and easily one of the most knowledgeable and popular players to ever don the white and gold.
“He’s our floor general out there,” stated senior B.J. Elder. “He really gets things going for us. He really does a great job of running the offense, having guys in the right position and getting people the ball where they want it. He does everything for us.”
While his place among Georgia Tech’s illustrious point guard tradition is solidified by last year’s Final Four appearance, Jack is anything but content with his play. Over the summer, he specifically focused on improving his shooting. His regimen consisted of shooting 400 to 500 shots a day, often alone at night at Alexander Memorial Coliseum.
His hard work resulted in a field goal percentage of almost 60 percent, which is third-best in the ACC and 16 points above his career average. Jack has also connected on 42 percent of three-pointers and nearly 89 percent of free throws.
“I hear people talk about different players, and here’s a guy who led his team to the Final Four and was Most Outstanding Player of the regional,” said coach Paul Hewitt. “When they talk about the best players in the country … I know I’m biased, but how can this guy not be mentioned?
“He’s one of the best players in the country, flat out. He’s a team player, he defends, he passes the ball, he works on his game, he’s a good three-point shooter now. There’s not a whole lot Jarrett Jack can’t do.”
At 6-3 and 202 pounds, Jack is bigger than most of his collegiate point guard peers, but he’s able to use his size to gain advantages as a defender and rebounder, as well as driving to the basket.
“I’ve always felt that it’s hard to take a big guard out of the game,” Hewitt noted. “He’s one of those guys who just fills up the stats sheet. If he’s not scoring, he’s getting assists, he’s getting steals, he’s getting rebounds.”
With 447 assists, Jack ranks eighth on Tech’s all-time list. If he continues on his pace of nearly five assists per game, he could pass Kenny Anderson, Mark Price and Brian Oliver before the season ends.
His ability to distribute the ball becomes especially important as the ACC slate begins this week. Losses to Kansas and Gonzaga have illustrated the importance of getting offensive contributions from up and down the roster, including the team’s freshmen.
“All those guys are starting to settle in, getting in their comfort zone and learning their role on the team,” explained Jack. “All of them play with a great deal of confidence, and that’s what separates them from normal freshmen. A lot of the time, they are on my team in practice, so I do a good job to keep talking to them and focused on where they’re supposed to be.”
“I’ve learned a lot from him,” said freshman point guard Zam Fredrick. “He knows so much, so it’s been a big help to me to have him around.”