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UT freshman Jackson impressing with poise, confidence

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    UT freshman Marreon Jackson is averaging 8.8 points and 3.2 assists per game.

    BLADE/KATIE RAUSCH

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    Marreon Jackson has impressed coach Tod Kowalczyk with his poise and toughness as a freshman point guard.

    BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH

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University of Toledo men’s basketball coach Tod Kowalczyk said that during an offseason trip to Italy he could already see how much his veteran players respected freshman point guard Marreon Jackson.

His confidence, his swagger, and his positive personality immediately stood out to Kowalczyk and the rest of the team.

“Since I’ve known him, he’s been an extremely confident and, in a good way, a cocky player,” Kowalczyk said. “He expects to make big plays. I do think his confidence as a point guard is very contagious and infectious within our team. There are two things that make him so good. No. 1, he’s ultra-competitive, and No. 2, his personality is tremendous.

“He’s talking, he’s having fun, he’s smiling, and that gives other players a tremendous amount of confidence when your point guard does that.”

Jackson says that growing up in Cleveland and attending Garfield Heights High School, he embodied a little bit of the edge that Cleveland-area players try to bring to a basketball court.

“Growing up playing basketball, I never backed down from any challenge,” Jackson said. “Whatever the crowd looked like, I always wanted to step up. In Cleveland, we’ve got a certain cockiness to us.”

UT sophomore Willie Jackson, a teammate of Marreon’s at Garfield Heights, said he is not surprised at the confidence and poise that Jackson is showing during his freshman season.

“I would say it’s a Cleveland thing,” Willie Jackson said. “That’s what we pride ourselves on. Anybody knows that when you go recruit Cleveland, you are going to get tough guys. There’s no finesse and no showing off, we just come in and get it done.”

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Marreon Jackson has impressed coach Tod Kowalczyk with his poise and toughness as a freshman point guard.

BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH Enlarge

When Willie Jackson decided to transfer to Toledo from Missouri, seeing that his former high school teammate was coming in as a freshman played a big role in in his choice. He believes Marreon is exhibiting the same qualities so far at Toledo that made him successful as a high school point guard.

“He was always just that glue guy as a point guard,” Willie Jackson said. “He did everything he was supposed to do, just like he is doing here. He knows his role, and he takes care of his role. In high school he was one of the guys I counted on, night in and night out. It’s like the same thing now. He’s a guy we can count on night in and night out.”

Jackson averages 8.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game for the Rockets, who are 9-2 in the Mid-American Conference going into Friday’s game at Miami. His 44.4 percent mark from the 3-point line is second-best in the MAC, and his 1.9 assist-to-turnover ratio is tied for fifth-best.

“Marreon is a great player,” UT senior Tre’Shaun Fletcher said. “He’s young so he still makes some freshman mistakes, but he’s playing at a very high level. He’s added leadership, and he just plays hard. He’s a tough guy and someone you wouldn’t want to play against. He’s fearless out there, and I love the way he is playing as a freshman.”

Jackson said he didn’t really take his 3-point shooting seriously until his dad, Herman, pushed him to make 500 shots before he would end a workout.

“He always said, ‘Anybody can dribble and pass, but not every point guard can shoot,’ ” Jackson said. “So I just started taking that real seriously.”

Jackson’s 3-point proficiency and his ability to step up in big moments were on display Tuesday night against Northern Illinois when he sank a corner 3 that broke a late tie. He went on to score Toledo’s last seven points in an 82-77 win.

“When I saw [Fletcher] find him in the corner, obviously I watched the shot, but I knew it was in,” Kowalczyk said. “He does it all the time in practice. He just makes big plays and makes big shots.”

As the season progresses, Jackson believes he has room to grow as a distributor from the point guard position. He would like to see his assist-to-turnover ratio get even better. Kowalczyk also said he would like Jackson to focus on getting more assists and improving his shot selection early in games.

“When I came in, I just expected to contribute in any way the coach wanted me to,” Jackson said. “He gave me a position to start, and I just have to fill those shoes and do everything he tells me to do and help my teammates out.”

The results have been impressive for Jackson, and his intangibles as a young player have helped him fit in with his teammates. Kowalczyk continues to be impressed by Jackson’s growth.

“He had high expectations for himself coming in and I think the longer this goes on, he is just getting more confidence,” Kowalczyk said.

Contact Brian Buckey at bbuckey@theblade.com419-724-6110, or on Twitter @BrianBuckey.

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