Frank Jackson Q&A with Steve Wiseman

by Jim Eichenhofer

To gain more insight into the newest member of the New Orleans Pelicans, second-round draft pick Frank Jackson, we caught up with Steve Wiseman, sports editor for the Durham (N.C.) Herald-Sun. Wiseman covered Jackson during the guard’s college season at Duke University, where the freshman averaged 10.9 points in just 24.9 minutes per game.

Wiseman addressed the No. 31 overall draft choice’s background and some of his primary traits on and off the court: For Pelicans fans who may not be familiar with Frank Jackson as a player, what are some of the primary things he will bring to an NBA team?
Wiseman: Frank is a solid ballhandler and an excellent shooter. He made 39.5 percent of his 3-pointers, finding success there both in half-court sets and in transition. He showed the ability to find an open spot on the floor on fast breaks to hit key 3-pointers. Overall, he improved as the season progressed to become a starter in place of Grayson Allen. He's strong and his jumping ability is a plus. What is he like as a person, away from basketball?

Wiseman: Frank has a calmness about him. He’s serious but the moment never seems too big for him. I gravitated toward him in postgame locker room interviews early on because he offered interesting insights into the team even as a young player. In recent years, Duke – like many top college programs – has had numerous one-and-done players who’ve come to the NBA. Jackson’s profile seems to be a bit different from other Blue Devils, however, in that he was not a “star” along the lines of say, high-lottery picks Kyrie Irving or Jahlil Okafor. Was there surprise in the region when Jackson declared for the draft?

Wiseman: Yes Duke fans were certainly surprised when he declared and even more so when he stayed in the draft. Much of the attention was focused on Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles, Luke Kennard and Grayson Allen. Few worried about losing Frank but it quietly became clear he was considering the move. What were local expectations in terms of where he would be drafted? Was being the No. 31 pick higher or lower than projected by media and fans?

Wiseman: Few thought he’d go in the first round, which is why ACC fans – whether they hate Duke or love the team – thought he would return for his sophomore year. Even after his strong combine performance, early second round is where many thought he would go at best. When a player goes to a college team with a large amount of future NBA talent and plenty of scoring options, sometimes it can be difficult from afar to gauge exactly what he is capable of doing. Based on the Duke system and/or Jackson’s role, are there certain skills he may be able to show more prominently as a professional compared to college?

Wiseman: Because he had to distribute so much because Duke had so many weapons on offense, I'll be watching to see how he does if the Pelicans use him as primarily a shooting guard. That would free him up to concentrate on coming off picks to hit jumpers or drive for points. What do you see as the areas where Jackson needs to improve the most to be able to get on the floor as an NBA rookie or make an impact, despite only being 19 years old?

Wiseman: He’s strong and a good leaper but I still wonder how that will translate to the next level when he attempts to drive the lane and finish. The ACC is high-level college basketball but he’ll face better defense on the interior. What were the areas he showed the most progress from the beginning of his freshman season to the spring?

Wiseman: He came to Duke as more of a combo guard than a true point guard. He wound up in that role often because Duke had no true point on the roster. As the season progressed, he looked more and more comfortable distributing. What's one thing even diehard Duke basketball fans may not know about Jackson?
Wiseman: Frank is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While Mormons famously take mission trips in their late teens or early 20s, Frank has chosen to skip that route for now. But when visiting missionaries came to Durham last season, he visited with them and posed for photos to show support.