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Charles Jackson: Breaking in

New Zealand Breakers import Charles Jackson may be a long way from home this Christmas, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be away from family. Big Charles will still be celebrating the festive season, only this year he’ll be doing it with his new family, the reigning champion New Zealand Breakers. “You've got to understand how much of a family this is, man,” Jackson said. “The whole team, the whole coaching staff, everybody that works here… it's a whole family thing.” Signed by the Breakers four months ago to replace centre Ekene Ibekwe, Jackson has been a dominant force around the basket this season, his first as a pro. His fast-tracked development and consistent play have made him a key component of the Breakers’ championship defence. Having started every game after coming off the pine for the season-opener, Jackson is averaging 12.1 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1 blocked shot per game in just over 20 minutes on the floor. Jackson leads the NBL in field goal percentage (.652) and heading into Round 11 he ranked second behind Illawarra’s A.J. Ogilvy in Player Efficiency Rating (25.5), an advanced statistical measurement of a player’s per-minute performance (while adjusting for pace). In Round 9, across two games against Perth and Townsville, Jackson averaged 20.5 points (at 68 percent), 9.0 rebounds and 2.5 blocks – performances that delivered him recognition as Fox Sports Lab’s Player of the Week. The numbers have been great, but it’s the intangibles Jackson has brought that Vickerman values the most. His team-first mentality, bubbly personality and willingness to listen were all traits that helped him stand out from the crowd at the NBA Summer League earlier this year. “We spoke to all his college coaches, high school coaches and opposition coaches and the first words that came out of everybody's mouths were: ‘his teammates love him,’” Vickerman said. “That was always the first thing that we got and that's held true. Our guys all love him, love his energy and his enthusiasm for the game and love his ability to continue to want to learn and take on advice and do whatever it takes to win.” Midway through the season, Jackson is well-and-truly in the conversation for 2015/16 Defensive Player of the Year. With five-time winner Damian Martin having missed a large chunk of the season, the door to that award has flung wide open. Jackson, for one, is keen to let himself in. The Breakers may have let Illawarra get off the chain last round, but they possess the top-ranked defence in the NBL and their big American has been a key reason why. Jackson ranks first for Defensive Rating (96.0) – an advanced statistic that measures the number of points a player allows per 100 possessions – and is top five in both rebounds and blocked shots. Chat with Jackson about the game and he’ll quickly start talking about the defensive end of the floor. “If you want to win games, having a defensive presence has got to be first,” he said. “It’s just in me … It’s always been a part of my game, I really don't want nobody to score on me and if they do, I've got to figure out a way to stop them, that's always been my mentality” Vickerman has been impressed with the big fella’s defensive impact and believes there’s plenty more improvement ahead. “It's only over the last five games that he's really been able to find his shot block timing,” said Vickerman. “He went for a lot early on and gave up offensive rebounds and now he's picking his moments, picking his timing and making great challenges. According to Vickerman, the other key area for Jackson to improve is his body. The NBA told him he needed to change his body – get stronger through the core, more powerful and more balanced – and that part of his development remains a work in progress. One thing Jackson already does very, very well is use his emotions to further spark himself and his team. His passion and enthusiasm are infectious and Vickerman absolutely loves it. “Charles celebrates his own plays but he celebrates his team-mates plays just as well. It’s good for us,” the premiership coach explained. As for Jackson, he’s just keeping it 100. “It just makes me better being myself out there, I'm energetic and I love the game so much,” he said. “Doing that, that's just a part of me because that’s my way of showing my passion for the game that I love.” It’s never easy playing your first professional season away from home, but Jackson believes his Breakers ‘family’ has helped make the transition a smooth one. “Having the great team-mates that I have makes it a lot easier,” he said. “That family thing, it goes a long way.”
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