With the possible exception of Jeff Graves, Kansas University's men's basketball team hasn't had an imposing body underneath recently, a big bruiser who will knock opponents to the floor by simply putting a gentle hip into him.
Drew Gooden was athletic and slender. Nick Collison was more graceful and workmanlike than he was powerful. Even Wayne Simien, an All-America candidate this year, finds his strength with fade-aways rather than bullying his way under the basket.
That's where Darnell Jackson is different. The KU freshman made an impression at Late Night in the Phog in October, and it had little to do with his smooth dance moves or decent outing in the midnight scrimmage.
It was more because the Oklahoma City native is a horse, plain and simple, and fans got their first look at his physique that night at Allen Fieldhouse.
He's listed at 6-foot-8, 240 pounds, but even that seems light.
"He's very coordinated for a big man," sophomore J.R. Giddens said. "I think he's going to bring a lot to this team. He's hungry, and he wants rebounds. It's like kids eating snacks."
Jackson and Giddens -- as well as sophomore Jeremy Case -- are close friends, all playing offseason basketball in Oklahoma together. It was one of the reasons Jackson chose the Jayhawks and became the first of KU's highly touted freshman class to give coach Bill Self his oral commitment a year ago.
"I feel comfortable when I'm here with J.R. and Jeremy," Jackson said.
The Oklahoma City native expects to get playing time this year and currently is battling with fellow freshmen C.J. Giles and Sasha Kaun for the final remaining starting job. Whoever starts, he'll have the luxury of playing next to Wayne Simien, the preseason Big 12 Player of the Year and a legitimate candidate for the Wooden Award.
Jackson hasn't been on campus long, but he already has learned plenty from Simien.
"How to protect the ball," Jackson said. "I was watching an individual (workout), and coach was telling me to watch Wayne as he turned around and protected the ball. He helps me a lot with his post moves and showing me the jump hook."
Simien hopes he can help. He needs another big man underneath with him. And nobody, it seems, has the "big" part down like Jackson.
"You don't expect the freshmen to have to shoulder the whole burden," Simien said, "but we expect big things from those guys."
|Full name: Darnell Edred JacksonClass: freshmanHeight: 6-8Weight: 240Hometown: Oklahoma City, Okla.High school: Midwest CityMajor: undecidedBirthdate: November 7, 1985|