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Darnell Jackson in line to accomplish rare feat?
Former Jayhawk Darnell Jackson picked up a start on Sunday for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
As much as I had hoped that the starting nod came because Cleveland coach Mike Brown began to see the same kinds of things that Jayhawk fans marveled at during Jackson’s final season on Mt. Oread, it was not to be. Jackson merely got the call because regular starter, Anderson Varejao, a fifth-year pro, was sidelined with an injured wrist.
While in there, Jackson made the most of his first career start. He finished with 4 points, 5 rebounds and 1 block in 24 minutes. Not bad numbers, considering LeBron James was one of the four other Cavs on the floor with Jackson.
What’s more, the Cavs won the game, 101-81, and pushed their home record to 37-1 on the season.
Here’s the fun part about Jackson’s first start — his opponent, the San Antonio Spurs, featured two former Jayhawks, point guard Jacque Vaughn and power forward Drew Gooden. In fact, Jackson and Gooden spent a handful of minutes guarding each other. I’m sure the matchup brought back a few memories from the alumni battles in the summer at Coach Self’s camp.
So what? Jackson started a game, plays around 7-10 minutes per contest and has found a nice little niche on a really good team. Big deal, right? Well, it might be.
With Cleveland, Jackson is in position to win a championship ring for the second straight season — one with the Jayhawks in 2008 and one with the Cavs in 2009. As the likely top seed in the East, the Cavs are in position to route the road to the Finals through Cleveland.
There’s still a long way to go before the Cavs are crowned kings of the NBA, but if Jackson pulls off the feat — with a little help from LeBron & Co., of course — he’d become the first player since Billy Thompson did it with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1986 to win a ring in college one year and follow it up by winning a shiny piece of hand jewelry in the pros the next.
Billy Thompson, a player not unlike Jackson on that legendary Lakers team. Thompson appeared in 59 games for the Lakers during the 1986-87 season. He averaged about 13 minutes per game along with 5.6 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1 assist.
Thompson, who won the 1986 NCAA title with Louisville (out of a Final Four that included KU), is one of just two players to accomplish the feat in the past 30 years.
The other? None other than Lakers legend Magic Johnson, who followed up his 1979 NCAA title at Michigan State with a title with the Lakers in a rousing, 4-2 series victory over the Philadelphia 76ers his rookie season. The title, of course, was the first of many for Magic, who was named MVP of the NBA Finals that season.
Other than those two Lakers, the next player who came the closest to accomplishing the feat was former Jayhawk, Mark Randall, who lost in the 1991 NCAA title game with Kansas (72-65 to Duke) and was on the Chicgao Bulls team that won the NBA title in 1992.
Will Jackson be next? Or could Miami Heat point guard Mario Chalmers — whose team currently is No. 5 in the Eastern Conference — sneak in and steal the show.
History suggests that neither player has much of a shot. But with LeBron on his side, Jackson’s got a legitimate chance.
The NBA’s regular season ends Wednesday and the playoffs are slated to begin April 19.