Sometimes, a person’s name says all you need to know about them. Steve Smith accomplished everything a basketball player could and was so smooth doing it that he never needed a nickname.
After growing up in Detroit, the 6-8 point guard attended college at Michigan State. He was named an All-American as a junior and senior, and hit a game-winning shot in the 1991 NCAA Tournament.
A couple months later, Smith was selected by the Miami Heat with the fifth overall pick in the NBA Draft. His NBA career spanned 14 seasons. He was named an All-Star in 1998, won an Olympic gold medal in the 2000 Sydney games, and won an NBA championship in 2003 with the San Antonio Spurs.
In this video, the current NBA TV and CBS NCAA Tournament analyst spoke to us about his partnership with Harley Davidson and the Live Your Legend campaign, the experience of being an oversized point guard at Magic Johnson’s alma mater, running into the buzzsaw of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in the late ’90s, and where he keeps his NBA championship ring.
Even though he just recently finished his sophomore season at the University of Wisconsin, Traevon Jackson comes across just like his game- confident, smooth and mature.
For being just 20 years old, he’s so calm and composed, you can’t help but think about where you were in life at 20….and then sheepishly quit punishing yourself.
Some of that confidence undoubtedly comes from his famous genetics and being the son of NBA star player Jim Jackson, but the greater part of it comes from his faith and approach to life, off the court.
After getting limited minutes in the beginning of the year, Jackson became a starter and was a key contributor during the Badgers’ NCAA Tournament run, being named to the Big Ten All-Tournament team and hitting multiple game winning shots. Jackson was 15th in the Big Ten in assists as a true sophomore, also leading the team in both steals and finishing second in free throw shooting.
You get the feeling that it isn’t about what Jackson has accomplished thus far, but what he is going to accomplish. And that gets Badger fans excited.
Bullz-Eye- What was your experience like playing in the NCAA Tournament?
Traevon Jackson- “Obviously, it didn’t end the way we wanted it to. Just the fact of me playing in the tournament was great because it’s the attitude of “loser goes home” and unfortunately we had to go home. But it really puts into perspective what you need to do to prepare for it going forward. And learning from that this year helps us next year.”
You just finished your sophomore year you were a big part of the rotation. What helped your development the most between freshman and sophomore year?
“Mainly going home and working with Anthony Rhodman (Who also trained National Player of the Year Trey Burke). This was my first full summer going back home and doing all the skill work that I needed to work on. Coming back in this year I was way more confident and better overall. It took a little while, had to go thru adversity. I didn’t achieve all the goals I wanted to, but the little bit of success I had is like a glimpse of the future.”
What is one area you’ve improved the most on the court and the most off of it?
“It goes for both- just my faith on and off the court. I’ve always been somewhat of a faithful guy but Ant really opened my heart to the lord and it really took hold of everything I do in life, I do it for the Lord. It’s a bigger purpose now. It really took hold for me on and off the court, doing it for the right reasons, bringing glory to god’s name, when it used to be “I want be the best just for me.” But now it’s not just for me but it’s for, Him, the Lord as well.”
What’s the experience been like at Wisconsin since you committed, versus what you thought it would be?
“Coming out of high school, just like any other freshman I’m sure, I thought I’d come in, play major minutes and be the man. And that wasn’t the case at all. Rarely played in my freshman year, and coming into my sophomore year I wasn’t expected to play either. But some injuries happened and I still didn’t start in the beginning of the year, but as season went on I became starter. That’s the biggest thing I’ve learned in my two years- overcoming adversity. And if you just stay in the fight because anything can happen if you put in the work.”
What’s the most annoying or creative heckling you have heard in any Big Ten arena?
“A lot of stuff about my dad, but I’ve heard that forever so it’s rare I hear anything new. Honestly, I don’t know. There was this one lady at Indiana after we beat them. It was after the game and I was walking off the court and she was just sitting there on the sidelines. I was walking off the court and apparently I was smiling and she said, “There’s nothing to be smiling at!” It caught me off guard and I thought, “Why are you so mad?” That’s one thing that comes to mind. Fans always say “Jimmy’s better!’ (laughing) but I’m so focused on the game I don’t even pay attention except at maybe at a dead ball.”
Is there added pressure based on who your dad is to succeed? What’s the dynamic of that like?
“Growing up, I felt it more than I do now, but now I don’t even think about it at all, actually. The pressure that I feel now the most is pleasing the Lord. That may sound cliché, but that’s an everyday type of task and the biggest thing for me. As long as I continue to grow in that aspect, there is no other question.”
Who would win a game of one on one right now?
“Oh, me of course (laughing). Easily. He can beat me in golf and all the other, cards, all that stuff, but he’s not beating me on the court.”
How did him moving, playing for 12 different NBA teams, impact you as you were growing up?
“It was great. I got to go to a lot of different cities and see a lot of places I wouldn’t have probably otherwise seen. But, just from watching him, I got to really go thru and experience his career. He started out as a top guy in the league and eventually became a productive role player. Just seeing how he handled it was awesome. It taught me no matter what, and I think about it now when I go through adversity, I never saw him put his head down, he always found a way, just like my mom- keep working hard and good things will come.”
You might be the type of person who roots for the underdog. Every year the NCAA Tournament comes along and you are looking for a team to root for with a decent chance to pull off a few upsets making some of the ‘Madness’ happen.
This year that team should be the Saint Louis Billikens. Let me explain to you why.
About six years ago the legendary coach Rick Majerus agreed to become the head coach of the Billikens basketball team. This decision was made largely in part because it allowed Majerus to be closer to his ailing mother in Milwaukee.
Majerus quickly became the most well known figure on the campus of the Jesuit-school. He was universally liked by the community, even after a somewhat controversial start.
The coach implemented his defense-oriented, slow down the game strategy, but his system could hardly make up for the minimal talent he inherited. But Majerus held true to his system and his recruiting. He was confident that in four or five seasons he would have a winner.
The Billikens faced adversary in their first four years under Majerus, but as time went on they improved. And last season, with a roster full of Majerus’ recruits (none of which made much of a buzz coming out of high school) the Billikens won 26 games and made it to the third round of the NCAA Tournament and pushed number one seeded Michigan State to the brink before falling short to the Spartans.
The post-game press conference was emotional. Rick Majerus is known to crack jokes. He’s known to be a tough guy that isn’t afraid to say anything. He wasn’t known for crying. But that’s what happened after that Michigan State loss. Majerus told the world just how much these players meant to him and how proud he was. It was a beautiful tribute and it was a great press conference to cap off a great accomplishment.
It turned out to be the last press conference Majerus was ever a part of. He died on December 1st of 2012.
Majerus had always battled weight issues, which led to heart issues. Just prior to the season, he stepped down as coach (at the time temporarily) and handed the reigns to Jim Crews.
Majerus would never coach again.
The current SLU players were the pallbearers at his funeral. After his death, the Billikens (who were having an average season), followed his death with nine straight wins. They eventually garnered a top 16 ranking in the nation and won the Atlantic 10 conference.
Every single member of the team and coaching staff is there because of Rick Majerus. They were all hired or recruited by him.
Just as he predicted he built a legitimately dangerous team in five years. And dangerous they are. The Billikens play stifling defense and control the tempo against all their opponents.
They are poised to make a run with their late coach as inspiration. Everyone has a team they root for in the NCAA Tournament. But no one should be rooting against the Saint Louis University Billikens.
The NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament has come to Cleveland, OH and with that Infiniti has sponsored a Round by Round Brackets Coaches vs Cancer charity event. This is a great cause with thousands already participating. The goal is to raise $500,000 to fight cancer and if everyone gets involved, Infiniti can far exceed that number.
There really is nothing like the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament and today Bullz-Eye.com is at Quicken Loans Arena to watch the Ohio State vs George Mason and Marquette vs Syracuse match ups. As you can see from the photos in our gallery, the energy and excitement in the journey to make the Final Four makes any sports fan stand up! Good luck to all of the teams still in play for the big prize and thanks to Infiniti for playing a lead sponsorship role in the NCAA Final Four Tournament and their efforts in playing a major role in the ongoing battle to beat cancer!
As a side note, check out the photo with George Mason's Band Director. He might be the coolest dude in the Q!