Moments after the New Orleans Pelicans traded up to select Frank Jackson in the 2017 NBA Draft, I began sipping on the Kool-Aid. A few months later, I pitched the straw to take bigger gulps. Fast forward to present day, I advise buying all available stock in his half-man, half-amazing company.
Here’s the honest to God’s truth: Frank Jackson will be the most exciting rookie to grace the confines of the Smoothie King Center since Anthony Davis.
I know, I know, that’s not exactly the highest of bars considering the lack of enviable picks allotted by Dell Demps for the Pelicans roster, but this does include the once hyped Buddy Hield. Although the expectations for the former 6th overall pick were much higher, we quickly learned Buddy’s spectacular and dominant play wasn’t going to carry over from the University of Oklahoma, even if his deft three-point shooting and super positive energy did follow. The biggest handicap? An obvious lack of explosive athleticism, quickness and former distinct size advantages against the competition.
Frank Jackson, on the contrary, isn’t going to be limited by any deficient physical attributes.
Impressive footage for sure, but what if I told you Jackson’s high flying ways have been sort of a staple for at least the past four months?
Jackson exhibited the hops and burst that wowed onlookers at the 2017 NBA Combine — where he placed inside the top 5 in most categories — in front of Jason Sumerlin, the Pelicans head strength and conditioning coach, and Mike Guevara, the Pelicans performance consultant, just before the end of the last regular season.
“We got him on a few of the same tests he took at the Combine and he was able to match those numbers — and even improve on some of those vertical jumping sets in less time than he was given at his pre-combines,” said Guevara. “So what this means to me, this dude’s ceiling isn’t a ceiling, it’s a sky.”
Despite suffering through those well-publicized surgeries on his right foot, Jackson’s explosiveness remained intact. Fantastic news, yet realize that this newfound health has afforded him a chance to not only work on his game but also strengthen that problematic area. Along the way, he has also learned to feed his body the most optimal nutrients and implement the best precautions to avoid any relapses.
“It’s like what can we really do with this dude when we get him for a full, healthy offseason,” stated Coach Mike G. “We really dial in the program, and we make sure his nutrition and recovery is on point. That is a scary thought for other teams because he has the physical potential to be anyone he wants.”
High praise indeed, but the opinion that matters most belongs to Jackson. Thankfully, running and jumping similarly to the days of old has to count as a big positive for his psyche.
“The fact that he was able to mentally see that he was back to his baseline explosiveness from a testing standpoint was huge for him, because for anyone who gets hurt, it’s always a challenge to trust whatever movement that you may have hurt your body in,” said Guevara. “So as soon as we found out that he was physically able to retest in the same type of activity before the injury, that was really, really big for him mentally — that was a big hurdle for him to overcome.”
Conquering a psychological roadblock is a good and necessary first step, but the grind cannot stop there. Fortunately for the Pelicans, Jackson is an attentive worker, and according to Mike G., he’s done everything asked of him this summer in front of the watchful eyes of the entire Holiday family.
Jrue Holiday invited Jackson to come and train with Aaron and Justin Holiday among others in California this offseason because the close-knit group figured it was important for this Pelicans prized rookie to see his idol at work.
“Frank Jackson is the biggest Jrue Holiday fan in the world,” said Guevara, choosing his words thoughtfully. “Whenever Jrue speaks, Frank is wide-eyed, looking straight at him. Frank wants to be Jrue — and I mean that in the most humble, most honorable way. Frank loves Jrue Holiday to death.”
If you’ve been paying attention to New Orleans basketball on social media since the Summer League wrapped up in Las Vegas, Jackson has been seen working out in various environments with the Holidays, including participation in a lot of exercises that do not immediately remind one of typical basketball training.
All of this is entirely by design as Mike G, a renowned personal trainer, individualizes his workouts for each of his clients. He is filled with an incredible amount of knowledge, ranging from proper nutrition to correct muscle movement to all of the constructive pre- and post-workout stretching. For good measure, he also has a knack for pulling out an analogous saying from his exclusive bag of mottos. When we were discussing Jackson on our recent call, Mike matter of factly said that it’s important to just let athletes be athletes — there’s no reason to add an inordinate amount of muscle mass to a guy who is going to be jumping and landing hundreds of times a week.
In case you’ve forgotten, Guevara is Jrue’s longtime personal trainer and friend, and he was instrumental in helping Holiday finally get past his troublesome leg issues. He and the Pelicans training staff devised a program several years ago that has Holiday on the verge of being regarded as one of the best and most dependable players in the league today; however, we’ll save the rest of this story for later this week.
For now, just be aware that in addition to the new free agent signings of Julius Randle and Elfrid Payton, Frank Jackson is raring to give a booster shot to the Anthony Davis, Nikola Mirotic, E’Twaun Moore and Holiday core.
“He’s going to be really exciting to watch this year in my opinion. We’re going to finally unleash the Ferrari, so to speak.” — Mike G.