Arizona State coach Herb Sendek believes Marcus Jackson could someday be an astronaut or perhaps President of the United States. Right now, though, he'll settle for a little extra help at point guard.
With senior starter Jamelle McMillan out of action last week due to a groin injury, and limited production at the position including zero points at the position in a 55-41 loss to Stanford Thursday, Sendek turned to Jackson, a walk-on, for 15 minutes off the bench in a 65-61 loss to Cal Saturday.
"Marcus really did a good job," Sendek said. "Sometimes you're valuable and important for the plays you don't make. Every once in a while, if you're on a certain track, you may make a spectacular play, but in trying to make a spectacular play you make three plays that don't help our team. What I liked about Marcus' approach is that he may not have done anything flashy, but he gave us a steadiness."
Jackson, a 6-foot-1, 183 pound sophomore, had just two points, two assists and two rebounds, but was lauded by teammates and his coach for a steadying influence and knowledgeable approach. With McMillan expected to miss his third straight game tonight in the team's final non-league game against Tulsa at 6:30 at Wells Fargo Arena, Jackson could be in store for an even more significant role.
Sendek said Tuesday he wasn't sure who would start in the game, but it wouldn't be a surprise if it's Jackson. At the very least, he'll likely get a majority of the backup minutes at point guard.
It's an opportunity Jackson's been waiting for.
"It was hard," said Jackson of his role in the program. "For two years, even up to last week it was like, 'Man, am I ever going to get a chance?' But thankfully I was able to press through and the team needed me and I was able to help."
A four year starter at Sheldon High School in Sacramento, Calif., Jackson walked onto the ASU program after being noticed by assistant coach Lamont Smith in part because he had a one-year academic scholarship to the school.
With ASU having an open scholarship entering this season, Sendek elected to give it to the aerospace engineering major, whose class load for the spring consists of Physics, Electromagnetism, Thermodynamics and Circuits.
"It was really nice news because we were kind of scrambling," Jackson said. "It was nice because I got a lot of one year scholarships out of high school and then it was like, 'Where are we going to get the rest of it from now?'
Jackson said faith and hard work kept him motivated for the opportunity he felt he'd be able to take advantage of. When he wasn't playing, he spent his time in the gym, preparing for the opportunity that might never come but now has.
"Hey at least I'm getting better," Jackson would tell himself. "Someday, somehow, they're going to need me."
Someday is now.