But the decision to dunk, the aggressive play to make a play, ultimately will be a telling move for Boston College this season.
Jackson can be the game-changer for the Eagles in lieu of Tyrese Rice, who departed to play in Greece. Jackson has the ability to sky, make active plays around the basket and create something out of nothing. The Eagles were playing their fifth straight game without Rakim Sanders, who's been out with a high-ankle sprain. Yet BC won two true road games without Sanders (at Providence and at Michigan) and hopes to get him back on the court as early as Wednesday's game against Harvard.
Jackson, who likely will return to the sixth man role once Sanders is back, needs to be the one who can make plays from driving on the perimeter. But even after Sanders returns, Jackson will be a matchup nightmare for big guards as they try to keep him from posting up.
"We need that," BC coach Al Skinner said of Jackson, who scored a team-high 18 points in the Eagles' ACC-opening 61-60 win over the previously unbeaten Hurricanes at Conte Forum. "That's who he is and part of who we are as a team. He understands that, and eventually he will make all the right decisions."
Jackson let the game come to him and was more of a passive participant in the first half; he scored only five points on six shots as the Eagles built a 31-25 lead. But the 6-foot-3 sophomore made a conscious effort to be more assertive in the second half, especially when the Canes mounted a furious late 19-3 comeback run to tie the game behind Villanova transfer Malcolm Grant's 18 points.
AP Photo/Michael DwyerReggie Jackson's postering dunk was one of the highlights of the season, whether it counted or not.
The Eagles were up 59-57 with 18 seconds left when Jackson went in for the finishing flush. Miami's Reggie Johnson stepped in and took the charge. The one-handed posterizing power jam was "one of the best things that has happened so far, the No. 1 on my memory list," Jackson said.
Miami coach Frank Haith said he didn't see the dunk. More than likely he was saying this tongue in cheek because it was hard not to notice the ferocity with which the dunk was flushed.
But what happened after the dunk may be just as important for Jackson. The Eagles defended Grant well on his 3-pointer with six seconds left, and Jackson grabbed the rebound. He was fouled and made two free throws to ice the game. Grant's 3-pointer at the buzzer tightened the score to one.
Skinner wasn't upset with the charging call, in large part because the Eagles won the game. But what peeved him a bit was the inconsistency of the new rule of the invisible cylinder that rises up from the floor to the hoop. Unlike the NBA, college basketball doesn't have the half-moon diagram on the court that serves as the no-charge zone. It was hard to tell where Johnson stood as he moved up into position. The Eagles showed the play on the replay board, and it did look as though Johnson was moving into position just as Jackson flushed over him.
"If a guard gets to the rim and dunks the ball, how far out away could he be from the basket?" Skinner asked rhetorically. "If he can get to the rim and dunk it, he's got to be pretty close [implying that the defender would be in the no-charge area]. It's a great call, and the ref stepped up and made the call and made it aggressively. But [Jackson] got all the way to the rim that way, and the way the rule is now, well, I'm still trying to figure out where the invisible cylinder is. The only way I'm saying this so calmly is that we won."
The Eagles, picked to finish ninth in the ACC, are 6-2 with Harvard up next. The Crimson gave UConn fits Sunday and handed BC one of its most humbling losses in years last season right after the Eagles had knocked off undefeated and top-ranked North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
Boston College will improve once Sanders returns and needs to continue to storm through games it should win on the way to the full ACC schedule. The Eagles play home games against Harvard, Rhode Island, Bryant, UMass and then South Carolina before Maine and NJIT come to town before a road game at Clemson.
Meanwhile, Miami dropped to 8-1 and hardly had the look of a 10th-place team after being picked to finish that low in the conference during the preseason.
The Canes beat South Carolina for the Charleston Classic title last month and Minnesota last week at home for their two best wins of the season. Heralded freshman guard Durand Scott scored 20 against the Gophers. If the Canes are to be a player, they'll need Grant to make plays. He decided to be a game-changer Sunday.
"That's the kind of player he is. He's mentally tough, even though he's only a sophomore," Haith said. "I wanted to go for the win there at the end, and I thought Malcolm had a good look."
Grant said he could feel the Canes struggling when they got down 14 points and felt he needed to do something.
Miami's guards have had a tough mentality during Haith's tenure. Jack McClinton was the elixir for this group last season. Grant can do that for the Canes this season whether he starts or comes off the bench, as he did against BC. Scott has the talent to go off, and James Dews can be a solid contributor.
The difference for Miami is whether Dwayne Collins wants to be a game-changer. The Hurricanes were outrebounded by 25 on Sunday, and Collins had just one rebound in 18 minutes. He declared for the NBA draft in the spring and clearly thought he was a pro, yet he had trouble -- and this by no means is meant as a dis -- scoring or rebounding over Cortney Dunn or Josh Southern. Can you imagine what would've happened in the NBA if that's where Collins thought he would be this season?
Frankly, Haith has had enough of Collins' lack of effort. And this season he has a hungrier redshirt freshman in the 6-10 Johnson, who gave his team plenty of spark by grabbing three boards, being more active and scoring seven points to Collins' four. Johnson had no turnovers, while Collins had two. Johnson had one block, Collins none.
"Rebounding is all about effort and desire, not how tall or athletic you are," Haith said. "In five years we've never been beaten like that on the boards [46 to 21]. That's a big part of who we are. I needed some energy, and for whatever reason [Collins] didn't have it."
If the Hurricanes are to continue their early-season success, Collins has to become more consistent and be a much more active participant. Having Grant create offense was huge for this squad on Sunday, but his inexperience makes it impossible for the team to rely on Johnson in the post. The Hurricanes need Collins to exhibit more and earn more minutes again for the balance to be there going forward.
Both of these teams have potential to finish much higher than projected. Whether that happens likely depends on Jackson making plays for the Eagles and Grant doing the same for the Canes.