Notre Dame guard Demetrius Jackson headed for NBA

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

A door that Demetrius Jackson wasn’t expected to walk through until sometime in May was instead closed for good late Tuesday by the Notre Dame junior guard.

Make that the former Notre Dame guard.

Jackson announced via Instagram around 9:43 p.m. that his collegiate career is effectively over and that he will declare for the 2016 NBA draft. He will hire an agent, which nullifies his final year of eligibility.

“It was an honor to represent such a great University and program,” Jackson wrote. “There have been many people who’ve helped me along this journey, and I’d like to thank my family, teammates, and coaches for shaping me to be the player and man I am today.”

A phone message left for Jackson late Tuesday was not returned. He is expected to meet the media Wednesday afternoon at Notre Dame. He also is expected to finish out the spring semester.

Irish coach Mike Brey took to Twitter late Tuesday to express his feelings about his now former point guard.

“Great decision by DJ & I fully support it,” Brey wrote. “He’s maxed out his college experience & is ready for challenge of NBA.”

Jackson led the Irish in scoring (15.8 ppg.) and assists (4.6) this season. The former Mishawaka Marian standout and McDonald’s All-American started and played in 35 of 36 games, missing one in late January with a pulled right hamstring. He averaged 36.0 minutes per game.

That Jackson will bypass his senior season was not unexpected. The timing of it, however, was a little surprising.

Less than 48 hours earlier, Jackson declined to discuss his future, telling the media only that he would deal with it at a later date. Brey stood in a somber Irish locker room at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia following Notre Dame’s loss to North Carolina in the East Region championship and outlined what figured to be Jackson’s next step.

Brey figured that Jackson would declare for the NBA draft, not hire an agent, and then attend the mid-May pre-draft combine in Chicago. There, he was expected to receive enough feedback from NBA decision-makers to weigh whether to return for his senior season or head for the NBA.

Jackson believes he’s ready now. He informed Brey of his decision Tuesday afternoon. A source close to the program told the Tribune that the deeper he worked through the 2015-16 season, the more Jackson started thinking harder about leaving school early.

His performance Sunday, said the source, was a major factor in Jackson deciding that now is the time.

The 6-foot-1 Jackson scored 26 points, one shy of his career high, with four assists in 39 minutes. Jackson played some of his best basketball during Notre Dame’s four-game NCAA Tournament run.

“He looked like an NBA guard,” Brey said afterward.

Jackson becomes the first Irish to leave for the NBA following his junior year since former All-American Troy Murphy in 2001. Murphy was a lottery pick of the Golden State Warriors that season.

The June 23 draft will be held in Brooklyn, N.Y., at Barclays Center, site of Notre Dame’s first two tournament games this month.

Jackson’s projected draft range has been as high as the 11th pick in the first round by one mock draft to early in the second round in another.

A second source close to Jackson told the Tribune that Jackson has been informed that he likely will be selected somewhere in the first round of the June draft. All first-round draft picks are guaranteed three-year contracts worth at least $1.093 million, the amount that Golden State Warriors rookie Kevon Looney, the final pick of the first round, is making this season.

Should Jackson become a first-round pick, it would mark the first time since 2001-02 that Notre Dame had consecutive first-round selections in the NBA draft. In those years, it was Murphy and power forward Ryan Humphrey.

Former Irish guard Jerian Grant was a first-round pick of the Washington Wizards last season. Grant told the Tribune as early as late-November that he figured Jackson would bypass his senior season and jump to the NBA.

Jackson closed his 158-word Instagram message with two hashtag posts – #574 and #NotDoneYet.

He is at Notre Dame.

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Notre Dame guard Demetrius Jackson has played his final game for the Irish after announcing Tuesday via Instagram that he will enter the June NBA draft.Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN