Pulling a switch, ESPN has assigned its NBA crew of Mike Tirico and analysts Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy to call the Davidson-Duke game at 7 p.m. today at Cameron Indoor Stadium, while the college basketball crew of Dan Shulman and Dick Vitale working the 9 p.m. NBA game between the Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat.
In a phone interview, Jackson said he'd be able to provide a different perspective, particularly concerning how certain players shape up as NBA prospects. He said he was blown away by his first look at Cameron — at Davidson's practice today — though not looking forward to the long climb upstairs to the announcers' perch at Cameron.
"I think that's being kind, saying it's in the rafters," Jackson said. "Everything else is drop-dead incredible."
The former St. John's star and longtime NBA guard offered some pregame assessments, saying he's already seen a lot of Duke and Davidson.
On Duke's Kyle Singler: "Talking to people over there, they compare Singler to a John Havlicek-style player, and you can see the similarities. The guy has special talent and is an extremely high-energy-level player, will basically do anything and everything on the floor to help you win. ... In these days, he can play the '3' or the '4' [small or power forward], because he's a guy that's going to leave it on the floor. He can knock down the jumper. He can rebound the basketball. So, all of those things, he's not gonna hurt you playing the '4'. I see him being able to play multiple positions."
On Duke's Gerald Henderson: "Outstanding athlete , as good as there is in the country. Has the size, the strength to play on the next level. I just think with him, [he needs to] just continue to get better in all facets of the game where he becomes as complete a basketball player as he can be. But I definitely see a place for him. When you talk about Henderson, he can play the '2' or the '3' [shooting guard or small forward]. I think he has to continue to get better with his ballhandling and shooting."
On Davidson's Stephen Curry: "Outstanding talent. I think the best thing for him was allowing him to handle the ball. What it did was made him a better player, which is hard to believe, and eliminated a lot of the criticism of NBA scouts. The question all along last year was, OK, well, could he play the point? And I think Bob McKillop has done an outstanding job putting the ball the ball in his hands and putting those doubts to rest. He's a knock-down shooter, a guy that has very good vision as far as passing the basketball and making plays. I certainly see him as a special talent on the next level. ... He comes from good stock. He's a kid who works hard. He's only gotten better."
Given Jackson's own ambitions, ESPN may not keep him beyond this season. He made clear he still wants to coach.
"I absolutely look forward to coaching, and I haven't put limitations just on [considering] the NBA. I would definitely consider, it would have to be the right college job, I wouldn't just take any, but I definitely look forward to coaching. It's something I've always wanted to do. ...
"I've had an opportunity to interview for three very good jobs in New York, Phoenix and also with Chicago. ... Actually had very strong consideration in New York, where the job would have been mine other than Mike D'Antoni being fired, or whatever definition you want to use for that. [D'Antoni left the Suns and was hired by the Knicks.] I'm anxiously awaiting my opportunity, and I know it will come."