|Sophomore Jackie Carmichael sparks the Redbirds on both ends of the court|
|Written by Kevin Massoth, Daily Vidette Sports Editor|
|Monday, 29 November 2010 19:18|
There are two ways to make an ISU basketball crowd go silent.
The obvious way is for the Redbird men’s basketball team to play poorly. When that happens, crickets can be heard throughout Redbird Arena. The second way is to send an opposing player’s shot ten rows deep into the band section.
Jackie Carmichael is much better at the second option, and when the 6-foot-9, 240-pound sophomore tees up for an earth-shattering block, most fans are left speechless.
ISU fans are usually not quiet for long, but with each acrobatic block the Redbird forward records, he leaves more and more spectators peeling their jaws off the floor.
“Obviously he’s an exceptional athlete, and he’s a guy that I don’t think is close to reaching his potential,” ISU head coach Tim Jankovich said.
Redbird fans got their first taste of Carmichael’s athleticism when he flew onto the ISU basketball scene last year as a freshman.
As a young role player, the forward blocked everything in sight, crashed the boards hard and threw down monster slam dunks when the opportunity arose.
Those simple tasks were all Jankovich asked of his beastly freshman, and Carmichael did them well. Playing just 16.6 minutes per game, the Manhattan, Kan., native scored 6.8 points per game, snatched 4.1 rebounds per game and blocked 46 shots in 33 appearances throughout the season.
With senior stars on the team such as Osiris Eldridge and Dinma Odiakosa, the spotlight and pressure never fell on Carmichael.
But the limelight shifted upon Carmichael almost as quickly as his blocked shots fly off Doug Collins Court. After a stunning NIT loss to Dayton to end ISU’s season, Eldridge, Odiakosa and point guard Lloyd Phillips were lost to graduation leaving a massive hole in the Redbird offensive attack.
“We lost ‘O’ and Dinma and Lloyd and you’re losing a lot of point production there,” Carmichael said. “It’s definitely not just me, the whole team is going to have to step up and try and kind of fill those roles.”
Carmichael has taken it upon himself to fill the vacant shoes, and he is not disappointing thus far. Returning with an improved jump shot to go along with his jaw-dropping athleticism, the sophomore forward has elevated his game to a whole new level to lead this year’s young ISU team to a 5-1 start.
“I’ve been working on going off the dribble, pump fakes, not just working with my back to the basket but facing up. Just trying to create space and different things like that,” Carmichael said. “I’m just trying to be the player that this team needs me to be.”
Carmichael has shouldered a heavier burden on the offensive end and through six games has averaged 11.8 points per game on 54 percent shooting. He has also grabbed 4.3 rebounds and blocked 1.5 shots per contest.
“Jackie Carmichael is a much improved low-post player,” Jankovich said. “Not only is he a low-post player, but certainly a guy that can give us that presence.”
The true sophomore sent a message in ISU’s season opener when he torched SIU-Edwardsville for 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field. Carmichael also grabbed five boards and dished out an assist to lead the Redbirds to a 92-64 rout of the Cougars on Doug Collins Court.
Although the sophomore’s numbers against SIU-E would have been solid for a full game, the real kicker was that he produced them in just 13 minutes of action. Foul trouble and a second-half injury forced Jankovich to sit Carmichael on the bench for extended time, but the big man let the world know he is a force to be reckoned with.
Whether Carmichael has used his long wingspan to swat away shots, soar high for rebounds or rise over a defender for a jump shot, the sophomore forward has made an impact for the Redbirds in the early going this season.
“Confidence is a huge key,” Carmichael said. “If you have confidence you can pretty much do anything you want to do. If I can remember that and just keep my confidence I think we’ll have a really good season.”
Carmichael’s early play should be taken as a warning to the rest of the Missouri Valley Conference. If MVC teams take him lightly, they may have a dented tuba or two.