There was no shortage of breakout performances in the opening round of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague this season, but the one that stood out the most was from Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv guard Pierre Jackson to lead his team to a road win at Brose Bamberg. Jackson posted 27 points and 9 assists to earn the first MVP of the Round honor for the season while establishing himself as the new darling of the fans in Tel Aviv. We decided to get to know Jackson a little bit better by sitting down with him for this interview in which he talked about his opening night performance, what brought him to Tel Aviv and how he decided which shoes from his extensive sneaker selection to wear for any given game. “Maccabi has a great history and they are used to winning and they want to get back on the winning track,” Jackson told EuroLeague.net. “And it’s a huge compliment that they wanted me to run the show.”
Congratulations on a great game on opening night. What stands out the most for you from the game in Bamberg?
“The environment. Obviously we haven’t played, as a team, in an environment like that. Their fans came out and they were really loud. And obviously Bamberg is a really good team.”
You had a strong game through three quarters, but really turned it up a notch in the fourth with 14 points and 4 assists, including the big plays in the game-clinching run. What led to that outburst?
“I’m not sure. We needed baskets and I put myself and the team put me in some great positions to score the ball and we got it done. I was just being more aggressive. Obviously I was trying to get everybody involved throughout the game, and, like I said, my teammates really put me in a good position to capitalize on opportunities to shoot. Credit goes out to the management and the coaching staff for recruiting players. Norris is an NBA champion, we both have experience, so having us both out there at the same time so one can run the show and the other can sort of relax. We got a long season, so we’ll see what happens.”
You teamed up with Alex Tyus on a few spectacular plays. It seems you two have good chemistry together.
“Alex, he sets some great screens! The better he gets me open, the more he’s open. I’ve been able to watch him throughout the years and I know what he likes to do. He likes the ball up, so I’ll put it there!”
After the game, Coach Spahija revealed that he spent a lot of time trying to recruit you to Maccabi. What was it in the end that convinced you to sign?
“We have a couple of mutual friends and they reached out. He happened to be in Vegas (where Jackson lives) at the same time and we talked there and the rest is history. It was just a great opportunity. Obviously Maccabi has a great history and they are used to winning and they want to get back on the winning track and it’s a huge compliment that they wanted me to run the show.”
I am sure you know that Maccabi is coming off its worst two-year stretch in decades. Can you tell how much it means to the fans here to start the season with a win?
”For sure. Fans reached out on social media and I want to try to keep their spirits high and continue to win games.”
On the topic of social media, your handle on both Twitter and Instagram is PAPPYGAWD. Can you explain where that nickname came from?
“Long story short, my pastor when I was at Baylor University, his grandad I believe, his name was Pappy Jack. He obviously got a chance in my two years there to see how I interact with my family and how I’m like the dad of everyone, I take care of my whole family, basically. And he saw how and he said it reminded him of his grandad and his demeanor and how seriously he took his family and his craft. And it just stuck. It has a ring to it and I just stuck with it.”
And before that you were “Young Jack”?
”Yeah, I was Young Jack. It was just something I came up with to get an Instagram handle. I wanted to get PappyJack at first, but someone already had it. I reached out to them and they didn’t reach back. I didn’t want to put G-O-D, because that’s just me, I don’t feel like I’m a god, so I put GAWD and it has a ring to it and everybody likes it. I’ve had that probably two, two and half years, something like that.”
This was not your EuroLeague debut; you had a stint with Fenerbahce Istanbul a few years ago. What did you take from that experience to prepare you for this season?
Then, I didn’t really know the game style they play in Europe. I wasn’t accustomed to it, it’s totally different basketball. I’m almost three or four years older now, my game has matured. Fenerbahce is obviously a great club as well and they put me in a great positon to get a feel for it. And I’m in a great position now… Playing in Croatia was a great experience for me as well. You know, if I go to a club and the coach has confidence in my game, I do pretty well. Hopefully I keep that confidence in this club and coach and hopefully we’ll all be successful.”
You sneaker collection has garnered a lot of attention. How do you decide what to wear for any given game?
”It’s tough, man. It’s tough because I run through shoes like [snap]. I run so fast and cut a lot, so the grip doesn’t stay. I need a lot of grip, so I just run through shoes. I get probably three games out of a pair. You never know what some courts will be like, so I bring like two or three [different] pairs on the road. I do shoot-around in a pair and see how it goes from there. My family is actually coming this week and they are brining me like seven pairs from home. You’ll see a lot of different flavors this year. I have a lot of shoes at home, so I was just pointing to my girlfriend on FaceTime and telling her which ones to bring. I was like ‘bring me those. And let’s bring those. And bring me those.’ I stand out by matching well. Like [Sunday in the Israeli League], I wore some all yellow shoes. So we’ll see, I got some flavors to bring out this year.”
How are you finding life in Tel Aviv so far?
”It’s like home. It’s pretty much like home. The weather’s nice and everybody’s friendly. We just got keep it that way! As long as we are winning, everybody’s gonna stay friendly. And I get the chance to bring my family out to Europe for the first time. It’s gonna be a great season. I have two kids and they’re gonna spend a year of their life in Tel Aviv, Israel. And I never got a chance to that when I was young, so it’s great.”