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From Bradenton to Bizkaia: Jackson stars in Spain

Aaron Jackson (left) attempts to convert a lay-up during an ACB game

Aaron Jackson, or Ajax as he is known by his European basketball fans, has taken the ACB by storm during his rookie season. The ACB (Association of Basketball Clubs) is the premier men's basketball league in Spain where Jackson is currently playing as a member of Bizkaia Bilboa Basket. The 6-4" point-guard is averaging 12 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3 assists while seeing approximately 25 minutes per game. He is shooting an astounding 46 percent from the three-point arc, and 49 percent overall from the field. During a recent game, he scorched Ricky Rubio (the fifth overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft) for 21 points, and is widely considered as lock to win the Rookie of the Year Award.

Jackson, an IMG Academy basketball program alumnus, has spent parts of past offseasons training at IMG, and has also been coached and mentored by IMG Academy basketball program head trainer Dan Barto for the past two years.

“Aaron was the first guy to buy into my philosophy in which players approach basketball with Olympic athlete periodization," said Barto. "This is a 70 hour a week full time job for him which revolves around his skill training, changing his body and studying opponents. If you look at his accomplishments and improvements in college and overseas, you will find no professional basketball player who has a similar resume for creating their own success with the opportunity given. We are only two years into a three year plan and I predict year three will be his finest yet.”

Aaron contributes many of his achievements to his time spent with IMG Academy.

“IMG's Staff and facilities have been the corner stone of my training for my professional level. I've bettered myself from stretching, to eating right for my performance. It's so much more than basketball training [at IMG Academy>. I see myself going there every summer to get better. There isn't another training institution that does what IMG does.”

Jackson also notes the impact IMG Coach Dan Barto has had on not only his game, as mentioned earlier, but on his life as well.

“Coach Barto has been more than a trainer to me, he is a good friend, and is someone I look up to off the basketball court,” says Jackson. “On the court, he has giving me all the right training to better myself and to become one of the top guards in Europe. I call him "Yoda" because he has a gift to push players to a certain extent, and get the positive response out of them. While I'm over here in Spain, Barto and I stay in contact all the time, even when I put a series of good games together, he's there to make sure I'm focused, and to never forget about getting better. I don't know if there is a coach or trainer I have had in my previous years that could bring out the best of me like Barto has! I look forward to training with him again this summer. I know he has goals for me, so I'm sure we are on the same page, which is climbing the ladder, and being the best we can be.”

And climbing the ladder is exactly what Ajax wants to continue to do. He has become a fan-favorite playing in Spain, (his highlight reel may explain why) and while right now he is thrilled to be a part of the ACB, the NBA remains the barometer of success for Jackson.

“I still have dreams and inspirations for playing in the NBA. It's something that I really want to achieve, and I would do anything to get there.”

As of Monday, Jackson and his Bilbao squad are tied for fourth in the rankings. In the ACB, the top eight teams qualify for the playoffs.

More about Aaron Jackson: Jackson played four years of college basketball at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. During his time, he helped Duquesne improve from a 3-24 record his freshman season to a 21-13 mark during his senior year in 2008 where he averaged 19.3 points per game and led DU to their first 20-win season since 1981. After college, Jackson spent a year playing in Turkey's top Professional Basketball League before signing with Bilbao.

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