Ex-Utah State Hoop Star Sets Records In Spain

MADRID, Spain - A photo of American Brian Jackson - high in the air releasing a jump shot over a defender - dominates a section of a Spanish basketball-league media guide dedicated to records.

Little wonder.

The former Utah State star has scored more points than any player in league history, was the first player to break the 6,000-point barrier, and is on the verge of moving into the No. 2 spot for minutes played.

"After not making the NBA and struggling the first season here, I realized there was a career to be made in the league and that's what I've tried to do," Jackson said by telephone from the southern city of Seville, where he plays.

"I've adjusted mentally and I'm glad to be here," Jackson added. "A lot of guys playing here still have a craving for the NBA. When I was trying out for the NBA, I knew right away what I'd do if I didn't make it."

The 34-year-old forward has never played a minute in the NBA after being drafted by Portland in 1981. He has prospered in what is probably Europe's No. 1 league with his long-range jumper and steady play. And he admits his soft defense fits in with the general style of European basketball.

"He was earmarked for Europe from day one," said Vicente Salaner, a basketball writer for the Madrid daily "El Mundo."

This is Jackson's 11th season in Spain and his 13th in Europe, which includes two seasons in Italy. And there's no end is sight. The 6-foot-8 forward, who grew up in Palos Verdes, Calif, stays in shape by cycling daily and running several mornings weekly. He's never been seriously injured.

"I don't get banged around a whole lot in the middle because my game doesn't take me there much," Jackson said. "The jump shot is what they hired me for.

"I always say I have this season and two seasons more," Jackson added, pausing to laugh at himself. "I've been saying that for quite a few years now."

Jackson's best years in Spain were 1984 and 1985, consecutive championship seasons with league power Real Madrid. He's also a three-time league all-star.

He said this season was shaping up as a more comfortable one than the last two when he was living apart from his wife, Heidi, and three children - Patrick, Christopher and Connor - so the children could attend school in the United States. This season they're together in Seville and attending school there.

"This is a much better situation having us all together," said Jackson, who lives in Park City, Utah, in the off-season. "It got pretty hectic, all those flights back and forth."

Jackson, who begins his second season with an up-and-coming club Caja San Fernando, is averaging 20 points through nine games to give him a record 7,487 points in the Spanish league. He has played 12,235 minutes and is about to overtake American John Pinone, who ran up 12,323 minutes in nine seasons in Spain before leaving after last season.

No. 1 on the minutes-played list is Spaniard Joan Creus, who is still active with 13,116 minutes.

Though Spanish teams generally allow only three Americans per team, Jackson's club has four. The others are Darryl Middleton of Baylor, Darrel Lockhart of Auburn and Steve Trumbo, an American who, by league rules, isn't counted as a foreigner since he's married to a Spaniard.

"In terms of playing, it's nice to have that added confidence knowing you have another American waiting on the bench to come in," Jackson said.