Former Husky Andre Jackson Jr. shines despite NBA playoff loss: ‘You can tell he was at UConn’

Andre Jackson Jr. was needed to step up for the shorthanded Milwaukee Bucks in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference first round playoff series Sunday night.

Facing the Indiana Pacers without superstar tandem Giannis Antetokounmpo (calf) and Damian Lillard (aggravated achilles), the Bucks’ chances got even worse when starting forward Bobby Portis Jr. was ejected after a shoving match with Andrew Nembhard five minutes before the end of the first quarter. As the game went on, Khris Middleton (ankle) and Pat Connaughton (ribs) were also banged up.

It left the door wide-open for Jackson, the little-used rookie who gives 100% effort every time he’s on the floor, which helped UConn to the 2023 national title before he was selected in the second round of last year’s draft.

Jackson played 25 minutes on Sunday, the most he’s played since Jan. 13, when he had a 10-point, 10-rebound double-double in 28 minutes against the Golden State Warriors. He was a team-best plus-9 in the 126-113 loss Sunday that put the Bucks down 3-1 in the series.

“He just plays hard. There’s times he’s going so fast, you want to just slow him down. But I love his intensity, I love his makeup. I just love his makeup. He’s a competitor. He wants to compete, he wants to win. And he doesn’t do anything for himself,” Milwaukee head coach Doc Rivers told media after the game. “Everything about him, you can tell he was at UConn and they have that team thing. Because everything he does is nothing about him, it’s always about the team. And that’s a pleasure to coach.”

Dan Hurley would agree.

Jackson was the vocal leader for the 2023 champs and always brought the energy with his next-level athleticism and knack for highlight-reel plays. He averaged 6.7 points, 6.2 rebounds and 4.7 assists in his final year as a Husky.

Entering Sunday’s game for Portis, Jackson made two of his three 3-point attempts in the first half but only attempted one more shot for the rest of the game. He finished with six points and six rebounds with a block and career-highs in assists (seven) and steals (three).

It is now back-to-back games impacted by Jackson, who soared to the ceiling for a viral spike block in transition in Game 3 on Friday, another Bucks loss (121-118). The former UConn captain was plus-7 in 17 minutes off the bench in that one, contributing two points with three rebounds and a steal.

“Phenomenal,” 12th-year veteran Patrick Beverley told reporters Sunday. “He’s part of my group when I shoot after practices, he gets his head beat in but he don’t quit. His spirit is always good and that’s positive for a young player. He comes from a winning culture, obviously he’s a NCAA (champion), good coaching, understands his role, a sponge, wants to be better, wants to get better. I’m happy for his success.”

The Bucks look to keep their playoff run alive in Game 5 at home on Tuesday.

Dom Amore: UConn’s Andre Jackson Jr. a ‘prototype’ fit with Bucks, NBA