By Jeff Goodman
I feel for Joe Jackson.
The Memphis native doesn't want to leave his city, the one that bestowed the savior label upon him when he decided to remain home and play for the beloved Tigers on Sept. 11, 2009. But the pressure has clearly gotten to him.
I don't know Jackson especially well, but you connect with certain kids. There have been plenty through the years for me -- and Jackson is one of them. I'm guessing I'm not the only media member who feels this way, either.
Jackson's honesty is truly refreshing.
"It is frustrating," he told CBSSports.com on Monday afternoon just prior to his first practice since deciding to remain with the Memphis program. "I feel like I've only played up to my potential only a couple times since I've been in college -- and I'm so used to doing it on a consistent basis."
Jackson was right there with Kyrie Irving, Josh Selby and Brandon Knight as one of the elite point guards in the Class of 2010. He'd admitted that he thought he'd be one-and-done and off to the NBA, but now he understands that's not a reality.
"It's hard," Jackson said. "Everybody has an opinion around here and you can't listen to everyone. It's tough when you're at home."
Jackson met with Memphis coach Josh Pastner on Friday and was told to take a couple of days to contemplate whether he wanted to remain with the program and on the team.
"I love this city," he said. "This was always a dream of mine to play for Memphis, be a Penny Hardaway type of guy. I want to be that person."
Player and coach met again on Sunday and Jackson informed Pastner that he wasn't going anywhere - no matter how difficult it's been for him over his first year and a half.
"He's got both feet in," said Pastner, who brought Jackson off the bench for the first time this season against Robert Morris. "I love Joe. He's still learning and has his best basketball ahead of him."
But Jackson is frustrated, because the team is struggling and he isn't playing up to expectations, either. However, his numbers -- whether it be scoring, shooting, turnovers -- have improved from his freshman season.
"I look at myself in the mirror and I know I've got a lot of talent," Jackson said. "I can't let it go to waste. I can't."
Jackson knows it would be easier to go somewhere else, finish out his career someplace where he could be anonymous and wouldn't have to field advice from the janitor to the cashier at the convenience store. But he doesn't want to leave this city. This is his city.
"I have the fear of not making it," Jackson said. "That's what puts stress on me. Maybe if I was somewhere else, I wouldn't feel like I had the pressure of the entire city on me."
"It's hard because when you've got it going, it's the best," he added. "No one can take you down. It's like you're on a cloud. But when you're losing and not playing well, it's hard. It feels like I am letting everyone down."
Jackson reminds me he's just 19 years old, that he still has plenty of time left to get himself - and his team - on the right track.
"My frustration isn't about me coming off the bench or my personal game," Jackson said. "I feel like I haven't done anything to help the team get to the next level."
"I'm still a good player," he added. "And I'm going to get a lot better. Sometimes it's just not your time."
But Jackson isn't giving up on the fact that his time won't come -- in Memphis.