Former Minnesota Golden Gopher Bobby Jackson (pictured far right) played in the Final Four 20 years ago during his senior season. The Gophers fell to the Kentucky Wildcats 78-69, but had a great season, going 31-4 during the regular season and winning the Big 10. Jackson was named Big 10 Player of the year. He averaged 15.3 points, 6.1 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game.
Against Clemson, Jackson scored a career-high 36 points to help lead the Gophers past the Clemson Tigers 90-84 in double overtime in the Sweet 16.
Two years later, the NCAA vacated that season due to an academic scandal. The tournaments appearances for 1994 and 1995 were also vacated, along with the 1996 and 1998 NIT appearances. Jackson’s Big 10 Player of the Year Award was also vacated. Head coach Clem Haskins was forced to resign and was banned from the NCAA until 2007.
Despite the scandal, players, coaches and fans will always remember that great run they had during the 1996-97 season.
Jackson later went on to play 12 seasons in the NBA where he averaged 9.7 points per game in 755 career games. He was named the Sixth Man of the Year during the 2002-2003 season. He also spent time as an assistant coach for the Sacramento Kings and Minnesota Timberwolves. He is currently a radio host for the Kings.
Siddiqui: Thank you very much for your time Bobby. It was 20 years ago you were a senior at the University of Minnesota and played in the Final Four. Does it feel like it has been that long?
Jackson: No it doesn’t seem like its been 20 years, but time does fly by quickly.
Siddiqui: Looking back at that season, what sticks out to you the most after all this time? Also your career at Minnesota in general?
Jackson: The brotherhood that we created and had during that magical season, but also being able to accomplish going to the Final Four with those unique set of guys.
Siddiqui: You, Sam Jacobson and Eric Harris (pictured #33) were the leading scorers on that team. Was there anyone on the team you felt did not get the credit they deserved?
Jackson: I think our bigs – Courtney James and John Thomas (pictured #12) didn’t get the respect they deserved because they did all the dirty work and were the bruisers that got me, Eric and Sam the majority of our shots off their picks.
Siddiqui: Do you still keep in touch with any of the players or coaches from that team?
Jackson: Yes, I still keep in touch with some of the fellas and coaches.
Siddiqui: Do you still pay close attention to the program?
Jackson: Of course. Maroon and gold runs through my veins.
Siddiqui: The Gophers have been playing at Williams Arena (aka “The Barn) since 1928. It is still considered as one of the best venues in college basketball. How much did you enjoy playing there?
Jackson: The Barn was truly a special arena to play in because it wasn’t like your typical arena.
Siddiqui: Do you still enjoy March Madness?
Jackson: Love March Madness. There’s no sporting event like it because it makes you feel like you’re back in college all over again.
Siddiqui: You spent your first two collegiate seasons at Western Nebraska Community College. At the time did you see yourself playing Division-I and then eventually the NBA?
Jackson: It was always a dream to play D1 basketball and in the NBA, but I had doubts especially when i tore my ACL my freshman year at Western Nebraska.
Siddiqui: Two years after the Final Four run, the University was penalized for academic reasons, which included head coach Clem Haskins being forced to resign and being banned from the NCAA for eight years. As a former player there, how hard was it to take the news?
Jackson: It was extremely hard because that season will always be what the university will be known for and all the hard work we put in during that season can’t be acknowledged.
Siddiqui: After spending your rookie season with the Denver Nuggets, you spent the next two seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves. How exciting was it for you to return to the same state where you played collegiately?
Jackson: It was exciting, but it was a distraction because of the academic scandal that went on.
Siddiqui: What are your favorite memories of playing in the NBA?
Jackson: Being able to be blessed to play the game that i love.
Siddiqui: After your playing career you spent time with the Sacramento Kings as a scout and assistant coach and then one season as an assistant coach with the Timberwolves. Do you see yourself getting back into those roles someday? Or do you see yourself continuing your current role as a radio analyst?
Jackson: I don’t know. That’s a good question. I got kids in high school so my priority is to watch them grow into positive young adults [before thinking about anything].
Siddiqui: Thank you for the time, Bobby Jackson.
Ali Siddiqui, @asiddiqui15