Jackson taken 24th

Thunder score former BC guard

Reggie Jackson recently had minor knee surgery. Reggie Jackson recently had minor knee surgery. (File/The Boston Globe)
By Nicole Auerbach
Globe Correspondent / June 24, 2011

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Uncertainty surrounded Reggie Jackson’s path to last night’s NBA Draft.

The former Boston College guard had an undisclosed procedure performed on his right knee in May, missed the combine, and canceled workouts with teams prior to the draft.

But none of that seemed to damage Jackson’s stock, as the Oklahoma City Thunder selected him with the 24th pick in the first round.

“I’m tremendously happy to have gone in the first round and to such a great organization,’’ Jackson said. “They’re ready to win now. I’m going to come in very motivated and put a lot of hard work in. I’m a very confident person. That’s what I think I’m going to bring to the table.’’

Celtics coach Doc Rivers said Jackson was one of three players his team was targeting with its first-round pick, No. 25 (which they traded to the Nets after selecting guard MarShon Brooks). Rivers said Jackson not working out didn’t alter the Celtics’ thinking.

“A workout is not going to change anybody’s opinion,’’ Rivers said. “It’s more just to see habits.’’

ESPN reported that Jackson canceled workouts because the Heat had guaranteed that they would select him (Miami did not have a pick until the top of the second round). Jackson said no such guarantee was given, but believed the extra attention might have helped him get into the first round.

Jackson said he appreciated that the Thunder “took a chance’’ on him, despite the injury.

“I had been playing with a lingering knee injury and it finally got to the point where it was too painful,’’ he said. “I had to get it checked out and I had to have an operation. I was hoping to be back early enough to do workouts. Unfortunately, I wasn’t.’’

Jackson didn’t get specific about his knee, but said surgery took care of the problem, and he is starting a 6-7-week rehabilitation process.

“After that, hopefully I’ll be healthy and have a nice, long career,’’ he said. “I’m ready to take the next step, definitely.’’

Jackson averaged 18.2 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 4.5 assists last season, and was named first-team all-Atlantic Coast Conference. Jackson is the first BC player selected in the first round since Sean Williams (17th, Nets) and Jared Dudley (22d, Bobcats) in 2007.

The 6-foot-3-inch, 200-pound Jackson will join a crowded Thunder backcourt, including starters Russell Westbrook and Thabo Sefolosha, and reserves James Harden and Eric Maynor.

“The one thing that you’ve got to have in the NBA — because it’s geared toward athleticism and size and talent and it’s not like you can hide guys — Reggie has the God-given ability to perform at the highest athletically, and in the NBA that’s what they need,’’ said BC coach Steve Donahue.

Jackson impressed scouts with his athleticism and 7-foot wingspan. He was projected as a late-first-rounder, and went there after a junior season in which he improved his overall game, focusing on more than scoring.

“I think what he showed this year was a skill level that people really appreciated, his ability to pass and find people and make shots, besides just getting to the rim and using his athleticism,’’ Donahue said. “So, I think that’s what intrigues people about him, that he’s made those strides.

“But the bottom line is that there are very few people in the world that can play in that league athletically, and he’s one of those guys.’’

Jackson wasn’t the only local player to hear his name called last night.

Guard Kemba Walker, who led the University of Connecticut to the national championship, was taken ninth overall by Bobcats.

And Brooks, a shooting guard out of Providence College, was shipped to the Nets after being taken by the Celtics.

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