Draper, Jackson Embrace Walk-On Fraternity

Jan. 17, 2018

North Texas men's basketball at LA Tech
Date | Time  Thursday, Jan. 18 | 6:30 p.m.
Location   Ruston, La. | Thomas Assembly Center (8,000)
Live Stats   LaTechSports.com
Stream  WatchStadium.com - Ron Thulin (PxP), Tim Scarborough (Color)
Radio  MGRN - 88.1 KNTU-FM, 95.3 KHYI-FM -  Dave Barnett (PxP), Hank Dickenson (Color)
Twitter   @MeanGreenMBB
Game Notes   North Texas | LA Tech

DENTON - Walk-ons DJ Draper and Bryce Jackson have done everything behind the scenes to help North Texas men's basketball be successful this season. From running with the scout team to getting up extra shots in the gym. These two have embraced their roles with the Mean Green.

Draper and Jackson have been walk-ons at North Texas since the 2015-16 season. Jackson, from Keller, Texas played at Fossil Ridge High School, scored 14 points in 20 games last season. Draper, from Bedford, Texas played at Birdville High School, finished with nine points in 16 games last season.

Enter first-year head coach Grant McCasland, who played four years at Baylor from 1995-99. McCasland preaches hard work and competing in everything you do.

"I could tell coach McCasland knew what was going on and had a great approach to things," Draper said. "I was really excited to play for him. After practices he would tell me I am better than I think I am and to keep working hard and you will get your chance."

Those chances have come early for Draper when he played 24 minutes and scored 10 points at Big 10 foe Nebraska on Nov. 13. Draper hit a three-pointer on the road at Georgia Tech and scored six points at UT Arlington. Draper also hit two three-pointers at home against McNeese on Dec. 9.

"It gave me more confidence knowing that I played well at UTA," Draper said. "Playing on the road you have a certain edge or chip on your shoulder that you play with because everyone is against us."

Last Saturday at Rice, Draper had his number called again and all his hard work paid off with a career-high 23 points, including six three-pointers.

"I knew that I would be playing more because some of our guards were injured," Draper said. "Coach McCasland told me to stay ready and be prepared for the moment. The flow of the game was in my favor and I was hitting shots so that always helps."

Two minutes into the first half, Draper was inserted into the lineup and ended the half with 11 points and was a perfect 4-for-4 from the field.

"Coach McCasland recognizes the importance of guys like DJ," Jackson said. "It doesn't take a special person to see that DJ can play basketball. He can shoot the lights out and they believe in him seeing how he performs in practice every day."

Draper continued to bust the Owls zone defense in the second half with 12 points off three three-pointers. Draper finished shooting 6-for-9 from the three-point line and set a school record with fellow teammate Roosevelt Smart as the most combined three-pointers by two teammates with 16. Smart and Draper helped North Texas hit the second most three-pointers in school-history with 17, just two off tying the school record of 19.

"It was a fruition of the work he has put in," Jackson said. "We were roommates at Rice and DJ knew he was going to get an opportunity so he hit a couple of shots that got him going."

Draper grew up in an athletic family with his Dad, David Draper having played basketball at prestigious three-time national champion Hutchinson CC in Kansas. Draper's grandfather was a member of the 1968-69 Drake final four team that went up against Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's UCLA Bruins. His sister Jordan Draper is a student-athlete at Oklahoma on the women's gymnastics team that won the 2017 National Championship. His mother Amy was a standout volleyball player at Mississippi State.

Draper had other opportunities coming out of Birdville High School from Austin College, West Georgia and Newman University but ultimately wanted to stay close to home. Division one North Texas presented a tough challenge.

As a redshirt sophomore, Draper has had a breakout season having scored 54 points and has hit 13 three-pointers in 14 games played.  

"It is pretty special but I like to think each season is the same," Draper said. Last year, I wanted to have the same impact even though I was on the bench. This year has been really fun making more shots being more impactful on the court rather than on the bench. I'll do whatever the team wants me to do to win so if it's on the bench I'll do that too."

Jackson transferred from the University of New Orleans after playing in 23 games as a freshman in 2014-15. Jackson didn't immediately start playing for the Mean Green until his high school coach told him to get in touch with former Director of Basketball operations Todd Shelton, who coached at Haltom High School in the area before coming to North Texas. Jackson understands his role and continues to work hard in case his opportunity arises.

"It is being consistent doing our due diligence by staying ready to compete," Jackson said. "Whenever our number gets called we're prepared to help do whatever the team needs us to do. DJ got his time and he capitalized. It is a reflection of the work he puts in."

North Texas (10-8, 3-2 C-USA) continues its recent road swing with a trip to Ruston, Louisiana to face LA Tech at the Thomas Assembly Center, a place the Mean Green have never won at. North Texas last win against the Bulldogs was on Dec. 18, 1952.

The road game against Louisiana Tech can be seen online at WatchStadium.com as well as select TV stations, including KPFW LD-4 (Dallas-Ft. Worth), Verizon Fios - channel 820 (Dallas-Ft. Worth). Ron Thulin will be doing play-by-play and Tim Scarborough will be the color analyst.
The Last Meeting
Louisiana Tech85
North Texas67
February 23, 2017
The Super Pit
Louisiana Tech Overtakes Mean Green In Second Half
The North Texas men's basketball team held an early lead, but Louisiana Tech overtook the Mean Green in the second half and cruised to an 85-67 win on Thursday night at the Super Pit.



North Texas Mean Green