For Frank Jackson, this felt like more than just the first day of training camp.
When you're as eager to get back on the court as Jackson, days like Tuesday feel more like Game 7 of the NBA Finals.
It's why the second-year Pelicans guard had to take a moment to just stop and smile and let it all sink in.
"I'm here," Jackson said. "I've been through a lot. It feels really good to play basketball again."
Jackson, the 20-year-old from Duke, missed training camp a year ago, derailed by foot injuries (and three surgeries) that forced him to miss his entire rookie season.
Then this summer, he showed flashes of why the Pelicans traded a pair of second-round picks to grab him with the 31st selction in the 2017 draft.
But even those flashes lasted for only a flash.
He dazzled for a half in the Pelicans first summer league game, scoring 13 points, grabbing six rebounds while also recording an assist and a steal. Early in the third quarter, he suffered an ankle injury that sidelined him for the rest of the trip to Las Vegas.
Now he's back on the court, feeling "better than ever," he says.
"I'm excited to get out there to show people what Frank Jackson can do," he said.
His vertical is now at 42½ inches, even higher than it was before.
He hasn't played in a real basketball game since March 19, 2017, when Duke fell to South Carolina in the second round of the NCAA tournament. He scored 15 points that day. It was his last stat line since that first half in Vegas that has Pelicans fans (and the Pelicans' coach) just as eager to get him on the court as he is to get there.
"I'm probably a little too enthusiastic about what he could be," Alvin Gentry said. "He showed flashes of being a really good player. He's very athletic and a very confident guy. He's a great kid and wants to be really good and willing to work at it. I feel like he is going to contribute to our team this year and be a part of us being good."
But Gentry is cautiously optimistic. He doesn't want to set the bar too high for a guy who hasn't played in a game in 18 months.
"We'll have to wait because he hasn't played in a pro basketball game," Gentry said. "You can see the potential is there."
Jackson did his part to learn all he could while rehabbing.
Last season, he made sure to sit by Rajon Rondo on the bench during every game, absorbing as much knowledge as he could from one of his childhood idols. The lessons Jackson learned from Rondo, who signed with the Los Angeles Lakers this offseason, are invaluable.
"Everything from on the court to off the court," Jackson said. "How to be a leader. How to carry yourself. How to demand respect. Rondo's the most professional guy I've been around ... for him to take me under his wing was huge."
He also picked Jrue Holiday's brain last season, as well. And this summer, Jackson and Holiday trained and worked out together.
"That was the best thing that happened to me," Jackson said. "From a mental standpoint and a physical standpoint. I never trained like that in my life."
Holiday liked what he saw.
"A lot of athleticism and a lot of potential to be able to come out here in technically his first year and help us," Holiday said. "He's really explosive. Really aggressive and confident and a competitor."
Now the competitor is just itching to compete.
Day 1 of training camp made him smile.
He isn't sure what his reaction will be when he gets to Day 1 of the regular season and run out the tunnel with his teammates for the first time.
"I've thought of that so much," Jackson said. "I don't know. I'm excited. I can't wait honestly to play Chicago on Sunday. For it to be a preseason game, I'm pumped. I'm ready to go. I'll be like 'Coach, can you put me in right now?’ ”