If I'm going to be honest — and that's always the goal around here — I wouldn't be able to list top-five sophomore Josh Jackson among the weekend's top performers at the Jayhawk Invitational.
Jackson generally missed his jump shots, didn't create much in the halfcourt and seemed unable to get into rhythm offensively for long stretches. He also, in fairness, struggled with what appeared to be a minor leg injury on Saturday afternoon.
All that said, Jackson's weekend more or less became the exception that proved the rule. He managed to impress me and the blueblood college coaches trailing him despite not having a prime event. When a player can't get going yet still looks like an elite, you know he's good.
Jackson has grown to a full 6-6 now, a couple inches taller than he was last summer. Meanwhile, that extra height certainly didn't cost him anything in terms of athleticism. He's superbly quick and fast and among the best fullcourt scorers in all of high school basketball.
As one would expect, he's also an explosive above-the-rim finisher who elevates and then, if necessary, can start making decisions about how best to send the ball through the hoop. As he fills into his body and gains muscle, he'll become that much more devastating in transition.
Additionally, despite his offensive woes, Jackson played fantastic defense. He's the kind of athlete who genuinely may be able to guard three different positions in college: shooting guard, wing forward and power forward — at least in certain matchups. People use the "defends multiple positions" thing all the time, but in his case it's actually true.
Jackson's best moments chiefly occurred on that end of the court. He generated steals and forced turnovers due to his very quick feet, long arms and aggressive style. He's a superlative shotblocker for a wing, utilizing top-shelf straight-up leaping ability to surprise shooters who don't expect him to rise so quickly.
His most impressive play that I witnessed occurred on Friday night. Elite big man Diamond Stone received a pass at the rim for what appeared to be an uncontested dunk. But Jackson, who's several inches shorter, sprung explosively and emphatically sent Stone's shot the other way.
The goal for Jackson to take a run at No. 1 in his class — and, far more importantly, to maximize his talent in the long term — is to iron out his jump shot mechanics and refine his dribbling in the halfcourt. But even while he shapes his game into polished form, he'll continue to reign as one of America's best.