Justin Jackson: Junior Primer

Justin Jackson’s basketball adventure already has taken him south from Canada into the United States, and to one of America’s most prestigious prep schools. He’s making the most of the opportunity.

How he got here

As a rising sophomore in the 2013 summer, Justin Jackson emerged as one of the most gifted prospects in his class. A native of Canada, he gained valuable experience early against older opponents and proved that he would become yet another blue-chip talent from north of the border.

He attended Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep in 2013-14 and attracted high-major interest early. Arizona offered and UNLV, Illinois and Indiana also became seriously involved. With so much talent around him, Jackson’s individual stats may not have always been eye-popping, but the exposure was immense.

Jackson has proved he can step it up on the big stage

He entered the 2014 travel circuit as one of the more heralded prospects in his class. His spring had proved highly uneven, however, and questions began to surface with respect to his development.

Jackson picked up an invitation to the loaded NBPA Top 100 Camp in June, and at times he performed like one of the event’s better forward performers. He certainly addressed any uncertainties about his physical ability, and his skill level also shone through against his older and equally touted peers.

His experience at that event propelled him into the July live period. Jackson competed at the Under Armour Finals outside Atlanta and was absolutely dominant in one contest that featured a significant coaching turnout. Playing for Canada Elite, he proved he could be an impact performer from start to finish.

Louisville joined the offer parade by the end of summer, but Jackson was ready to wrap up his recruitment in the fall. Last September, he chose UNLV and will give the Runnin’ Rebels a top-shelf talent for the 2016-17 season.

To 2015. …

Jackson best slots as a utility forward for the next level. At 6-7, he’s tall enough for the post but not too tall to dedicate himself to the wing. In terms of skills, he also fits between the two.

I’ll let you decide whether you want to consider him a combo forward or a ‘tweener, because at that point the discussion becomes very semantic. He doesn’t handle the ball quite well enough yet to be a full-time wing — that’s his primary need for improvement — but he defends reasonably well and athletically fits the bill.

Jackson isn’t extremely explosive but doesn’t suffer from a lack of athleticism, by any means. He has long arms that help him defend, rebound and finish, and he also possesses a solid mid-range jump shot. He’s more accurate at this point from 14-18 feet than he is from the three-point line, but his range should improve with time and it’s encouraging that he has displayed proven touch.

He’s at his best in the fullcourt game because, once again, his ballhandling limits him as a halfcourt slasher, but he’ll get plenty of chances to run at UNLV. And as he continues to put on muscle — he’s very solidly built — he should become an effective offensive rebounder and potential post-up option as he gains further experience.

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