UA Louisville: Apex Predator

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Despite the presence of hundreds of major conference prospects spread among multiple classes, many recruitniks naturally gravitate toward the discussion of the No. 1 senior. Not too surprisingly, then, so do we. It was from that perspective that Josh Jackson’s starring performance this afternoon drove so much discussion for the remainder of The Association’s Saturday action.

Josh Jackson showed up on Saturday afternoon ready to compete. Check that: He showed up ready to dominate.

Matched against a game and very well-schooled K.C. Run GMC squad, Jackson set to work and led 1 Nation to a 77-68 victory. He set this season’s Under Armour scoring record for a single game, and he nearly compiled a triple double. By far, it was the best single performance I’ve witnessed in this young travel season.

Jackson scored 41 points on a remarkable 19-24 field foals, including 3-5 on threes. He added seven rebounds, six assists, three steals and a block, plus multiple instances of commanding so much attention that he made his teammates significantly better than they would have been on their own.

And that’s why all three of our No. 1 contenders — Jackson, Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum — are exactly that: They make their teammates better.

Jackson may tops in the class as a transition scorer

But for Jackson to lift his teammates’ play and score 41 points, in such efficient fashion, during that 90 minutes it would have been difficult to imagine his not ascending to No. 1 in the 2016 class.

There’s the rub, though. Jackson was just so-so on Friday night, and he continues to be an extremely streaky shooter. Ultimately, it’s extremely difficult for a 6-7 player to become the top dog if he doesn’t consistently knock down jump shots.

Still, he has become far more effective in the halfcourt than he was a year ago. No longer content to dribble around the perimeter, he gets lower on drives and attacks hard using a dynamic first step to beat his defender. From there, instead of forcing contested twos in traffic, he now spots his teammates open on the perimeter or makes sharp passes down to a big man for a dunk.

He’s a tremendously gifted passer who’s beginning to make the simple play. When you’re that athletic, simple frequently is the way to go.

Meanwhile, Jackson is unquestionably the best defender of the three established contenders for No. 1. He possesses the length and quick feet to harass far shorter players, the size to bother hybrid forwards and the explosive leaping ability to contest easy attempts at the rim.

Just as importantly, he prides himself in those aspects and plays with a high very degree of energy. Yes, that enthusiasm sometimes becomes a little negative in terms of his interactions with teammates, but that’s a young guy being young. With further maturity and belief in his companions — and let’s face it, that gets a lot easier as you move up the competitive ladder — he’ll become even more effective at raising their level of play.

This tale won’t conclude for another 12 months, and the true discussion won’t resolve for many years thereafter. In that sense, it’s easy to overstate the significant of a single game. Still, in the ongoing discussion through the travel season, today Jackson unleashed a lightning, accurate arrow from the quiver.

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