The Maryland staff has been recruiting the Hooiser State this month, and Sept. 29 they extended a pair of offers to two class of 2017 star forwards in Jaren Jackson Jr. (Indianapolis, Ind.) and Kris Wilkes (North Central/Indianapolis, Ind.). The 6-foot-9, 210-pound Jackson, a power forward, is the son of former NBA player and current NBA Developmental League coach Jaren Jackson Sr.
“Maryland actually came into play during the summer evaluation period in July when Coach [Mark] Turgeon and Coach [Cliff] Warren came out to see Jaren play,” said Jackson Sr., who played 13 years in the NBA and helped the Spurs win the 1999 title. “We appreciated their initial conversations with us, and they told us they wanted to see more of him. Then we got a call [in early September] that they were coming out to see Jaren during a fall open gym. Jaren played really well, and Coach Warren told us they were extending the offer.”
Apparently both Jackson Jr. and Sr. were thrilled with the latest verbal. Jackson Jr. already held initial verbals from Butler, Georgetown, Indiana, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Xavier, Purdue and Vandy, but the Terps’ offer hit home.
In more ways than one.
“The Maryland offer resonated with us, because we lived in Maryland for 10 years,” Jackson Sr. said. “We only moved to Indiana three years ago because of a job opportunity for my wife. But Jaren is very familiar with the D.C.-metro area, and he played grassroots ball in the community and was always very familiar with [the Terps]. Maryland has always been on the radar for him, and that’s what made it intriguing.”
Jackson Sr. said the two had an opportunity to meet Warren and Turgeon personally when they were out in Indiana. The father mentioned how both he and his son were highly impressed with the Terps’ headman and Indiana recruiter, noting their respective characters and their eye for talent.
“Jaren has really developed since the summer; I’ve been working with him and he’s done his own training, and he’s just really blossoming into a pretty good recruit to the point where the sky is the limit,” Jackson Sr. said. “And Maryland, they recognized his growth. They loved his size, his length, his versatility. He’s 6-9, 215, with a long wingspan … There’s really nothing he can’t do. The strength of his game is his ability to play both inside and out.
“He’s extended his range to the point where he’s a very good 3-point shooter, and defensively he’s a great shot blocker and rebounder. The evolution of his game is taking place, and now he can attack off the bounce and shoot from 3. He’s a really versatile player; he has a lot of tools that resonate at the college level. Like I said, Maryland recognized it and they love Jaren’s game. We have a lot of respect for those guys.”
Jackson Sr. went on to describe his son’s inherent knowledge of the Terps’ program. Jackson Jr. grew up watching the Terps, and he paid particular attention last year as UMD made its run through the Big Ten on the way to the NCAA tournament.
“Jaren is well aware of the success of Maryland and he’s on top of the top high school players coming out. He knows Melo [Trimble], he knows Big Stone [Diamond Stone], and he knows the guys on their team,” Jackson Sr. said. “He’s seen them play in the Big Ten, he likes their style, and it makes it an attractive option. Maryland in the Big Ten is strange for some people, but people out here are getting used to it. Maryland is doing very well and it’s a very attractive option for kids all over the country now. It’ll be interesting to see how this season goes; Maryland is one of the highest ranked teams out there. I can tell you we’ll be paying attention.”
Jackson Sr. said he and his son plan to visit College Park, Md., later this fall and perhaps again for a game during the winter. The former NBA forward mentioned that he still rents a house out in the Silver Spring area, so they should be returning to the Old Line State at some point soon.
“We’re coming out there; we’re setting that up with Coach Turgeon and the staff to figure out the best time,” Jackson Sr. said. “They’re about to get into practice and we definitely want to come see the team, see the campus and what’s in store for the year. Then we want to see a game in [the Xfinity Center] to see what that’s like. We’re trying to fit that into a rigorous high school schedule as well, which can be difficult, but we definitely want to get out there.”
Besides Maryland, the Jacksons will be taking several other visits as well, including one to Michigan. They’ve already been to Butler, IU, Georgetown, MSU, Notre Dame, Purdue, Xavier and Vandy.
“We’ve been able to visit every school that’s offered so far,” Jackson Sr. said. “There were some very attractive schools we’ve been able to see, but Jaren’s still a junior and there’s a ways to go. He’s been highly recruited and has a number of schools interested in him from the Midwest to the East Coast. We’ll go through the process.”
Jackson Jr., who plays his AAU ball for Indiana Elite, grew up in Silver Spring, Md., and attended Sandy Spring Friends School and also Sherwood Middle. When the family moved to Indiana, Jackson Sr. said it was difficult at first for his son, but he’s since readily taken to the area.
“Initially he missed home and his friends, but he’s adjusting and getting used to the basketball out here," said Jackson Sr., who noted that his son has won two state championships with Park Tudor. "The basketball here has a great history and tradition, and it’s really supported at the grassroots and high school levels. It’s exciting. This area gets a lot of notoriety and pub, so a lot of [college] coaches come out, and Maryland is one of them. It’s a credit to them that they recognized Jaren’s talent.
“But you never know, we could come back [to the Maryland area]. We definitely loved it out there. You never know (laughs).”