Being the son of someone who played in the NBA for 13 years certainly has its benefits. For Jaren Jackson Jr. (Park Tudor/Indianapolis, Ind.), a 6-foot-9, 215-pound class of 2017 combo forward, he can’t thank his father, Jaren Jackson Sr., enough for all the knowledge and know-how he’s imparted.
“Not everyone has great experiences with their dads or having a dad who was a pro athlete, but for me it’s just been awesome,” said Jackson Jr., a four-star recruit. “He’s been through it all, and he’s taught me so much about basketball. He was my first coach, and he coaches me even now, just giving me tips on how to get better; how to work; what I need to do improve. And now that I’m going through the recruiting process, he’s really helped guide me through that as well, just giving me advice and letting me know how it works.
“Most of all, he’s helped me learn how to balance school and basketball and how to excel in both areas. He was able to achieve his aspirations in high school, college and then in the NBA, and those are my aspirations as well. Hopefully I can continue to improve and grow and have the same sort of success he did.”
Jackson Jr. is well on his way. The do-everything combo earned his first offer in eighth grade from Indiana, and since then has added Butler, Purdue, Notre Dame, Michigan State, Vanderbilt, Xavier, Georgetown (Jackson Sr.’s alma mater) and, most recently, Maryland.
The Terps, who began scouting Jackson during the July evaluation period, extended a verbal Sept. 29 when head coach Mark Turgeon stopped by Park Tudor. Turgeon and assistant Cliff Warren had scouted Jackson Jr. during an open gym in mid-September and then returned to Indianapolis a week later to present the verbal.
“You know, I knew Maryland liked me, but for Coach Turgeon to actually come here to give me the offer in person, that meant a lot,” Jackson Jr. said. “It showed me how interested he really is and how much he wants me in his program. He was telling me that I’m a lot better now than when he saw me in the summer. So that meant a lot, just to hear that from him in person. And I really like that school a lot. Maryland is where I’m originally from, and Coach Turgeon knew I was from around there, so that made it even more special.”
Indeed, Jackson Jr. grew up in the Silver Spring, Md., area and took in a few Terps games when he was younger. He moved to Indianapolis during the eighth grade after his mother jumped at a job opportunity.
“Even though I don’t have blood relatives back there, I have a lot of good friends back in Maryland, so that makes playing there very appealing,” Jackson Jr. said. “I’d love to go back there for college; it’s an option for sure. It’s where I grew up, and to play where you grew up is always a great opportunity.”
Although Jackson Jr. lived in Montgomery County for the fist 12 or so years of his life, he didn’t exactly study Maryland religiously. Which isn’t a surprise considering his father attended Georgetown. Even so, Jackson Jr. is aware of the Terps’ history, as well as their current success.
“I do know they have a great guard in Melo Trimble and a great big in Diamond Stone and a guard from Duke coming in in Rasheed Sulaimon. I know they’re ranked very high, I think they’ll do very big things and I think they’ll compete for a title,” Jackson Jr. said. “They play a great style of basketball, they’re in a great conference in the Big Ten, and they have a great coaching staff. There’s a lot to like about Maryland right now.”
Speaking of that coaching staff, Jackson Jr. said he has a developing rapport with Warren. He said the two have had regular contact since July, and now that he has a Terps offer Jackson Jr. figures he’ll be talking to Warren even more frequently.
“I’ve been getting to know Coach Warren more and more, and he’s really cool,” Jackson Jr. said. “We talk about my game, how Maryland is going to do this year, the NBA, all types of stuff. It’s a very casual, friendly relationship, and hopefully it will keep growing.”
Jackson Jr. said he’d like to visit College Park, Md., at some point this spring. He’s unsure when exactly he’ll be able to trek east due to his busy schedule, but “definitely, that’s a school I want to see.”
Naturally, it’s just one program on Jackson Jr.’s agenda. He also wants to check out Georgetown, a school many figure is the leader for his services.
“Everyone knows my dad went there and everyone can say they’re the frontrunner, but it’s not the case. I’m very open right now,” Jackson Jr. said. “The fact my dad went there, it doesn’t resonate with me as much as people think, My dad gave me the skills to make my own decisions, and that’s what I’ll do. Georgetown is great, but I’m not going to go there just because my dad did. I’m going to explore all my options and find the best fit for me.”
So far Jackson Jr. has been able to see Indiana, Purdue, Xavier, Vanderbilt, Notre Dame, Stanford (no offer yet), Michigan (no offer yet) and Georgetown (not for recruiting purposes). Of those, he thoroughly enjoyed trips to Ann Arbor, Mich., and South Bend, Ind.
“I did like Michigan and Notre Dame a lot, because I was able to have extended stays at both and get closer looks at those programs,” Jackson Jr. said. “I learned more about them, and had a chance to explore their campuses and really get to know the coaches there. But all the visits I’ve taken have been good so far. I have a lot of very good options.”
Jackson Jr. is unsure which program he’ll check out next, nor is there a particular offer he’s hoping for. He also doesn’t have a preference for conference, other than to say he loves all schools in the power-five, and noted how location isn’t a major factor for him either.
“I do like the area around [Indiana]. Since I’ve been here since eighth grade, I’ve made new friends and met new people, so I do like it out there,” Jackson Jr. said. “But Maryland and the area around there, that’s where I grew up, and it would be nice to play out there too. So when it’s time to make a decision, either place would be a great fit for me. But at this point I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
Earlier this summer, Jackson Jr. began to emerge with several standout performances on the Adidas circuit. Sating up for Indiana Elite, Jackson Jr. said he steadily improved his shot, while locking down on defense and finding his teammates. He recalled one game in particular, in Las Vegas, where he had a triple-double, recording 15 points; 14 rebounds; and a whopping 13 blocks.
“My strength is how versatile I am. I can play multiple positions, I’m getting my shot off quicker, and I can score from 3; I can score from 15 feet; and I can throw up hooks in the lane. And defense has always been a big part of my game,” Jackson Jr. said. “But I have to get my handles better, be able to create off a screen, and get a shot up with a hand in my face. Getting a contested shot up, and making it, is something I want to get better at, because at the next level you’re going to face that all the time -- you have to convert.”