The Maryland staff has made 2017 power forward Jaren Jackson (Park Tudor/Indianapolis, Ind.) a priority, and on April 19 head coach Mark Turgeon and lead recruiter Cliff Warren flew out to Indianapolis for an in-home with the 6-foot-9, 215-pound four-star. Jackson Jr., who is coming off a stellar open-period debut on the EYBL circuit in Brooklyn, N.Y., couldn’t say enough about the Terps’ trek to the Midwest.
“It means everything that Coach Turgeon and Coach Warren came out here,” said Jackson, who claims offers from UMD, Georgetown, Indiana, Illinois, Alabama, Michigan, MSU, Notre Dame, Vandy and Xavier. “Maryland is not that close to Indiana, so you know if they’re coming out to see me it’s special. I know they really want me at Maryland and they’ll do everything to get me there.
“It was very special. We had dinner, my mom cooked a great meal for us, and it was just great to have them in. Maryland is a school I’m looking very closely at. I’m originally from the area [Silver Spring, Md.], I’ve been out there before and I like it a lot out there.”
Jackson said he’s known Warren for more than a year now, while he’s held an offer from the Terps for almost as long. The Park Tudor product said he converses with Warren multiple times each week, and has stayed in touch with Turgeon as well.
“I’ve had a great relationship with them and I talk to Coach Warren like three times a week. He’s one of my favorite coaches to talk to,” Jackson said. “[April 19] we talked about the EYBL a little bit and just how I was doing, and just their plans for me. My parents, and myself as well, we were very impressed with Coach Warren and Coach Turgeon. They’re terrific coaches and people.
“They’ve seen me play, they’ve seen my skills improve since the first time they saw me, and they want me to keep getting stronger and getting better. One thing Coach Warren keeps telling me is that at every level you have to keep getting better because the competition increases, and I appreciate how he’s always pushing me to get more out of my game. I know if I went to Maryland they would push me, and that’s what I want in a coaching staff.”
Jackson went on to talk up Turgeon. The Indianapolis resident hasn’t spoken to the headman quite as much as Warren, but Jackson still counts the Terps’ coach as a confidant.
“Whenever a head coach comes to your home, it’s cool and an honor,” Jackson said. “He’s been to my school before and has talked to me before, and I like him a lot too. He was talking about my game and my versatility and how I’d be a great fit at Maryland. But just like Coach Warren, he wants me to work on my ball-handling and my strength, just pushing me to get better.”
Jackson said he watched Maryland as often as he could last season. In fact, he pretty much knew the roster inside and out, breaking down the starting five and the depth chart.
“I watched Maryland a lot, to tell you the truth, just to get a feel for them and how they play,” Jackson said. “I feel like in their system I could be more of a ‘3-4’ than a ‘4-5.’ I believe with my shooting ability and if I get my handles right I can be a wing, somewhere along the lines of a Jake [Layman] or a Rob Carter. I can play inside like Diamond [Stone] too if I get stronger, but I feel like I’m more like Jake or Rob.
“And then just watching Rasheed [Sulaimon] and Melo [Trimble], they were great to watch and had great years. If Melo leaves [for the NBA], that would be smart for him, but it would also be a smart move if he came back because he could probably average like 20 points a game. Either way, I think Maryland is in a great spot moving forward. It’s a great program Coach Turgeon has. I feel like I’d fit in real well there.”
Jackson last visited College Park, Md., in November, lauding the campus; Xfinity Center; and the Terps’ fans. He witnessed Maryland knock off Georgetown, his father’s alma mater.
“I had a great visit to Maryland before, and I definitely want to get back at some point,” Jackson said. “It’s a basketball school and it’s a great atmosphere there.”
The Terps weren’t the only team in to see Jackson this week, however. He hosted Stanford the morning of April 19, and then Tom Izzo from Michigan State April 20. Plus, coaches from Georgetown and Illinois stopped by Park Tudor’s gym April 19.
“The coach at Stanford is actually from Vanderbilt and was recruiting me there, and now he’s recruiting me at Stanford,” Jackson said. “I’d never heard from Stanford until he came in, so that was kind of cool. I’ve been out to Stanford before and I’m definitely interested in them; hopefully they offer.
“Then Coach Izzo was in, and he’s a Hall of Fame coach, one of the greatest in NCAA tournament history. He’s a really funny guy and a great guy, but he also won’t BS you either. He talked about my 35-point game in Brooklyn and how I showed I could play with anybody in the country. He believes I’m one of the top players out there, and he loves my game. It was great to have Coach Izzo in.
“And then Patrick Ewing Jr. from Georgetown came to my gym, and when I was talking to him it was like talking to a friend. He really relates well to me, and he told me nothing will be given to me if I come to Georgetown. Going to a place where my dad went, it’s me going there, not him. So when [Ewing Jr.] said nothing would be sugarcoated and they wouldn’t let me settle, that meant something to me.
“And Illinois, we talked about their tough season with the injures. I was feeling for them, but I know with Malcolm Hill coming back they’ll come back strong. They said they need recruits to come in and shine right away, and highlighted different things I could do there. So that sounded good too.”
Other than the in-home and in-gym visits, Jackson also noted a new offer from Alabama. He said coach Avery Johnson has turned the Tide’s program around, and Jackson’s eager to visit Tuscaloosa, Ala., this summer.
In addition, Jackson said he wants to return to Michigan State for another sitdown with Izzo.
“Right now I’d say Maryland, Michigan State, Alabama, Georgetown, Illinois and Stanford are the ones talking to me the most,” said Jackson, who cannot take official visits yet because he has not taken the SATs. “Those are the schools pushing for me. I mean, it could change next week, but right now those are the main ones.”
As far as a leaderboard is concerned, Jackson said he’s started to narrow things down in his mind. That said, he’s not ready to make his list public and isn’t sure when he’ll do so.
“I’m going to commit at the latest in January, I will tell you that,” Jackson said. “I’m trying to be ready for the early signing period. Right now I’m thinking about a few schools, but things could change. Like, I just got an Alabama offer and I want to check them out, so you never know what can happen.”
Jackson is coming off a three-game set in Brooklyn where he averaged 17.7 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks. His Spiece Indy AAU squad went 2-1, and is now set to compete in Indianapolis April 22-24.