Heels In Position For Jackson

NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. --- Justin Jackson hasn't begun his sophomore year of high school yet, but he's already on the watch list for Roy Williams.

The North Carolina head coach made it a point to be courtside on Tuesday morning for Jackson's game with the 17U Houston Hoops squad at the Peach Jam.

Playing two years above his age group, the Spring, Texas resident has a reserve role with this squad, providing an offensive spark off the bench, but he has proved this summer that his early hype is justified.

He earned an invitation to try out for the USA Basketball U16 National Team and made the final roster, averaging 10.4 points at the FIBA Americas U16 Championship en route to a gold medal.

"I went in working as hard as I could and put it all on the line, so if I didn't make it I wouldn't be disappointed," Jackson said.

"It was great - something you work for, especially getting that gold medal and putting it around your neck with the national anthem playing. It's a great experience that gave me a little confidence to know I was one of 12 out of a ton of kids that would love to be there."

Shortly after returning from the USA trip, Jackson accepted an invitation to play in the LeBron James Skills Academy, a prestigious camp for the nation's top 80 players regardless of class.

"It was tough, a lot of them are a lot stronger than me, and I had to work hard to overcome that, but I think I did pretty well," he said.

Jackson stands 6-6 and 170 pounds, a long wiry frame that's lacking the two years in the weight room logged by his older peers at the Skills Academy.

For now, at these camps or on the AAU circuit, he excels by embracing his best trait.

"My role is pretty much to score," Jackson said. "I just try to run the floor, get to the open spot, and make it easy for my teammates to get it to me and if I'm open hit the shot."

That was evident right away at the Peach Jam, where he set up shop on the perimeter for jumpers, and cut to the hoop when overplayed.

His shot is his weapon; a 6-9 wingspan giving him a high release with a soft touch and an accuracy honed by work in the gym.

"I've worked on it, worked on it, worked on it - repetition," he said.

Watching the style of his game, and his body type, it's not surprising to hear him mention Kevin Durant as the player he models his game after. But coaches and scouts, who tend to be nostalgic about their (previous) generation of NBA stars, cite the game and body comparison with Reggie Miller.

"I like to say Kevin Durant, but a lot of people go old school," Jackson said. "Reggie Miller - being able to shoot, more finesse, and he was thin like me too."

Jackson's recruitment is still in its early stages, with a list of schools he casually rattles off.

"I have looks from North Carolina, Kansas, Ohio State, Texas - most of the schools in Texas - Washington, Georgetown, Michigan," he said, explaining that because he's an underclassman, coaches can't call him, instead they text his coach, who relays the message for Jackson to call them.

Jackson said he talks regularly to UNC assistant coach Steve Robinson. Throw in Jackson's trip earlier this year to Chapel Hill, and Roy Williams's presence at his opening game, and it's clear the Tar Heels are positioning themselves in this recruitment -- even if right now the possibility of a college decision seems a long ways off for Jackson.

"I've still got a little while, maybe junior year," he said.

Justin Jackson Profile

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