Model of Consistency

HAMPTON, Va. – Justin Jackson is in a good place. Gone are the days of trying to impress coaches and stressing over every turnover, missed shot or poor performance.

Now that he's committed to North Carolina, Jackson's already intense work habits have become more focused. He's not striving to just get better; he's working to get better for North Carolina.

The fruit of his labor has shown bright through two sessions of Nike's EYBL summer AAU circuit. Jackson has been efficient, hitting a high percentage of his shots and, most importantly, leading his team to victories.

"He's such a model of consistency," said Houston Hoops head coach Tim Schumacher. "If you look at his box scores, he's going 9-10, 8-11, every night and putting up just very solid numbers."

This past weekend in Hampton, Jackson led Houston Hoops to a 4-1 record, with all four wins coming by at least 11 points. Through two EYBL sessions (nine games), he is averaging 17.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.1 blocks, while shooting 62.7 percent from the field and 53.8 percent on three-point attempts.

"A lot of the pressure is off, looking over there and seeing just that I have one coach that I'm working to get better for," he said. "It helps me to play worry free and just be loose and calm out there."

Jackson's performance drew rave reviews from scouts in attendance, particularly because he doesn't have to dominate the ball to be effective offensively. In a setting as chaotic and up-and-down as AAU can sometimes be, Jackson's discipline is on full display.

"All my life, people have said I'm a little too unselfish," Jackson said. "I just sort of have a feeling when to take a shot and when it's a good one. I try to only take shots I know I can make, and if I don't have it then I pass to my teammates for hopefully a better one."

Without question, Jackson's best shot is his mid-range floater. His height and length make the shot virtually indefensible (though he said a couple of players have blocked it before).

"Most of the time I'm just thinking get to the basket, or if there is a guy there, just get a good shot off," Jackson said of his floater. "I don't really practice it that much; it just sort of comes out naturally. It's just a shot I get up so hopefully no one can block it."

His assists numbers aren't always high, particularly because Jackson doesn't often look to break defenders down off the dribble, but Schumacher said that isn't indicative of his skill as a passer.

"People don't always see it, but he's a really good passer," he said. "He can find those little seams and get the ball through tight windows, which is particularly impressive for a wing. Overall, he's just a smart player and such a team player. He's a great piece to have for us, because when one of the stars on your team plays hard, it helps the rest of the guys fall in line."

His play through two weekends on the EYBL Circuit (Houston Hoops is 8-1 overall) is an extension of a pretty good few months for the Spring, Texas native. Jackson was a highlight performer at national events like the annual Flyin' to the Hoop tournament in Dayton, Ohio and the Shortgrass tournament in Altus, Okla. before committing to UNC. He then led his HCYA warriors to the championship game of the HomeSchool National Championships in Springfield, Mo.

He was also named the winner of the prestigious Jefferson Award, which is given annually to the most outstanding National Christian HomeSchool player in the country.

Getting close to a championship with HCYA has made Jackson even more hungry to bring Houston Hoops its first EYBL title in his final AAU season.

"Obviously we all want to show what we can do individually, but we have to come together as a team," he said. "Our goal is to try to get to Peach Jam and win it."

Added Schumacher: "He and his family are very excited about UNC and it's like a dream come true to them. But he and Justise (Winslow) and all my guys really want to win the whole thing. That's all they're about – winning."

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