Lucas: Jackson a ‘Perfect Fit'

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – The impressive basketball credentials of John Lucas can't be questioned. So, when he says a player is special, he truly believes it. And Lucas believes Justin Jackson is special.

A Durham, N.C. native, Lucas starred at Maryland in the mid-1970s, was the No. 1 overall pick of the 1976 NBA Draft and played 14 years of professional ball.

After his playing days were over, he spent another 11 years as a NBA coach, including three head coaching stints.

Nearly his entire life has been spent in gyms, playing against and scouting the country's best players.

This past spring, Lucas continued working with Jackson.

"Justin is such a highly-skilled player," Lucas said of UNC's highest-rated incoming freshman since 2011. "One of the things he can really do is shoot the ball. He has developed a really nice floater and he has great length. I don't think the conference has seen quite a mixture of what he will bring as far as skillset this year. He's 6-8, can really handle the ball, can post up and can really play pick and roll and shoot the ball."

During Jackson's twice-per-week sessions with Lucas, the focus was on using his improved jump shot as a pivot for all of his other offensive capabilities. Lucas said Jackson reminds him of a "longer version of Sweet D, (former North Carolina star) Walter Davis."

"His shot is his weapon," said Lucas. "His shooting is his weapon. If everything comes off of his shot, to setup the floater/runner he has to make shots. His shooting from 3-point range opens the court for him and the rest of his game."

In addition, the skill work Lucas has Jackson doing is meant to take advantage of the mismatches he'll present in college.

"We do a lot of appropriate ball-handling stuff for someone his size," Lucas said. "We do a lot of modeling after Kevin Durant with a little more post up. Justin's going to be able to take smaller players inside and he's going to be able to play the ‘2,' ‘3' or the ‘4.'"

When the drills and conditioning were finished, Jackson scrimmaged with other players who have sought out the help of Lucas.

Some of the players Jackson played pickup with in Lucas's gym included Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison, Kenny Kaminski, Tim Frazier, Jared Johnson, C.J. Fair and Tristan Thompson.

"At times, with some of the college players, he might have been the best player on the floor," Lucas said.

Lucas has been working with Jackson – and his younger brother Jonathan – for the past six years. During that time he's seen him grow from young prospect to potential impact freshman in Chapel Hill.

"He's a no nonsense type guy out there on the court, always striving to get better," explained Lucas. "He's gotten stronger, his shot has gotten better and just his knowledge of the game. He's a great student. I think he's a perfect fit for Roy, perfect fit for their staff and perfect fit for the group they have coming in."

That group coming in features three All-Americans in the class of 2014 – Jackson, Theo Pinson and Joel Berry. The trio enrolled at UNC in June and havs been working to get acclimated to college life and college basketball.

"In the last few years, this is Roy's best, most cerebral class coming in," Lucas said. "They're all smart and they don't have a lot of flare or fanfare to their game. They're just quality basketball players who know how to win."

Since becoming a skills development and life coach for many college and professional players, Lucas has mentored and nurtured talents like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.

While he said Jackson isn't quite their caliber – few have ever been – he expects great things from the Spring, Texas native.

"What's his ceiling?" Lucas pondered. "He doesn't have one."

Justin Jackson Profile

Inside Carolina Top Stories