Jackson Avoids Babysitting Duty

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – After Justin Jackson failed to grab a single rebound in No. 15 North Carolina’s win over N.C. State last week, assistant coach Hubert Davis offered the freshman wing an ultimatum – pull down five or more rebounds against Virginia Tech or wind up on babysitting duty.

College basketball games are oftentimes less stressful than entertaining three young kids, so with that prospect in mind, Jackson notched a career-high seven rebounds in UNC’s 68-53 win over the Hokies on Sunday night.

The Tomball, Tex. product also led all scorers with an ACC-high 16 points on 5-of-10 shooting, including a 2-of-4 mark from long range. Jackson added four assists and two blocks to counter a pair of turnovers.

“I’ve told him he’s got to be more aggressive, but it’s not just taking shots or looking for your shot,” UNC head coach Roy Williams told reporters after the game. “It’s getting some rebounds, too.”

Jackson’s assertiveness has been a talking point all season long. The 6-foot-8, 193-pound wing possesses a game that tends to blend in, as well as a knack for the ball that more often than not puts him in ideal position to make plays. The downside to such a desired skill set is the ability to vanish at times.

Jackson told reporters that he was “definitely” tentative earlier in the season.

“I was thinking too much,” he said. “I think that was the biggest thing for me. I went out there and tried not to mess up, which in basketball at the college level, you can’t do that.”

Part of the process was figuring out where he needed to go and what he needed to do, and whether or not he should defer to a teammate. Instead of searching for his shot, he found himself focusing too much on setting screens to help Marcus Paige get better looks.

Two months in, Jackson said he’s feeling more comfortable on the floor, which in turn has increased his confidence level.

Against the Hokies, Jackson connected with 3-pointers and an alley-oop to J.P. Tokoto. One of his three offensive rebounds resulted in a tip-in. He made a strong move off the left side along the baseline to draw a foul, and then later repeated the process, calling for a pass from Tokoto in transition on the weak side of the play and driving to the basket for a foul.

He missed an opportunity to tie his career high in points with 5:49 to play, failing to get the bounce on a soft interior shot from just inside the ACC logo.

“That’s what we want him to do,” Paige said. “He likes to hang out around that baseline and get to the floater and then get on the offensive boards from that area. He knocked down a couple of threes today that helped. We want him to be aggressive because he’s another scorer that gives us a different dimension of playing in that mid-range area.”

Paige noted that UNC’s top offensive rebounders are Kennedy Meeks, Brice Johnson and Tokoto, so when he and Jackson are the primary shot-takers, the odds for second-chance points off the glass increases.

Jackson is shooting 57.1 percent (28-of-49) from the floor over his last seven games.

More importantly, however, is the seven rebounds and the significance of that achievement with regard to his babysitting responsibilities.

“Yeah, I’m off the hook for today,” Jackson said.

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