Nearly a year ago, Justin Jackson left his hometown, family and friends to start his college career.
There were highs – like his 22-point outburst against Virginia in the ACC tournament while helping UNC reach its first Sweet 16 since 2012. And there were lows – like his two-point performance at Duke.
Through it all, the sometimes-insular Jackson leaned on his families - biological and basketball - to weather the storm. That’s why returning to his Houston-area home for five weeks during the first summer session was such a difficult decision.
To be with one family, he’d have to leave the other.
“I was shocked that right when me, Joel (Berry) and Theo (Pinson) got on campus, everybody kind of hit it off,” the sophomore wing said. “It was a hard, hard decision (to come home). At first, I didn’t want to, but the more I thought about it and talked to my parents, we came up with the decision that was best for me and the team’s future. So, I still miss all the guys a lot. But it’s definitely good to come home and see some of my best friends that I haven’t seen in forever and see people I haven’t been around in a while.”
But Jackson isn’t home to rest and relax. As his father told Inside Carolina last month, Jackson “came home to work.”
In their end-of-year meetings, Roy Williams, the UNC assistant coaches and each player bring three areas they plan to work on in the offseason.
“We all had the same exact things,” said Jackson. “The biggest was getting bigger and stronger; the next was getting up a ton of shots and working on free throws and all types of shots. The last one was kind of a mix of ball-handling and then kind of like having and developing a favorite one-on-one move.”
Williams told Inside Carolina earlier this month that during first session “there will be a lot of pick-up games and weight sessions and things on their own.”
So, in the absence of structured workouts with the coaching staff, Jackson opted to return home to a rigorous weight and skill-development regimen.
“I go Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and wake up at 6 a.m. to go into the gym,” explained Jackson. That’s kind of why I came home,(UNC Strength and Conditioning Coach) Jonas (Sahratian) would’ve gotten me bigger stronger, but going with Coach (John) Lucas will help me more with the one-on-one and shooting, because it’s more like shooting in a real game.”
“It definitely gets tiring,” he continued. “We’re still human beings and we would still love to sit around and not do anything sometimes. But I think, for me, I love trying to get better. I’m loving it right now.”
Jackson's Summer Game Plan
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