CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Most observers, both biased and impartial, expected North Carolina’s Justin Jackson to pick up where he left off last March.
The 6-foot-8, 200-pound wing scored in double figures in 11 of his final 12 games as a freshman, converting at a blistering 52.1 percent from the floor and 44.7 percent from deep. That shooting touch has not carried over to 2015-16 just yet.
Through two games, Jackson is averaging 7.5 points on 43.8 percent shooting. He’s missed all six of his 3-point attempts and four of his five free throw attempts.
“The bottom line is that sometimes the ball goes in the basket and sometimes it doesn’t,” UNC head coach Roy Williams said on his live radio show on Monday. “Last year he started out slowly, and got better and better and better. I don’t think it’s going to be that kind of start with him. It’s just a couple of games where the ball didn’t go in the basket.”
Williams told reporters last month at the ACC’s Operation Basketball media event that Jackson had not been shooting the ball “exceptionally well” through the first three weeks of practice.
Following UNC’s win over Fairfield on Sunday, Jackson said his shooting struggles of late haven’t left him frustrated.
“Sooner or later, I’ll start knocking it down,” he said. “I’ve learned from last year, going through the slump, as long as I keep shooting like I’m supposed to, it will start falling. And so for right now, it’s the second game of the season. Obviously, I haven’t shot the ball well at all, but I’m not worried at all. I’ll just keep on shooting. Get more and more reps up after practice, outside of practice, and it will start falling sooner or later.”
Williams noted that early foul trouble in both games could have disrupted Jackson’s mindset. The 13th-year UNC head coach also stressed the need for Jackson to attack more.
“I want Justin to be even more aggressive than he has been so far,” Williams said. “Sometimes in practice he’s been really something, so that’s not a big worry for me right now.”
That’s a sentiment shared by coach and player.
“For me, I’ve just got to be as aggressive as I can when it’s open and when it’s a good opportunity for me,” Jackson said. “I’m not really a guy to force a lot of things, but the main thing is I’ve got to stay aggressive and stay in the game, whether that’s me shooting or me doing something else for the team because whenever I sit back is when I start struggling.”