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One-on-One with UNC's Justin Jackson

Inside Carolina caught up with UNC junior Justin Jackson to discuss his summer progress and expectations for the coming season.

GARDEN GROVE, Calif. – Justin Jackson participated in the adidas Nations camp this past weekend as a college counselor and spent time playing alongside some of the top college players in the country.

He averaged 11.0 points and 3.4 rebounds in five games, saving his best performance for last: 19 points on 4-of-6 three-point shooting on Sunday night.

Last year you participated in the Nike Skills Academy. How did you end up at adidas Nations this year instead of the Nike Skills Academy again?
The Nike camp fell on the same day as my final. I probably could’ve forced it, but I was trying to finish up that class strong and I got the invite to come out here so I figured I would come and play against some good talent.

How has your summer been? It looks like you’ve added some strength. I know last summer you worked out with John Lucas and then went back to UNC for the second summer session. What have you been up to this year?
Just trying to work. I’ve been in the weight room a lot with Jonas, just trying to stay attached to his hip. I’ve gotten up a whole lot of makes. I’ve just worked as hard as I possibly can on my weaknesses that the teams talked about and the weaknesses I knew I needed to work on. It’s been a pretty good summer.

Were you in Chapel Hill for both summer sessions?
Yeah, I was there for both sessions.

You went through the draft process this year, what did you learn from this experience?
Shoot the ball more consistently and get stronger. I haven’t shot the ball well here, but you know, I’ve just been trying to get up as many shots as I possibly can this summer. Shooting the shots the same way and sticking to Jonas’s hip as much as I can.

What did the teams you interviewed with say they wanted to see from you this year?
The biggest thing is shooting the ball consistently. All the teams I interviewed with, that was pretty much the main thing. Obviously, getting stronger, but going into the interviews I knew that I needed to get better at that. That’s why I’ve been in the gym so much to try and get shots up. I wish it translated a little better out here, but that’s what I’m trying to do and will keep on working.

Is there anything you’ve changed with your form, or are you just trying to get as many reps up as possible?
Mainly trying to get more reps. I’m also trying to get the ball up a little bit, so I’m not shooting it as flat. I’m trying to make sure I shoot it the same way every time, until it feels good.

Obviously, you guys were just one shot away from winning the national championship. What’s been your mindset going into the summer and this season, especially with the losses of Brice (Johnson) and Marcus (Paige?
Brice and Marcus are two big losses. We try to use that game as motivation. I think everyone has put in the extra time and everyone knows they are going to have to step up. I think we are all feeling really good about this upcoming season and I think we’ve gotten a lot better than last year so I’m looking forward to it.

When I talked to Brice at adidas Nations last year, he mentioned that Isaiah Hicks had really improved and was ready to surprise people. Has anyone made that leap so far this summer?
It’s hard to say. Theo has been playing really well. Kennedy has been playing really well. Everybody has been playing really well. Nobody is head and shoulders above the others, but I think everyone is doing really well.

How have the freshmen been? Have they been getting accustomed to the college game?
They are doing well. Seventh (Woods) and Brandon (Robinson), they are still trying to get used to the speed and everything like that. Tony (Bradley)’s come right in and been a good force down low. He works really hard. You know, Shea (Rush) has come in and played really well. They are coming in and doing exactly what coach has told them to do.

There was a push to space the floor better going into last year. Is there anything specific the coaching staff has stressed for this season?
He just wants us to play faster than we were. We can never be fast enough. With the type of guys we have on our team, we have two true low post guys, and then outside of that we have a bunch of versatile guys. Isaiah can get it off the board and go. Luke can get it off the board and go. Me, Theo, whoever. I think we will try and get out a lot more in transition with kick-aheads and things like that. In the half-court set, we have so many versatile guys, if we can space it out, it opens up more for guys down low and opens up more for the guards.

You and Theo played a bit at the four last year which opened up the lane. Do you think you will be seeing time there again this year?
Yeah, Coach said we probably still would this year. I don’t mind it. For me, I’ve gotten stronger which helps my defense. On offense, they have to guard us. Playing the four, me and Theo add a powerful dimension to it. Going small will add another side to our our offense.

How has the experience been at adidas Nations? A lot of ACC guys, but also a lot of guys from Adidas schools you might not play against.
It’s been good. A lot of good guys around here. I felt like I’ve done alright. I wish I had shot the ball a little better, but you have those days. For me, I just tried to go out there and help the team. We finally got a win. A lot of good guys out here and just enjoying the moment.

Right now you are playing with a handful of guys from Duke and N.C. State. Fans see the rivalry, but how is it playing with them?
They are some cool guys. Once we step on the court and put the jerseys on it will be different, but they are definitely some cool guys and I’ve enjoyed being on the same team with them.

How have the summer pick-up games been at Chapel Hill going against a lot of the older, NBA guys?
It was good. The camp games, we had a whole lot of guys come back this year. Going against those guys, they are playing at the highest level. Guarding Marv(in) Williams, trying to go against Marv. Guarding Wayne (Ellington), try to go against guys like that. That’s what we are trying to get to. So I tried to ask a few questions to see what it really takes to get to that level. It’s been a great summer, I feel like I’ve grown and the team has grown a lot. So really looking forward to next season.

Your first two seasons you really picked up your play in the second half of the season. This year you had some great games early on when Marcus was out and then kind of some up and down play before getting double figures in almost every game from February on. How do you get that going for the whole season this year?
You know, it’s the same exact thing as freshman year. It was just a different mind-set, honestly. Without Marcus, we all knew we had to step up and then once he came back it got a little passive. Then I just had to realize the team needs me to be aggressive and I think that helped me take my game to another level. I have to come out with that from the jump like that this year. Everybody else has to, but for me individually I have to come out like that, but being aggressive, might not necessarily be scoring every time, but just trying to make plays for my teammates and take advantage of the options I have.

As a team, it looked like you guys were pretty close and got along very well. Did that camaraderie help last season and how do you think that will carry over into this season?
We are still a family. We lost two, well three big parts of that family, but we are still a big family, but that’s what got us over the hump last year and will definitely help us out this year.

With your junior year about to begin, what type of classes do you have lined up for the fall semester?
My major is Sports Administration. I’ll take a few classes. Fundamentals of sports marketing. An EXSS for my major and a sociology class and one more. It should be a good semester and I’m looking forward to getting back.


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