CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- Justin Jackson has shown flashes through his first two Tar Heel seasons of what made him such a highly regarded prospect coming out of high school. After a slow start to his freshman campaign, the 6-foot-8, 200-pound wing emerged late in the season as an elite scoring option. The sophomore slump arrived midway through the 2015-16 season, prompting Jackson to reassess his mental approach and get back to playing ball. With those adjustments behind him, along with quality feedback from the NBA Draft Combine, the junior will called upon to deliver more consistent scoring this season to offset the losses of Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson.
Jackson averaged 12.2 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game in 2015-16.
Shooting 29.7 percent from 3-point range for his career.
Scored 20+ points in three consecutive games last season, becoming the first Tar Heel since Harrison Barnes in 2012 to accomplish that feat.
by Ben Sherman
The analytics all confirm that Justin Jackson is an efficient and potent offensive player – and that he hasn’t maximized his offensive potential. He had the lowest turnover rate on the team last season, was an underrated passer, and graded out at the nation’s 80% percentile as a scorer both on halfcourt plays going to the basket and in transition. But in spot-up and off-screen plays – in other words, perimeter scoring opportunities – his numbers plummeted. Similarly, his aFG% dropped more than eight percentage points when facing zone instead of man-to-man defenses.
Those numbers further confirm that, through his first two seasons in Chapel Hill, Jackson has been a much better scorer off the dribble than off the catch. He moves very well without the ball, and is effective from mid-range and in, but his perimeter shot has been holding him back. That’s why, program sources report, he spent this offseason prioritizing correcting his form.
You can see it in any game footage from last season – the mid-range jumper has correct elevation, rotation and effortless release, whereas the three-point jumper looks different, with inconsistent technique and an often flat rotation upon release. Universal form is a product of technique and repetition, but it’s also the result of proper strength. So Jackson’s offseason strength work wasn’t just about gaining general muscle mass, but supporting muscle stamina for his jumpshot, according to sources close to the situation.
Finding consistency from long-range will make the biggest difference in elevating Jackson’s scoring game, but he’s also leaving free throw opportunities on the table. He had the lowest FT rate (number of FT attempts per FG attempt) on the team and the lowest made FT% from among the team’s main contributors. His style and skill level lends itself to evading defenders at the rim, but he would increase his output if he was better at drawing contact and finishing stronger through contact, and then making a higher percentage of his free throw line attempts.
by Rob Harrington
No Tar Heel enters this season with as much reputational malleability as Jackson. Will he forever be a complementary piece or will he step forward as the impact player he flashed he might be last fall? After testing NBA waters this past spring, Jackson returns to Chapel Hill with consistent feedback: Get stronger and improve your shooting. He performs multiple functions well and doesn’t receive the credit he deserves for his decision-making and defense, but ultimately he must improve his three-point shooting (29 percent last year) and become a more consistent factor on the backboards. If he does, the Heels could embark on another Final Four campaign and Jackson could earn a first round selection in the NBA draft.
by ACC Coaches
“He’s their best player coming back. The thing he did last year, especially toward the very end of the year, is he started shooting the ball so well from behind the three-point line. And he is as good of a guy there is moving without the ball cutting. So anytime if you relax on defense he beats you immediately because he is always moving, so he is very tough to guard in that respect."
"His shooting the ball from three during the NCAA Tournament turned him into a total player. So that’s very difficult if he comes back shooting it the same way and then to add to that his drives, his floaters, and all his different trick shots around the basket; he’s got a knack for putting it in the bucket.”
“Obviously he is an elite level talent. He had big time reputation coming out of high school. It's all about extending the range in his jump shot for him, so we'll look to see if he shoots it from the three consistently. His mid-range game is great, his half-dribble pull-up is great. If he adds the consistent three and a dimension of being able to get all the way to the basket off the dribble, he then becomes a lights out guy. He is tremendous is transition with the way they play getting out along the wings and running. Just like with Hicks now, he becomes the top of the scouting report as opposed to a guy that’s just on the first page of the scouting report so people will be cognizant of where he’s at, at all times, now that Marcus Paige is gone."
by Dewey Burke
Does Justin finally break through the wall that seems to be right in front of him and become the star we all believe he can be? Justin has size, skills and high IQ. Thought not as explosive as some other wings we have had at his size (Barnes, Terry, etc.), Justin has all the ability to be a 16-20 PPG player and an All-American. I was happy to hear that he spent the better part of his summer in Chapel Hill. That's where you get better - playing against our pros. I understand he spent a good bit of time playing against Reyshawn and Dave Noel. I can't think of anyone better for Justin to be playing with from past teams. That's great.
For all of us who watch Justin, we hope for one word: aggressiveness. It seemed that when he was more aggressive, attacked the rim and the offensive glass, he was more effective. It's been said forever - sometimes a layup, a tip-in or some free throws can get scorers going. Too often I felt Justin settled for jumpers early and didn't get a rhythm early in the game, and became passive. As a junior and one of the vets, there is no time to be timid.
When I analyze Justin as a shooter, my concern is how he misses. I have said this on podcasts before, it concerns me that many of Justin's misses are not close misses where he shot the ball straight on line and just missed slightly short or long. I have always believed that the best shooters only ever miss short or long -- they have the ability to always shoot the ball on line. Justin has far too many misses left/right in my opinion, and that shows me he may not be a natural shooter. Shooting is as much talent as it is work. All of us have marveled at Steph Curry and how he shoots the ball, but when you study him, more often than not his misses are short/long, and few are left/right (unless he is absurdly off-balance, which sometimes he is). I'd like to see Justin have 'better misses' which would show me he worked on the right things this summer pertaining to his shot. This goes for free throws, too.