February 10, 2014

Jackson's Growth Obvious

THI can remember when Justin Jackson was just a mere freshman coming off the bench for the Houston Hoops AAU program as a shooting specialist. The very slender wing guard would spot up along the perimeter and he was a threat to shoot the ball anywhere inside of 25 feet.

Anyone could tell that the high skill level, the impressive length and the range that he had on his jump shot, would translate to a high major prospect.

Move forward three years, and Jackson is a do-it-all forward with tremendous versatility, an incredible wing span and he's a threat to score from all over the court. Not just the three-point area.

His growth in the last year has been very noticeable to see.

"This year there's a change in confidence," said Jackson. "I just play the game with a whole 'nother confidence. I can also tell that I'm getting stronger because I'm able to play through contact better. I still have a long ways to go, but I'm definitely getting stronger."

Jackson has started to fill out his shoulders and chest and his legs are becoming more sturdy in helping him rebound and hold his position in the lane. He says that he is now up to 6-8 and 200 pounds.

"I have to play against bigger and stronger guys, especially for my home-school team, being the tallest player."

Jackson says that being forced to play inside with his high school team will pay dividends on the next level.

"I can't just let (the opposition) get to where they want on the inside, so it made me get more physical with guys, which will just help me once I get to college," said Jackson.

Speaking of his high school season, Jackson's team has had one impressive season, so far, with a 24-9 record on the season. Jackson is averaging a ridiculous 33 points-per-game, while hauling in 11 rebounds a contest. The 6-8 forward is also dishing out four assists per game, the product of seeing so many double and triple-teams, and he's blocking two shots per game.

Jackson says that the UNC staff has noticed a lot of improvements in his game over the past year as well.

"They have told me that they can tell I keep getting stronger and am working to get better in all aspects of my game," he said.

As all UNC fans are, Jackson is anticipating a big game this week as the Tar Heels host the Duke Blue Devils on Wednesday night in Chapel Hill. He offered his thoughts for the Heels to help secure a win against their rivals from eight miles down the road.

"I'm looking forward to it," he said. "Me and my family are actually going to it. (UNC) have to take care of the ball and get stops. Duke has a bunch of scorers on their team, so they have to slow them down while also finding ways to score on the other end."

Jackson is excited to start his freshman season at UNC this year and he wants to help the team as soon as he arrives. As for the two main areas that he wants to help?

"Shooting and scoring as a whole," he responded when asked what areas he felt he could assist the Tar Heels with right away.

And he will.

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