There is an extremely finite list of programs that could ever hope to recruit as well as Bill Self has at Kansas. Duke and Kentucky have mastered the art of bringing in the one-and-done, but the Jayhawks aren't far behind.
The commitment of five-star wing Josh Jackson on Monday night continues an incredible stretch of dominance on the recruiting trail for Kansas. Self has now recruited multiple McDonald's All-Americans in every class since 2013, when Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and Wayne Selden came together to help form the definitive haul of his career.
Kansas had a hole in its lineup at small forward after Selden declared for the NBA Draft and Jackson will be the perfect replacement. His time in Lawrence should only be a one-year pitstop on his way to the 2017 NBA Draft.
The Jayhawks will once again be the overwhelming favorite to win the Big 12 for the 13th (thirteenth!) year in a row. Here's everything you need to know about Jackson and what he can do for Kansas:
Who is Josh Jackson?
Jackson is a 6'8, 203-pound wing from Detroit. He spent his last two years of high school playing in California for Prolific Prep, where he blossomed into either the No. 1 or No. 3 overall prospect in the class of 2016 depending on which recruiting service you prefer.
Jackson enters college with three gold medals playing for USA Basketball, including the one he earned at the 2015 FIBA U19 World Championships where he was one of four high school players (along with Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum and Terrance Ferguson) essentially playing against competition two grade levels older. Jackson also won a state title at Detroit Consortium, where he averaged 28 points per game as a sophomore, before leaving Michigan.
How does he play?
Jackson is an athletic two-way wing who plays with more intensity than any player in the class of 2016. This is a kid who incessantly talked trash to Gary Payton throughout a game. Jackson wants to rip your throat out, then wave it in your face until the blood drains.
Brian Snow covers recruiting for Scout.com and gave Jackson one of the most glowing scouting reports in recent memory. Read the whole thing but here are a few key lines:
- "Quite simply he is one of the better prospects we've seen over the past five years"
- "Jackson is one of the best passers in the class. He is very unselfish and has tremendous court vision"
- "an elite defender"
How does he fit the Jayhawks?
Kansas was the No. 1 overall seed entering the NCAA Tournament and only lost by five points in the Elite Eight to a Villanova team that was essentially playing perfect basketball. Kansas is losing Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor to graduation and Selden, Brannen Greene and likely Cheick Diallo to the NBA Draft, but everyone else from the rotation is coming back. With Jackson, the Jayhawks are stacked once again.
Kansas plays a two point guard lineup with Frank Mason III and Devonte' Graham installed in the backcourt. Jackson will slide in at the three, with Landen Lucas and Carlton Bragg as the likely pairing upfront. There's also Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, a 6'7 shooter from Ukraine who has patiently waited on the bench the last two years under Self.
Mykhailiuk is an NBA prospect in his own right. He caught fire at the end of last year and is sure to see a lot of minutes between shooting guard and small forward next season. Wait, does that mean ...
Doesn't Bill Self routinely bury freshman?
It's becoming a trend. Cheick Diallo was a top-10 national recruit last season who projected as the perfect defensive complement next to Ellis in the frontcourt. Instead, Diallo was never a part of the regular rotation after coming back from a five-game suspension by the NCAA to start the season. He did not play at all in five of Kansas' last seven games.
Before Diallo, there was Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre. Alexander struggled to find consistent minutes before his season ended prematurely because of NCAA trouble. Oubre rode the pine at the start of his one season at Kansas before eventually working his way into a starting role.
Self does show a strong favoritism towards veterans, which Diallo learned the hard way last year. There will probably be games where Mykhailiuk is feeling it, Mason and Graham are cooking and Jackson doesn't play a ton. But on the whole, Jackson is simply too good to bury. He should get plenty of minutes next year.
Jackson could have been the crown jewel for Michigan State's best recruiting class ever. He could have starred for Sean Miller, the coach of his U19 USA Basketball team, at Arizona. Still, Kansas makes a lot of sense for a few reasons:
- There are possessions to go around. Ellis led the team with a 25.4 usage rate last year. Selden was second in usage rate at 23.1. Now that both are gone, you can bet Jackson will have the ball in his hands often.
- Jackson is the type who would rather beat his peers than play with his peers. At Michigan State, he would have been competing for the ball with Miles Bridges. At Arizona, Kobi Simmons and Rawle Alkins would have needed shots. Kansas is the perfect combination of a program with legitimate national title aspirations, a hole in the lineup and a history of sending players to the pros.
- Also, have you seen those Kansas dorms? How can anyone say no to that?
How bright is Jackson's NBA future?
Very bright. Athletic, two-way wings have never been more en vogue in the NBA than they are right now. Jackson is exactly that. He's been on NBA radars for a while and it's likely he gets picked closer to where Wiggins was taken (No. 1) than where Oubre was taken (No. 15).
Chad Ford has Jackson atop his very early 2017 NBA Draft board. DraftExpress has him at No. 3 in its 2017 mock. The 2017 draft is going to be much deeper and more talented than the 2016 draft, but Jackson feels like a safe bet to be selected in the top five and strong contender for No. 1.
Is there anything holding his game back?
Jackson measured with a 6'9.75 wingspan at Hoops Summit, which means he'll probably fit better as a shooting guard than a small forward long-term. It will be interesting to see if he shows the ball handling and playmaking ability to be a two during his year at Kansas.
The other big thing is his jump shot. Jackson can make threes but is not considered a reliable three-point shooter at this point. He has a funky, low release that might eventually need to be adjusted.
Jackson did make 6-of-12 threes he attempted during the U19 tournament. He went 1-of-2 from three during Hoops Summit. He's not Ben Siimmons or even Jaylen Brown with the jumper, but it will be his biggest point of emphasis moving forward.
He's also quite a bit older than the rest of his peers in the class of 2016. Jackson was born Feb. 10, 1997, which means he's already 19 years old. To put that in perspective, he's seven months older than Brandon Ingram, who played college basketball last season. He's also more than a year older than Jayson Tatum, another elite prospect in the class of 2016 going to Duke.
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In total, Jackson is great fit at Kansas. He shouldn't have to worry too much about Self's recent history of burying freshmen and with a strong season he'll be in the mix to be drafted No. 1 overall. It's safe to say Self has reeled in another star.
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