It is rare that you find an elite athlete with the competitive spirit, desire to improve and the work ethic required to be one of the best, throw in an engaging personality and you have 2016 Josh Jackson. Arizona has been extremely lucky to have had several players that fit this description over the past few years, even if Stanley Johnson and Aaron Gordon’s stays in Tucson were brief. If Arizona fans get their wish in the class of 2016, then Josh Jackson will be the next mega star to play for coach Miller.
Over the course of 3 days at the Under Armour Elite 24 I was introduced to the rising star that is Josh Jackson. At a high profile event like this, you easily check the boxes for desired physical attributes one would want in a basketball player and Jackson certainly has them in spades.
With the height and length of a power forward and the ability to put the ball on the floor, Jackson is handful to guard. And unlike many players today that need the ball in their hands to succeed, Jackson was constantly crashing the offensive boards to create his own opportunities.
But it was the defensive end where Jackson was even more impressive. He has the foot speed to stay in front of guards and the length to challenge even the quickest release on a jumpshot. However, it was easy to tell that his development is not complete as he took it personally when he was beat and set out to make sure it didn’t happen again. It is this fire that burns within Jackson that when combined with a college strength and conditioning program at the level of Arizona’s, that the comparisons to former Arizona great Andre Iguodala begin to materialize.
Despite Jackson’s youth, he handled the bright lights with ease. As the top ranked player in the class by many outlets and a renowned dunker, it would have been easy for his to succumb to the high expectations. But Jackson was having none of that. He won over the Brooklyn crowd on Friday night to take home the dunk title and followed that up with MVP honors at the main event on Saturday.
He went head to head with the more physically developed hometown star Rawle Alkins and didn’t give an inch. When the court cleared for a 1-on-1 show, Jackson was all over Alkins and left no shot unchallenged. But perhaps more surprising was how calm and collected Jackson was in front of a camera. The prospective with which he answered every question thrown at him was that of seasoned professional.
Despite being introduced to countless reporters for the first time, he was polite and cordial with each and acted as if he was seeing an old friend when I put the camera on him for a second time. It was clear this wasn’t an act and impossible not to end up rooting for this kid. It left this interviewer pulling hard for this young man, no matter where he goes.
It’s not to say that Jackson is a finished product, no players are at 18 and he will surely improve the consistency of his jump shot and physique with hard work and practice. And you can be sure that practice is in the cards for Jackson because as Josh himself says, hard work will not be the reason he doesn’t succeed. Success on the basketball court is what we were talking about, but success in life, you could tell nothing was going to stop him there.