Stepping on campus for his freshman season, Josh Jackson, Kansas’ No. 1 recruit, is no stranger to attention.
Already, the 6-foot-7 shooting guard has made some serious impressions on his teammates and has made history in recruiting circles.
Junior guard Devonte’ Graham singled Jackson out as the most impressive freshman when talking to media after a session of Bill Self’s season-opening boot camp, the intense couple weeks of training the players go through to get conditioned for the season.
“I always say the first [year] is the hardest,” Graham said. “Because you never know what to expect.”
As for the recruiting history, Jackson was rated 102 out of 100 on recruiting website 247Sports, the highest score the site has ever given a recruit. He was rated first in the nation on 247Sports and second in the ESPN 100, after Duke’s Harry Giles.
It is never easy for a top program like Kansas to handle the attention around a No. 1 recruit like Jackson. However, Kansas is a program well-equipped to handle the attention Jackson generates.
Remember Andrew Wiggins? Jackson and Wiggins have a lot in common. Both came to Kansas as the top recruit in the nation and both faced high expectations levied on them.
Wiggins, of course, already measured up to them. He was taken first overall in the 2014 NBA Draft by the Minnesota Timberwolves and won the NBA Rookie of the Year award in 2015.
I’m not the only one making the comparison between Wiggins and Jackson on the court. Self told the Kansas City Star he saw some of Wiggins in Jackson himself.
Retired long-time Jayhawk IMG Sports Network announcer Bob Davis recalled some of the good times in the year Wiggins spent in Lawrence.
“He was, at times, just absolutely sensational,” Davis said. “Even in a loss to West Virginia where he was just fabulous. He had games where he didn’t do as much but he was still a young player, a true freshman. You’re not going to be super every night, but he’s a guy that defenses were certainly aware of and I think he’s proving now in the NBA what a big-time player he is.”
The most important thing in place for Jackson to avoid the outside pressure at Kansas is probably one of the biggest reasons he chose Kansas: McCarthy Hall, the $12 million new dorm for the basketball players. This is only the second season the players have had McCarthy Hall to call home, but the first full season.
Kansas coach Bill Self talked after Late Night in the Phog last season about the benefit of having McCarthy Hall. He referenced an issue the team had with two professional autograph seekers who hounded Wiggins at Jayhawker Towers, reported the Lawrence Journal-World in Aug. 2013. Wiggins understandably had some issues being a normal college student outside of his Kansas basketball obligations.
The good news is Jackson won’t have these problems. Or at least he won’t feel the brunt of them. Even on the court, teammates will have Jackson’s back.
While he didn’t start every game right away, Wiggins averaged 32.8 minutes per game and put up some really impressive numbers in those minutes, like 34 percent three-point shooting and 17.1 points per game.
Wiggins ended up being a great player to take the shooting guard position, but he had Wayne Selden Jr. starting alongside him and not much behind him. Jackson, on the other hand, has a solid foundation of teammates who can help him if he struggles and can replicate the production expected from Jackson.
These are players like Lagerald Vick and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, experienced and proven contributors for the Jayhawks in past years. Wiggins was backed up by Brannen Greene and Andrew White III at the three spot.
Outside of the shooting guard position, Jackson is also helped by a more rounded-out squad across the floor. Seniors Landen Lucas and Frank Mason III will be important leaders for the Jayhawks. Even forward Carlton Bragg Jr. has a little experience and looks forward to a little more playing time this season.
Coming into one of the biggest programs in the nation puts a lot on the shoulders of a 19-year-old, but Kansas has everything in place this season to make Jackson a standout freshman.