NCB On The Trail: Justin Jackson

Small forward Justin Jackson, No. 26 in the ESPN 60, decided to end his recruitment, as the rising junior selected UNLV over offers from Arizona, Illinois, and Louisville. Here's a look at what Jackson will bring to Las Vegas.

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- Today is the last day of regular-season games as the playoffs approach. The players are competing at a high level as they work to build positive momentum to put their team in position to compete for the NBPA Top 100 Camp Championship.

Here are a few standout performances and the best matchup we witnessed on Friday.

Best matchup of the day

Dennis Smith Jr. vs. Derryck Thornton
This was a premier matchup between two of the best point guards in the Class of 2016 as Smith is the ninth overall player and Thornton stands 32nd.

Smith has the size, strength and shake as he was getting a piece of the paint on Thornton to score, dish out the assist or create fouls. Thornton countered with his basketball IQ, speed and quickness as a floor general. Thornton’s quickness allows him to get up under Smith as he had some solid on-ball defensive possessions. Thornton’s team came out in top while Smith continues to establish himself as one of the best point guards in the country regardless of class.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Class of 2014's best shooters 

May, 6, 2014
May 6
10:30
AM ET
Though the top three prospects in the Class of 2014 are big men who control the paint, there are several outstanding shooters in the class. Let’s examine the five best shooters among the incoming freshmen and one from the Class of 2015.

1. Justin Jackson, North Carolina
He started out as a 3-point shooter but has developed into a master of the mid-range jump shot. Most outstanding shooters are confident and comfortable from a certain spot on the floor, but that’s not the case with Jackson. He is equally effective and productive from a catch-and-shoot scenario as he is putting the ball on the deck and rising up to finish inside the arc or in the paint. A combination of length, balance and extension with a feathery touch will make him hard to defend.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

It’s been a busy month for the top high school seniors in America.

First, it was the McDonald’s All American Game, then the Nike Hoop Summit and finally last week’s Jordan Brand Classic.

While these all-star-style games are mostly about show and only rarely about competition, they also serve as the first real opportunity that NBA scouts have to evaluate these prospects.

With the vast majority of the NBA’s 30 franchises having a consistent presence at all three events (both games and practices), we spoke to front-office personnel from five different teams to see their first impressions of the top players in the ESPN 100.

Here’s what they had to say:


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

video Want to ask ESPN RecruitingNation national recruiting director Paul Biancardi a question about basketball recruiting? Tweet it to @PaulBiancardi using the hashtag #AskCoachB.



North Carolina coach Roy Williams loses James Michael McAdoo to the NBA draft and Leslie McDonald to graduation. Between the two, that’s 24 points per game and a lot of game experience you can't replace, but you can try to help replenish what's returning. UNC's 2014 recruiting class finished the season ranked third in the nation with three players in the top 20 of the ESPN 100 – No. 8 Justin Jackson, No. 10 Theo Pinson and No. 17 Joel Berry. This class will be impactful both individually and as a collective unit. They all bring different elements to next year's team that will make the Tar Heels more talented and help UNC play better as a team. Jackson will score in a very efficient manner to help take the pressure off Marcus Paige, Pinson will be outstanding in the conversion game and from a defensive standpoint if he applies himself and Berry will be a good defender and lead guard who can finish drives and hand out assists. Berry will also lead by his work ethic in practice but in reality, all three of these guys are serious about the game and are high-quality people.

video
The Jordan Brand Classic featured much of the nation’s top talent.

Obviously, a number of players operate at the same position. That said, each brings a different aspect at the spot. Let’s take a look at some of the best and break down how they are different and impactful.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Jordan Brand Classic standouts 

April, 20, 2014
Apr 20
1:19
PM ET
video
The Jordan Brand Classic was played at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Friday.

This game is always filled with future NBA talent and usually has the No. 1 pick in a future NBA draft.

Twenty-two of the country's elite players went head to head for likely the last time before they meet again in college. There were so many impressive plays and highlights, so let's take a look at what we learned from the event.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Roundtable: Jordan Brand Classic 

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
10:00
AM ET
It has been a busy few weeks for the top prospects in the ESPN 100.

It began at the beginning of the month when they arrived in Chicago for the McDonald's All American Game. Immediately after that game concluded, some players jumped on a red-eye to New York for the Dick's Sporting Goods High School National Tournament. Last week it was a trip to the West Coast for the Nike Hoop Summit in Oregon. This week, that string of all-star events gets a fitting culmination as the top players in the Class of 2015 return to New York for the Jordan Brand Classic.

Given what we've seen, not just in the past few weeks but in the past few years, is there anything left to learn? Here are a few players whom our Recruiting Nation staff will be watching during Friday's Jordan Brand Classic (ESPN2, 7 p.m. ET):


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider


The Jordan Brand Classic features the best talent high school basketball has to offer. Here are some of the most intriguing potential matchups in this terrific annual event, which airs Friday night at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

Tyus Jones (Duke) vs. Tyler Ulis (Kentucky)

This matchup will be the battle for who can get the most assists. Both are terrific pass-first point guards who can play fast or slow. They can make open shots in order to keep the defense honest, and their decision-making on the offensive end of the floor is excellent, as well. Ulis can apply more heat on the ball defensively, while Jones is stronger and the better finisher in heavy traffic. It will be interesting to see who makes the fewest mistakes with the ball and who will win the assist category as Jones and Ulis push each other on both ends of the floor.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

video
Scouting the country each year I’ll not only see players’ skills, athletic ability and basketball IQ, but I’ll also witness their character along the way. This year’s class might not have any NBA superstars at the moment, but it will have difference-makers for the college game, both in the short term as well as those who will make a difference in time because of their character traits combined with their talent.

As we wrap up the Class of 2014, here are my five final thoughts:

1. The land of the giants

[+] EnlargeJahlil Okafor
AP Photo/The Sun News/Charles SlateDuke center signee Jahlil Okafor finishes the season as the nation's top prospect.
When you look at the top of a class it's so rare to have three post players sitting in the top three spots. Jahlil Okafor, who held the top spot for much of the season, finishes the season as the nation’s top prospect. The center from Chicago is a dominating presence in the paint. A Duke signee, Okafor led his high school team to a 4A state championship and was named the McDonalds Morgan Wooten player of the year.

He is special because he scores down low in the paint with his back to the basket. His combination of size, touch and fluid footwork is too much for one defender and when he doesn’t score, he attracts a double-team, which gives his team an advantage. He operates with patience and poise and when he reads the double-team he will accurately pass out to the open man. Defensively he guards the post and is improving at ball-screen defense as he is a barrier to the rim for his team.

Myles Turner, the nation’s No. 2 prospect, challenged hard for the No. 1 position and shows a big upside. Turner, who is uncommitted, is an elite shot-blocker and scores baskets with a soft touch and range. Cliff Alexander is going to be an absolute difference-maker for Kansas with his ability to rebound, finish and block shots, and he does it in an aggressive manner. Trey Lyles is one of the most skilled post players in this group and his future teammate at Kentucky Karl Towns Jr. has franchise skill-to-size ratio. Thomas Welsh is a fundamentally sound big who will anchor the middle at UCLA.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

video
CHICAGO -- Wednesday marked the 37th Annual McDonald's All-American game featuring the top high school boys basketball players in the country. The game took place at the United Center, home of the NBA’s Chicago Bulls.

Best low-post player: Jahlil Okafor


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

McDonald's game matchups to watch 

April, 1, 2014
Apr 1
10:00
AM ET

CHICAGO -- The prestigious McDonald's All American Game annually brings together the best talent in high school basketball, all on one stage. Here are a few game matchups to watch for this year's star-studded event, which can be seen live on ESPN Wednesday night at 9:30 ET.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Recruit and return: North Carolina 

March, 23, 2014
Mar 23
7:38
PM ET
video
In order to return to the NCAA tournament, a team needs contributions from both returning players and incoming recruits. Here's a look at North Carolina and its chances of dancing again in 2015.

Quick references
2013-14 roster
2014 recruiting

Possible 2014-15 starting five:
G: Marcus Paige
G: Justin Jackson
F: James Michael McAdoo
F: Brice Johnson
F: Kennedy Meeks


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

video
When we analyze and evaluate the skill set of today's basketball player, we speak quite often about their ability to drive to the rim and finish as well as knocking down 3-point shots.

What has been forgotten and not emphasized enough from coaches and workout coaches is their middle game. The ability to score the ball inside the arc and before one gets to the rim in tight quarters is a true gift. I would love to see today's player really work on their middle game to be a more well-rounded scorer.

Let's take a look at which ESPN 100 prospects possess the all-important middle game in the senior class.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Want to ask ESPN RecruitingNation national recruiting director Paul Biancardi a question about basketball recruiting? Tweet it to @PaulBiancardi using the hashtag #AskCoachB.

It's a great question because early in his career he was considered a long-range shooter. Back in December, I spoke with Justin Jackson (Tomball, Texas/Homeschool Christan Youth Association) about this topic.

To become more than just a shooter, he invested quite a bit of time into his middle game. In his backyard, he has a sport court where he perfected the floater and pull-up jumper.

In fact, the 6-foot-7 Jackson has the best middle game and short game in the senior class.

Once he gets inside the arc, he elevates and rises up with long arms and good bounce, and he has a soft touch.

In time, I see coach Roy Williams running plays for him at North Carolina, and he should develop into a go-to guy. He will be a scoring threat both with the ball in his hands driving and operating in ball screens. Off the ball, watch him run off screens, which will make him hard to guard.

As of today, he is a capable 3-point shooter who will become a consistent long-range threat. His middle and short game is where he scores the bulk of his points.

SPONSORED HEADLINES