RALEIGH, N.C. -- Inside Carolina photographer Jim Hawkins attended the HSOT Holiday Invitational to…
HSOT Takeout: Justin Jackson
Improvement should be viewed as a given for a player as polished as Justin Jackson. The top-10 wing exited last summer with the reputation for being one of the most refined players in the Class of 2014, yet the Jackson who showed up at the HSOT Invitational demonstrated real progress over the past six months. Most of the improvement manifested in the form of his three-point jump shot. Jackson actually had made his name as an underclassman based on long-distance shooting, but on the 2013 EYBL circuit he became a more reluctant marksman from distance. No one complained much, given that he scored at an absurdly efficient clip from the middle- and short-range areas. I commented in July that he had become a full-time set shooter, pitching his three-pointers that became flat and lacked the smoothness he showed from elsewhere. He still knocked down threes, but his game looked more mechanical from 20 feet and beyond. But at the HSOT, he clearly had tweaked his delivery. Jackson jumped into his threes, and while he'll never be confused for Glen Rice that bit of elevation made him far accurate in Raleigh. Exploding into their jump shot is a prime way for flat shooters to compensate for that issue, and Jackson will need to give the three-point deprived Tar Heels pop from deep. Arc aside, he also remains a dynamic, tricky scorer from everywhere else. Jackson goes from catch to shot extremely quickly, and he doesn't need a clean look, to have his feet under him or to be at all on-balance. He uses the glass well, slides under shotblockers and feels defensive help quickly to maneuver for better options. Addressing his lack of muscle looms as primary need for improvement, and unlike his three-ball his body likely will require a longer-term fix. He's a naturally slight player who can get bulled around defensively and under the backboards, and thus he projects as a very tall wing rather than someone who could slide down to the four spot for long stretches. Beyond that, what more can you say about a top-10 talent? Jackson should step into the rotation next season in Chapel Hill and deliver production immediately.
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