The Hype Is Real: High School Star Josh Jackson Is Ready for His Close-Up

When you first look at Josh Jackson, it’s easy to see why he is arguably the best prospect in the 2016 recruiting class. At 6-7 with superior athleticism, Jackson is a matchup nightmare at the shooting guard position. The Detroit native has been balling at Prolific Prep in California since the start of his junior year and has been on a hot streak this summer, averaging 18 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 assists per game for 1 Nation on the Under Armour summer circuit. From Kobe Bryant to Tracy McGrady, down to Paul George and Andrew Wiggins, Jackson is the next wing in line for greatness.

Like some of the names listed above he is one of the most confident players you’ll come across, especially on the high school basketball level. Trash talk? It’s nothing for him. Recently at a basketball tournament in New York City, Jackson told a cameraman he was going to score 50. At the end of the game, there was a big 5-0 by his name.

“Man, I don’t know when I said I was going to score 50 before the game. I was just joking around,” he says. “I had no idea it was actually going to go happen.”

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Then during this weekend’s Under Armour Elite 24 All-Star Game, one of the nation’s most unique summertime amateur showcases, Jackson got into a duel with five-star prospect Rawle Alkins. Alkins had the homecourt advantage but both players were jawing most of the match and Jackson was up for the challenge, eventually winning an MVP award. He has a lot of characteristics that scouts love and brings a toughness that every team needs. Director of Basketball Scouting for 247Sports Jerry Meyer has even compared Jackson to Kobe Bryant.

“Obviously you hate to throw out names like that for a high school player,” Meyer wrote. “But he has Kobe’s size, electric scoring and athleticism. Now, we’ll see if he even comes close to doing what Kobe did.”

Tough odds to overcome. But Jackson has all the credentials to be a future franchise cornerstone and if it wasn’t for the NBA age rule, the 18-year-old would definitely be one of the top prospects in next year’s draft. There have been various reports that Jackson may skip the process and follow in the steps of Brandon Jennings and Emmanuel Mudiay and play professionally overseas. But for now, the five-star shooting guard has been busy on the college trail, debating where he should attend school. He recently visited the University of Maryland’s campus and loved it.

Under Armour Elite 24
Dorothy Hong

“It’s a beautiful place, I love the gym,” he says. “The gym is one of the best gyms I’ve seen in [college] basketball so I really enjoyed my visit to Maryland. I fell in love with the gym. I really wanted to meet a lot of the players but sadly most of them weren’t there, some were at home.”

Though the Terps are clearly in the running, Arizona is the school Jackson is most often linked to. Much of that starts with a shared history between the recruit and the Wildcats head coach, Sean Miller.

“Coach Miller, he and I have a lot of experience with one another, playing U19 basketball,” Jackson says. “We spent a whole month together. I think he’s a great guy, he’s a great coach. And on my visit down to Arizona, I just loved the campus, the atmosphere, the fans are nice. Everybody treats you nice.”

He says he’d also like to visit Kansas and Michigan State, saying of the Spartans, “The thing I like about Michigan State is Coach Izzo, he’s a great guy. I grew up watching them all the time and I really feel like their style of play fits into my personality. They’re a very tough team and even when Coach Izzo doesn’t have the best talent, he’s still able to win a lot of games. I’ve never seen Michigan State be out-toughed as a team.”

Like many top prospects in recent years, Jackson is slowly taking his time in deciding when to pick his school, a smart move for recruits to see which prospects at certain schools test the NBA waters.

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Off the court, Jackson is just like any other high school kid. He dresses every day like he’s in the gym–sweatpants, sneakers, and T-shirts–and says he has such a big sneaker collection that it’s impossible to pick out the best pair in his closet. But despite that normalcy, Josh Jackson’s world is about to change as soon as he steps foot back in Prolific Prep. With a heavy slate of big games, the spotlight and the hype will be on him.

Currently battling other five-star prospects Jayson Tatum and Harry Giles for the top spot in his class, Jackson stepped up to dominate the Elite 24 weekend by taking home the Slam Dunk trophy and earning MVP during the game for Team Doo Be Doo. The teen some have compared to NBA Finals MVP Andre Iguodala has big goals. And while his name has been quiet compared to former No. 1 prospects, Jackson will own this high school season. Don’t sleep.

Follow Jarrel on Twitter at @_JarrelHarris