Jackson's signing energizes KU fans

By Steve Sell
April 12, 2016

So here we go again. 

The Kansas Jayhawks have signed the consensus No. 1 high school basketball player in the country and one many services already are rating as the top pick in the 2017 NBA draft even before he takes his first collegiate dribble.

Josh Jackson, eschewing the pomp and circumstance of an overblown and silly hat ceremony, announced his decision on Twitter Monday night that he’ll be Bill Self’s next big thing.

The 6-7 Jackson already is being slotted into Wayne Selden’s spot, joining Frank Mason, Devonte’ Graham, Landen Lucas and possibly Carlton Bragg in the starting lineup, unless Cheick Diallo comes to his senses and realizes that going pro now would probably be a huge mistake given how raw his game is.

The comparisons with Andrew Wiggins, the Jayhawks’ last No. 1 prep recruit, already have begun as they have similar styles. Jackson is receiving glowing praise from the various scouting services — “he’s the best transition player I have ever scouted,” one said.

There is one ever-so-slight problem, some scouts say. He’s a good, but not a GREAT shooter. He supposedly is tremendous in transition, which is a lot like Wiggins. While Wiggins energized the fan base, he also disappointed at times with his maddening inconsistency. His virtual no-show in his NCAA Tournament game against Stanford left KU fans wanting more, though they knew he wasn’t going to be around for a second year. 

To Wiggins’ credit, he’s overcome his lack of strength and consistent shot to become a good NBA player, though not the next Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan as all the fanfare suggested. I still believe there was so much hype that it made him uncomfortable and the pressure at times swallowed him up as he was such an introvert.

The Jayhawks’ now Top-5 recruiting class also includes fellow McDonald’s All-American Udoka Azubuike, who is a hulking inside presence but somewhat of a project. Then there’s Mitch Lightfoot, who is in the mid-100s on the scouting services. Don’t forget redshirt Dwight Coleby (another big body), and there’s still a chance Svi Mykhailiuk will come back even though there’s some thought that he may go overseas and play professionally. Svi might see the handwriting on the wall with the signing of Jackson and start to play for pay.

Where LeGerald Vick fits in is anybody’s guess.

KU has had lukewarm success in recent years with its high-profile signees. Josh Selby was a total bust and Xavier Henry was good, but not great. Joel Embiid struggled with injuries, while Kelly Oubre Jr. and Cliff Alexander are players KU fans have forgotten about quickly. 

This year’s KU team was more of a veteran club with Selden, Perry Ellis, Frank Mason, Jamari Traylor, Hunter Mickelson and Lucas all having been in the program for three or four years. At least Mason, Graham and Lucas provide a somewhat veteran presence, so maybe this team has the right blend to get over the Elite Eight hurdle and get back into the Final Four.