The 2014-15 season is almost here and in preparation for that we profile the players. Today we look at freshman wing player Justin Jackson
Justin Jackson, WF/WG, 6-8, 193 lbs
Among the three freshman, Justin Jackson might be the most intriguing. He is a 6-8 wing play sporting tremendous length which makes him a match-up issue on both ends of the floor for opposing teams. UNC, which lacked a significant wing presence last season, now has plenty of it. Jackson stands to be an extremely important piece to that puzzle. If the early returns are in indication, Jackson may very well be a crucial facet to the offense sorely missed a year ago: consistent wing scoring.
The most apt description of Jackson is he is a "right place, right time" kind of player. Roy Williams said he had a "knack" and the general, if not cliche description is he has a "nose for the ball." Simply put Jackson finds a way to be around the basketball grabbing rebounds for putbacks and putting himself in a position to score on easy looks around the rim. Among the weapons Jackson employs is floater in the lane. He displays an excellent touch around the basket. In short, Jackson is a highly efficient player who isn't flashy but more than makes up for it by quietly putting up solid numbers.
One element to Jackson's efficiency is his decision making. The "knack" Williams spoke of includes making solid decisions. Jackson is not prone to force the issue, especially in transition. In this respect Jackson is probably not as aggressive as his teammate Theo Pinson but at the same time not as likely to turn the ball over on a high risk play. Jackson's propensity to make the right play will earn him plenty of time on the court given how much Williams values players executing according to the system.
Among the uncertainties is Jackson's defense mainly because there is little data to go on for making a judgement on him as a defender. Given his keen understanding of the game, Jackson's grasp of the defensive concepts shouldn't be an issue. The problem may lie with his strength. At 6-8, 193 pounds, Jackson will have his share of issues guarding players in the P.J. Hairston mold. Jackson also isn't gifted with great speed but his length should help in this regard. If Jackson struggles on the defensive end it may cut into his playing time some however, UNC's depth on the wings gives Williams leeway to use players as the situation calls for it.
Jackson started for UNC in the exhibition game but it remains to be seen if that will continue. Certainly his 18 points and 3-4 shooting from three establishes him as an early candidate to keep the position. UNC needs a wing player that can share the scoring load with Marcus Paige including hitting three pointers. Jackson could very well fill that need.