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UNC Recruiting: Three things we learned from the G.G. Jackson situation

We are finally at the end of this saga.

NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament - National Championship Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Let’s finally say it out loud: five-star 2023 power forward G.G. Jackson is de-committing from the University of North Carolina.

Last night, Jackson announced that he will reclassify and play for South Carolina for the 2022-23 season. It became apparent what was going on when Hubert Davis offered scholarships to two stretch power forwards just this week, so now that we have an official announcement, we can begin to put this saga behind us.

We normally reserve this particular style of an article for post-game content, but I figured that it was only right that we discuss three things we learned from the G.G. Jackson situation, because I feel like it’s an important topic to discuss. The last few weeks have been bizarre when it comes to the soon-to-be freshman, and I’m sure the situation has left some UNC fans confused, angry, sad, and well...exhausted. So, let’s really get into why this is happening, who is and isn’t to blame, and also why we are almost certainly going to see more and more of this stuff now that NIL is in place.

There were (allegedly) too many cooks in the kitchen

Before G.G. Jackson announced his commitment to Carolina, something felt off about why it took so long for him to announce. There was a lot of noise, similar to what’s happening right now, about him announcing his commitment to the Heels, but nothing happened for a number of weeks. It was bizarre, it was frustrating for fans, and even when he finally made his announcement, I personally couldn’t help but think to myself that whatever this weird feeling I had about the situation was, there’s a strong likelihood that something was going to happen down the line.

Sometimes it really sucks to be right, doesn’t it?

247Sports’ Travis Branham published an article about Jackson’s expected de-commitment announcement, and according to his sources there were people around Jackson helping him navigate recruitment that almost certainly led to what is going on. Here is an excerpt, and also you can check out his article in its entirety here:

Behind the scenes Jackson himself had been consistent in saying that he wanted to attend North Carolina and stay in 2023 but again these things aren’t that simple.

As things got deeper into March, no decision came. Finally, after weeks of delays Jackson committed to what was thought to be his dream school but that decision didn’t come without resistance.

I strongly recommend reading his entire article for full context, but to keep it short and sweet: Jackson wanted to be a Tar Heel, but there were allegedly multiple people around him that both wanted him to stay in South Carolina, and also graduate early so that he could reclassify. We have all known for years that recruiting is complicated, it’s messy, and things aren’t always as cut and dry as they should be. However, this news that Jackson was allegedly externally influenced to such a high degree is wild to say the least, and one has to wonder if the end goal was to benefit from NIL sooner than later. This leads us to our next lesson.

College recruiting is changing yet again, and boy is it messy

For those that might feel like UNC had tremendously bad luck in this situation, or that G.G. Jackson is one of very few players who would navigate his recruitment in this manner, I can honestly say that we will start to see players consider reclassification more often. While programs like UNC, Duke, and Kentucky will give kids tremendous earning potential in the college basketball universe, a player like Jackson will make a good amount of NIL money just about anywhere. Jackson’s camp likely knows that the best incoming freshman in the country is going to get a lot of attention/sponsorship offers no matter what, and the sooner you capitalize the better. This is why the switch to South Carolina makes sense.

It is safe to say that none of us really knew how NIL would play out in its first year, but we saw a fair amount of student-athletes make a large amount of money. UNC stars Armando Bacot and Deja Kelly crushed NIL last season, earning multiple sponsorships, Bacot was casted in a movie, and Kelly was able to purchase her first car. No, NIL is not equal, and some people aren’t earning nearly as much as Bacot and Kelly, but I guarantee you this: Jackson and many other top-10 incoming freshmen will have the potential to do so each and every season, and it is hard to imagine that it will matter less about where you go and more about how soon you take advantage.

This isn’t about what UNC did wrong

Near the end of the Roy Williams era, it was almost a little too easy to point to what went wrong when recruiting a player like Jackson. His two-in-three-out system didn’t allow for NBA-bound bigs to showcase their jumper, much less their perimeter shooting. However, let’s be very clear here: Hubert Davis and the Tar Heels were a fantastic fit for Jackson, and there really isn’t any reason to think otherwise.

Let’s think about it for a moment here: Davis played in the NBA for many years, mentored under a Hall of Fame coach, made it to the Final Four in his first season, and almost won the national championship. Heck, if we really want to be messy, he beat a stacked Duke team twice! Armando Bacot and Brady Manek are living proof that Jackson would’ve been a fantastic player in Chapel Hill, but Jackson and his camp just decided to go in a different direction.

The one elephant in the room is Davis offering Northwestern transfer Pete Nance, which effectively prevented Jackson from being able to consider attending UNC on a scholarship. While it may feel like Davis did himself a disservice on the surface by bringing in Nance, there are multiple sources out there that say that Jackson wasn’t interested in reclassifying during the time that scholarship was open. Davis did what he felt like was the best move for his team and brought in Nance, and really there’s not a lot to say beyond that. Nance is a great fit for the 2022-23 team, and Jackson could’ve been a great fit as well, but truly it is what it is. Not the most elegant way to describe the situation, but truly, the Heels were going to be a favorite to return to the Final Four with either player.

To sum things up, G.G. Jackson may be on his way out, but I don’t think it does any good for staff, players, or fans to dwell on it. As long as NIL and OAD co-exist, the best thing we can all do is prepare ourselves for this to happen again, whether it involves UNC or not. The most important thing for us as fans is that Hubert Davis is still doing a fantastic job, and while the Jackson news is disappointing, I feel really good about where this program is.