Entering the 2017-18 college basketball season, Justin Jackson was pegged as a lottery pick by multiple outlets. With the 2018 NBA Draft taking place Thursday night, the Maryland basketball product has fallen to a projected fringe second-round selection.
After testing the process last offseason, quietly declaring in spring 2017 without an agent, Jackson returned to the Terps with lofty expectations on his plate. He had a rough start to the season before being shut down with a torn labrum 11 games in. The 6’7 forward still declared for the draft after the season, signing with an agent and ending his Maryland run after two years.
Jackson’s shot looked off early in the season. The touch that saw him hit 43.8 percent of longball attempts his freshman year appeared to have abandoned him. When his injury was revealed, it partly explained his three-point percentage dipping to 25 percent, but the damage to his stock was done.
The injury occured in the preseason, his arm going numb after he fell on it, Jackson told PressBox. The Canadian underwent surgery to repair his shoulder in January and still hasn’t been cleared for contact. He’ll reach that six-month benchmark in July, so he’s been limited to drills in team workouts.
Jackson rejoined his Maryland teammates Kevin Huerter and Bruno Fernando at the combine, but wouldn’t stay long. After making a name for himself at the same event a year prior, he’d only participate in measurements before leaving ahead of day two.
What does Jackson bring to the next level?
As Maryland’s best rebounder and a versatile defender, Jackson has a skill set with the potential to translate. He averaged 8.1 rebounds per game and often matched up with the other team’s best forward on defense. Oh, and he still packs a 7’3 wingspan in a 6’7 frame.
Here’s what I said about his prospects before last month’s combine:
The problem is a lot of the preseason hype was based on a perception that he could become a star. Instead, he showed, through an injury, that he is who he is: a top-notch rebounder and a versatile defender with an offensive game that still leaves something to be desired. Jackson may never be a professional star, but he has the makings of a rotation forward in today’s NBA.
As a freshman, he shot 43.8 percent from three, but a lot of those came off Trimble drives and were close to the line. He’ll have to display he can consistently hit an NBA-range three. While playing with a torn labrum, he shot 25 percent and never looked comfortable. His true percentage is somewhere in between, but last season’s pre-shutdown performance also showed his offensive game is still a couple steps from consistency—he averaged 9.8 points and 1.9 assists a night at a 33.6 percent shooting clip.
Will Maryland fans hear Jackson’s name called on Thursday night?
Despite the injury, a down year and at least a couple question marks about his game, Jackson still has above a 50 percent chance of being the second Terp taken on Thursday (Huerter’s a likely first-round selection). Whether or not fans hear his name may depend on how long they tune in.
Already 21, he’s an older prospect for his year, and teams still want to see development in his offensive decision-making. However, he may have done enough in his two seasons to convince a team to take a flier on him late in the second round. After being considered to fall in the 25-45 range had he stayed in the 2017 draft, this year it’s more like 40-60.
He’s remained on all the major draft boards, so there’s reason to believe he’s still in the conversation for some teams later in the draft. Both parties will just have to hope his game is closer to his freshman year performance than his sophomore showing when he returns.