Maryland basketball switched its mindset from a rebuilding season to a competitive one quite literally overnight. A gloomy Wednesday night riddled with nerves turned into a Thursday morning full of hope as not only did Melo Trimble announce he'd return for his junior season, but four-star forward Justin Jackson also made his commitment to join the program.
Jackson has a huge hole to fill as Maryland loses 25 points per game from its starting lineup with both Robert Carter Jr. and Diamond Stone leaving for the NBA draft. Jackson is listed as the No. 12 small forward in the nation by 247Sports composite measures, but he's likely to see more time at the taller positions considering the lack of personnel the team has down low.
Defensively, Jackson fits the mold of what coach Mark Turgeon likes. He's just 6'7, but stands long with an unreal 7'3 wingspan. To put that into perspective, Stone's wingspan measured in at the combine at 7'.275 and Carter's 7'3.25. Jackson is shorter than both, but would have had the eighth-longest wingspan at the NBA Draft combine had he been in attendance.
Offensively, Jackson lives around the rim, where he finishes well with either hand.
A good portion of his game includes drives from the 3-point arc through the heart of the defense. He has surprisingly tight handles for someone of his size.
Most of what he does involves drawing contact to get to the line if he can't find an opening in the lane. It isn't unusual for him to call for the ball in the post either.
Though he's less of a jump shooter, an outside shot is within his repertoire and it isn't unreasonable to think he can aid in stretching the floor out rather than clogging up the middle with big men Michal Cekovsky and Damonte Dodd playing together. If Maryland wanted to go super small, it could play around with the idea of slotting Jackson at the five, as he can handle dribbling the ball up the floor and give Trimble the room he needs to operate at the rim.
On top of that, Jackson seems to have a good feel of when and how to pass the ball, giving light to a possible "death" lineup idea that can pick up the pace from what is typically a relatively slow Terrapins team. With four-star guard Anthony Cowan at point, Trimble on the wing with some combination of Dion Wiley, Jared Nickens and four-star recruit Kevin Huerter and Jackson as the big, Turgeon has a plethora of opportunities to play with.
For Maryland, Jackson's commitment was an all-important boost. One that combined with Trimble's return gives fans a reason to keep the Terps on their radar.
Buckle up, it looks like the Terrapins are in tournament shape again.