Tyus Jones’s decision to declare for the NBA draft left Duke without a true point guard for the upcoming season. Less than five months later, the Blue Devils have added two five-star prospects at the position. One, Derryck Thornton, decided in April to reclassify to 2015. The other, Frank Jackson, became the second member of Duke’s 2016 recruiting class when he announced his commitment to the program at a ceremony at his high school on Tuesday.
It initially seemed as though Jackson, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, may not begin playing in college until 2018 because he planned to serve a mission. Jackson committed to BYU while on a visit to Provo in September 2013. After flashing potential as a freshman at Lehi (Utah) High, he transferred to basketball power Lone Peak (Utah) and shone as a sophomore, contributing to the Knights’ fourth straight 5A state championship. Jackson performed well that summer at a tournament in Dubai and the CP3 guard camp.
While at the camp, Jackson said he listened to other players discuss their recruitments with brand-name programs like Duke and North Carolina. “I was kinda sitting back like, ‘I can compete with all these kids. Why can’t I get the attention they’re getting? Why can’t I get those offers that they’re getting?’” Jackson told SI.com. Within a few months, after garnering interest from a number of high major programs, Jackson had officially reneged on his commitment to the Cougars.
Following a strong junior season with Lone Peak—which included a school-record 54-point game in Las Vegas—Jackson starred with his grassroots team, the Utah Prospects, on the Adidas Uprising Gauntlet this spring and summer. In 10 games prior to the summer championships, he averaged 24 points and 2.7 assists while shooting 38.8% from three-point range and posting a 25.6 Player Efficiency Rating. He also showed well at the prestigious NBPA Top 100 camp.
Jackson received a scholarship offer from Duke while on an unofficial visit to the school’s Durham, N.C., campus after the camp in June. He took an official visit to Stanford in July and canceled an official visit to Arizona before seeing Duke again last weekend. Jackson had not publicly disclosed his final decision on serving a mission. Though he told SI.com in May that it’s “something I’ve always wanted to do,” Jackson indicated on Tuesday that he will suit up for the Blue Devils next fall.
The 6’3”, 180-pound Jackson is often described as a “combo guard,” but he could play point guard in college and the NBA. He possesses top-end athleticism and can both create his own scoring opportunities and facilitate for others. “Most of the time I use him as a scoring point guard who can create for others or break down the defense,” said Tim Davis, the head coach of the Utah Prospects. “That’s where I think he’s special. What’s going to make him so unique probably as a freshman especially, is he can play the two because of his size on defense, and he also can score off the catch.”
Jackson’s decision means Duke will bring in a five-star point guard in three consecutive recruiting classes. How does Jackson stack up with the previous two, Thornton and Tyus Jones? I applied the Recruiting Service Consensus Index’s formula to four major services (Rivals, Scout, ESPN, 247) to compute cumulative point totals for each PG. Using this method, Jones rates out as the most highly touted, followed by Jackson and then Thornton.
The 2016 recruiting cycle is not complete, so Jackson’s rankings could change between now and the beginning of his college career.
How will Jackson fit in at Duke? That depends in part on the composition of the Blue Devils roster when he arrives on campus. Thornton is one of the top point guard prospects in the class of 2015, but he doesn’t project as a one-and-done player. (DraftExpress currently lists him as the No. 30 pick in 2017.) That means Jackson and Thornton could play together in 2016-17, with heralded shooting guard Luke Kennard, veteran Matt Jones and possibly Grayson Allen also contributing in the backcourt.
Though Jackson is capable of running an offense by himself, he could thrive as a sort of scoring-focused guard in a potential dual-PG arrangement with Thornton. (Keep in mind that the Blue Devils had success playing two point guards, Jones and senior Quinn Cook, together for stretches last season). In addition to Jackson and Thornton, Duke will also have small forward Jayson Tatum, Rivals.com’s No. 3 player in the class of 2016, attacking from the perimeter.
Having secured commitments from rising seniors Jackson and Tatum, Duke could focus on frontcourt positions as it seeks to round out its 2016 recruiting class. The Blue Devils are considered strong contenders for power forward Harry Giles, the nation’s top prospect in the class of 2016 who has discussed a potential “package deal” with Tatum, as well as five-star center Marques Bolden, who included the program on his list of seven released this week.