Get all of Chris Johnson’s columns as soon as they’re published. Download the new Sports Illustrated app (iOS or Android) and personalize your experience by following your favorite teams and SI writers.
The top-ranked uncommitted prospect in the class of 2016 has finally made his decision. Josh Jackson announced on Twitter Monday that he will attend Kansas. The five-star wing chose the Jayhawks over Michigan State and Arizona.
His announcement comes after he took official visits to Arizona, Kansas and, most recently, Michigan State. Jackson had narrowed his list of schools to nine (Arizona, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville, Michigan State, NC State, North Carolina, UCLA) last March, but he identified the Spartans, Jayhawks and Wildcats as his three favorites in February.
Jackson also took an unofficial visit last summer to Maryland, a program sponsored by the same brand (Under Armour) backing the grassroots program he played for, but the Terrapins fell out of the race.
Jackson began his prep career at Consortium College Prep in Detroit. After helping that school win a state title as a sophomore, the Southfield, Mich., native transferred to Prolific Prep, an academy in the Napa Valley founded in 2014 that “includes a strong partnership” with Justin-Siena Catholic High in Napa, Calif., according to the academy’s website.
He has since solidified his standing as one of the best players in what could be one of the best classes since the turn of the century. At 6'7" and 201 pounds, Jackson is an electric athlete who can drive past defenders and finish at the rim, and he has the potential to develop into an elite defender. “His first step is lightning quick and will serve him well for his entire career,” Scout.com’s analysis of Jackson notes.
Jackson was a force with Michigan-based 1Nation last year on the Under Armour Association circuit; he erupted for 41 points in one April game and averaged 19.2 points, 10.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 2.2 steals. Jackson also helped USA Basketball win gold medals at the U17 and U19 world championships and is set to play in the prestigious Nike Hoop Summit in April.
The latest version of the Recruiting Services Consensus Index (RSCI), a composite ranking that incorporates data from several services, pegs Jackson No. 2 in the class of 2016, behind only Duke signee Harry Giles. Jackson was a co-MVP at the McDonald’s All-American Game and participated in the Nike Hoop Summit earlier this month.
Anyone thinking that next season might be the one where Kansas’s insane 12 consecutive Big 12 regular-season title streak is snapped may want to reconsider that position in light of Monday’s announcement.
The addition of Jackson clearly is a massive recruiting victory. He was the top-ranked prospect in the class of 2016 who had yet to announce his college decision, and he projects as a potential NBA lottery selection. The Jayhawks have not landed a talent of his caliber since reigning NBA Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins in 2013.
However, Jackson also helps Kansas fill an important hole in its rotation. Junior wing Wayne Selden Jr., fresh off a breakout season in which he averaged a career-high 13.8 points and 3.4 rebounds per game, announced last month that he will enter the draft and hire an agent, marking the end of his college career.
Meanwhile, the Jayhawks are also losing junior wing Brannen Greene to the NBA, and forward Perry Ellis has run out of eligibility. Jackson can help fill the scoring void left by the departure of Kansas’s two points-per-game leaders (Selden Jr. and Ellis) while anchoring a Jayhawks defense that ranked fourth nationally in adjusted efficiency.
Jackson will join All-Big 12 second team guard Frank Mason III, All-Big 12 honorable mention guard Devonte’ Graham and high-upside small forward Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk in a formidable perimeter rotation that should ensure the Jayhawks remain among the Big 12’s best squads on both ends of the floor.
Kansas’s frontcourt will also be in good shape. Though Ellis is gone and freshman Cheick Diallo could depart—he’s declared for the draft without hiring an agent—Kansas also brings back class of 2015 five-star recruit Carlton Bragg Jr., and junior Landen Lucas returns after developing into an important piece of its rotation this season.
The Jayhawks would have been O.K. without Jackson. They should be considerably better with him.
With Jackson off the board, the top-ranked uncommitted prospect in the class of 2016, according to the RSCI, is wing Terrance Ferguson. He’s reportedly considering one of Jackson’s finalists, Arizona.