Jaren Jackson, Jr. was the ninth-ranked prospect in the 2017 high school class.
An18-year-old without a lot of high level experience, hogged just 764 NCAA minutes. Other than that, has just 85 minutes with the United States National Team at the 2016 U17 FIBA World Cup and an appearance at the 2017 Nike Hoop Summit under his belt.
Jackson, Jr. averaged 20 points per 40 minutes on 64.7% true shooting and compiled a 25.1 PER in 35 appearances last season.
The six-foot-11, 236-pound inside-outside big got a fair amount of touches with his back to the basket in the post, without a lot of space to work with. He projects as a full time center in the pros but logged almost all of his minutes with another center on the floor in college.
Jackson, Jr. shot the ball a lot better during the conference part of the schedule and made a few out of the pick-and-pop but still figures to be only a capable spot-up shooter in the near future. He is expected to be a good finisher out of the pick-and-roll but didn’t have many, if any, opportunities to do that at Michigan State.
On the other end, the Indianapolis native often matched up against the rangier of opposing big men but still managed to make a massive impact as a rim protector. He wasn’t stretched a whole lot in East Lansing but figures to offer a ton of versatility in terms of pick-and-roll coverage based on his coordination and agility out in space.
On the other hand, he fouled a ton, which kept him from being a high-minutes player – averaging just 21.8 minutes per game.
Jackson, Jr. was sought after quite a bit in the block – logging 23.5% usage rate. He doesn’t get a lot of deep seals but creates good enough angles to get the ball around the mid-post area. He hasn’t yet developed a lot of polish but did very well one-on-one.
Though he didn’t show much in terms of head fakes, shot fakes, face-up jumpers or fade-away jumpers, Jackson, Jr. was very productive with basic turnaround hooks and running hooks – proving to have soft touch with either hand.
He flashed a slick pivot-to-pass move but for the most part only spotted cutters and shooters when they were evident, aside from posting a displeasing turnover rate for someone who wasn’t a risk taker – assisting on just 9.2% of Michigan State’s scores when he was on the floor but averaging 3.2 turnovers per 40 minutes.
Jackson, Jr. can’t really be considered a power player but looked to back down weaker matchups a decent amount and didn’t shy away from contact – earning seven free throws per 40 minutes.
He shot the ball very well as a weak-side floor-spacer, even flashing some advanced footwork in a few instances, whether it was catching it on the hop on spot-ups or adjusting his feet quickly after moving to an open spot.
Jackson, Jr. has a compact release, launching the ball out in front but managing to get his shots off over closeouts comfortably enough due to his height and the good deal of elevation he gets – taking 41.3% of his shots from long range.
He nailed 39.6% of his 96 three-point shots, at a pace of five such attempts per 40 minutes. Showing his touch, Jackson, Jr. also hit 79.7% of his 133 foul shots.
He took and made a few shots out of the pick-and-pop but for the most part didn’t look as capable when an opponent forced him to rush through his mechanics. He is also certainly not yet the sort of shot maker who opens up driving lanes at the point of attack.
But Jackson, Jr. shot well enough to demand closeouts, which opened up paths for him to put the ball on the floor. He is very well coordinated attacking out of triple threat position, likes to go left, has long strides and maintains his balance through contact to get all the way to the basket on straight line drives.
Jackson, Jr. is not a powerful leaper off one foot with an opponent attached to his hip but proved able to elevate off two feet off a jump-stop with power. Though only an up-and-down finisher and not someone who can hang or adjust his body in the air, he proved to be ambidextrous at the basket, used his length well to score around rim protectors on scoop finishes and showed pretty good touch on non-dunk finishes – shooting 65.4% on his 108 attempts at the rim.
Jackson, Jr. wasn’t asked to isolate against his man out in the perimeter often but did flash some shiftiness in the game against Illinois, shaking his man side-to-side with multiple dribbles between the legs and getting by him on his way to the basket. He didn’t show much of anything in terms of running floaters, step-back or stop-and-pop jumpers and passing on the move, though.
Jackson, Jr. didn’t have the space to roll hard to the basket, as less than half of his makes at the rim were assisted. And despite his seven-foot-five wingspan, he was not particularly productive on the offensive glass – collecting just 8.7% of Michigan State’s misses when he was on the floor, though he did finish his 19 putback attempts at a 77.8% clip.
Jackson, Jr. is an excellent rim protector – challenging everything he was close by and showing a ton of versatility as a shot blocker:
- Stepping up to the front of the basket, going up off two feet and making full use of his nine-foot-two standing reach;
- Going up off one foot coming off the weak-side in help-defense;
- Keeping pace with smaller players on straight line drives and blocking shots defending on the ball.
Jackson, Jr. averaged 5.5 blocks per 40 minutes and was the main reason why opponents shot 45.8% at the rim against Michigan State, which ranked second in the country.
All that activity near the basket came at the cost of him getting into constant foul trouble, though – as he averaged 5.9 personal fouls per 40 minutes, which limited him to just 21.8 minutes per game.
He was asked to extend out to the top of the key consistently, either hedging or showing-and-staying-out-an-extra-second to try preventing the ball handler from turning the corner right away or getting to the middle on side pick-and-rolls –doing well more often than not.
Jackson, Jr. is very fluidly sliding laterally and can keep up with smaller players stride-for-stride on straight line drives foul line down, though he can still improve in drop-back defense – in terms of not letting the roll man get behind him.
He was not asked to pick up smaller players on switches out on an island. Though he figures to have the agility for it, it’s unclear.
Jackson, Jr. showed only so-so attention to his boxout responsibilities. He is not all that physical either, showing an over-reliance on quickness chasing the ball off the rim, which didn’t go over great as the level of competition got tougher – collecting 19.7% of opponents’ misses when he was on the floor through the season overall but just 17.7% against Big Ten competition.
Jackson, Jr. had the best defensive rating among rotation players on a team that ranked 10th in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency.
 DOB: 9/15/1999
EDITOR’S NOTE: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara