Saturday, April 16, 2016

Future Jayhawk Josh Jackson makes impression on Napa natives

Josh Jackson, from Napa, California, competes in the slam dunk contest during the McDonald's All-American Jam Fest, Monday, March 28, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)

Josh Jackson, from Napa, California, competes in the slam dunk contest during the McDonald's All-American Jam Fest, Monday, March 28, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)


Detroit native Josh Jackson could have asked Prolific Prep founder Jeremy Russotti to take him to see Calistoga’s Old Faithful Geyser, tour a vineyard, go bike-riding on a mountain trail or even walk on the Boardwalk on his first day in Napa, Calif., two summers ago.

Instead, the country’s top-rated high school basketball player, who on Monday committed to play hoops at Kansas University, immediately forgot about entertaining himself and asked if he could join his future teammates in a relief effort in the northern California town.

Let Russotti explain:

“I picked him up at the airport, right when the Eagle landed. Literally that same morning we had an earthquake centered in Napa,” Russotti said. “Downtown Napa was in a state of emergency. Our team met at a church that had been turned into an emergency-relief center.

“Josh just got off the plane, just got back into the country after playing for USA Basketball, and our players were helping clean up a house that literally got split in half.

“Josh said, ‘Give me a hardhat. Let’s go help.’ Here you have the No. 1 player in the country spend his first two, three hours in Napa helping clean up a house. There were a lot of important community members saw that and were so impressed,” Russotti added.

Jackson — who had yet to convert his first bucket for Prolific Prep, where he averaged 26.9 points, 13.1 rebounds and 6.3 assists his senior season in solidifying his status as the country’s top recruit — made Russotti smile again a week later.

“One night I kept getting texts (with) people saying, ‘Josh is the greatest kid ever.’ I said, ‘OK,’’’ Russotti said.

“Finally I get a picture texted to me, and it’s the mascot from the football game (at Justin-Siena High, where Jackson and other Prolific Prep players take classes). It was the first game of the school year, and somebody said, ‘Josh is in the (Braves) mascot uniform, and he’s going crazy, high-fiving all the parents and the kids.’ He was the mascot.

“That was his way of fitting in and being a normal kid, showing people, ‘I’m no different than you.’ It was cool for him to own the hearts of families and communities,” Russotti added.

A valuable member of the Napa community, Jackson, of course, will leave known most for his exploits on the court. After helping Prolific Prep to a 30-7 record, he recently earned co-MVP honors at the McDonald’s All-America game, then improved his career record with USA Basketball to 20-0 by playing on the winning U.S. team at the Nike Hoop Summit.

“The thing about basketball I love is winning,” Jackson said on an official Grind Session video released after his commitment to KU. His team competed in several Grind Session tournaments this past season involving the country’s top prep school players. “It’s my favorite thing. I hate to lose. I want to be remembered for winning.

“The second thing I love is just getting better at the game,” Jackson added.

There is just one aspect of Jackson’s game that analysts say he must work on — his jump shot. Jackson’s Prolific Prep coach, Billy McKnight, who praised Jackson’s desire, his lockdown defense, athleticism and ability to take the ball to the basket, addressed the shooting issue.

“He wins a lot of our shooting contests at practice,” McKnight said. “His consistency is something he needs to work on. He has confidence in his shot. He made some big shots for us through the year, including the game winner against Huntington Prep.

“We had to throw a baseball pass (with) 1.2 seconds left, down one or two. Josh caught the ball at the top of the key and hit a shot at the buzzer to win it for us. He is not afraid of taking the big shot.

“People point that out because the rest of his game is so good. They are looking for something he needs to work on. Everybody needs to improve, even Steph Curry, right?” McKnight added with a laugh.

Jackson seems to think so, carrying a strict work ethic to the gym.

“The thing that gets me up all the time even when I am tired is my dream,” Jackson said. “I really want to be one of the best players to ever play.”

McKnight said he has tried and finally come up with a player Jackson just might resemble a bit.

“I was coaching at the University of Oregon. It was when Luke Jackson was a senior and first-team All-American. Andre Iguodala guarded him in Tucson and shut him (Luke Jackson) down,” McKnight said.

“I think of Josh’s body type and ability to do different things and that name comes in my head,” McKnight added of Iguodala. “Andre ... his length, explosiveness, competitiveness, smarts ... Josh has everything Andre has. I think Josh’s goals are to be one of the best players of all time, which would put him ahead of that (Iguodala). That is his baseline, not a bad baseline to have,” McKnight added.

Jackson — it has been well documented — has become so solid in all aspects of his game thanks to his mom, Apples Jones, who played at Allen County CC in Kansas and UTEP and also worked in the Navy. She has monitored his basketball progress closely, while also trusting coaches such as McKnight and others on the AAU circuit.

“The person who inspires me the most is definitely my mom, hands down,” Jackson said. “She is a strong woman, tough, pushes me to be better every day.”

She reportedly wants to be with Jackson when they sign his letter of intent in the near future and ultimately fax it to KU. At that time, KU coach Bill Self will join folks like McKnight in singing Jackson’s praises publicly.

Rest assured, KU is getting a solid person as well as player, his Prolific Prep coach promises.

“He is a great guy off the court. The kids around Lawrence will love meeting him and spending time with him,” McKnight said. “He’s really a well-mannered kid. He signs autographs for an hour after games. He is a baby-magnet, loves to pick up small kids and give ’em a hug. He has a good heart. His mom did a tremendous job raising him.”

His stay in Lawrence will not be long, with the NBA beckoning.

“If I didn’t give him a high recommendation (as NBA talent) I’d have to get my head examined,” McKnight said. “How soon that is ... a lot of factors go into that. He has the ability to play at that level, for sure.”


Bert White 5 years, 7 months ago

I didn't think it was possible... But this article got me even more excited to have Josh on our team and to get the chance to watch him play. I love hearing how good he is off of the court as well as on it.

Between having him and Bragg on the same team I expect to have one of the best team reactions on the bench when they're both taking a break during the game. I mean anyone down to put on a mascot uniform and get the crowd hyped I can only assume that there will be polls and animated GIFs on forums debating on whom had the best reaction to a big play heheh.

Jay Scott 5 years, 7 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Steve Macy 5 years, 7 months ago

"I like winning", as long as Charlie Sheen isn't saying it, it sounds good. RCJH

Stu Libby 5 years, 7 months ago

This kid is special. I've seen him play another of times and I agree with the analysts that say he has more skills at this stage than Andrew Wiggins. He has all the tools. Another outstanding article on this young man on SH too, def a recommended read:

Eliott Reeder 5 years, 7 months ago

Hey we got it, you don't have to post this same article that you or your kid wrote everyday in the comments like you just discovered it...

Dee Shaw 5 years, 7 months ago

Since there always seems to be drama signing these top recruits. Answer this question, is Josh Jackson eligible to play basketball starting in the fall of 2016 at the University of Kansas? I don't want to hear we are waiting on some paperwork from this prep school or waiting to be cleared from the Clearinghouse of the NCAA.

Jay Scott 5 years, 7 months ago

Given that the high school year isn't finished..........

Joe Ross 5 years, 7 months ago

Until we hear something, it's probably best to assume there are no issues. I understand the concern, but worrying about it--like a handful of other things--is an unnecessary expenditure of energy that produces no result one way or the other. ;)

RJ King 5 years, 7 months ago

Justin Sienna is a "regular" Catholic prep school with a good reputation. I don't quite understand the structure of "Prolific Prep" within the matriculation process, but I doubt very much there would be classes at JSHS that don't meet NCAA requirements. As long as JJ is passing forward moving (rather that sideways, like McLemore's issue) classes, he'll be fine.

Joe Ross 5 years, 7 months ago

Josh Jackson is a good kid who, you can be assured, has a mother who wouldnt let him skate by on his academics. My concern is not the youth of Jackson and mistakes that might flow from being young. I hope Mason and Graham just maintain their own identities and stay in their lanes. Dont need them trying to step outside of who they are simply because there will be a very high-profile player joining them in the backcourt.

Suzi Marshall 5 years, 7 months ago

Mason and Lucas played with Wiggins, whose athletic ability is off the map, and was by far a more high profiled player than Jackson.

A lot of Jackson's success will depend on Jackson's ability to reach out and bond with the team's veterans and produce on the court in his new environment. The Kansas vets, that now also include Graham and Mykailiuk have experienced a lot of elite success. As we saw with Diallo, these guys are not going to just bow down at the alter of some over-hyped HS player.

We are going to be playing several high profile games right out of the gate, i.e. Indiana in Hawaii, Duke in NYC, a bit later UK in Lexington...and then the mega high-profile Big 12 schedule where we go for lucky 13.

Jackson will probably be a OAD but if he wants to be ultra-successful, like first team AA and NPOY, at Kansas his work begins with his brothers on the team.

Joe Ross 5 years, 7 months ago

I agree with your last statement 100%! Bad chemistry on a team can weigh more heavily than individual talent. As far as Mason and Lucas playing with Wiggins, neither one of them had a ton of time on the court (Mason 16 mpg in 2013-2014) with him, and certainly neither was an emotional or psychological leader on the team during a time in which maintaining team chemistry would have been more in the hands of others. But I DO think you bring up an important point in that they were in a position to observe how a player like that fits in. And it IS nice to have guys who have viewed the Wiggins circus be in a position of leadership now. But even having that experience, these guys still have to be very self-aware (and Self aware for that matter...see what I did there?). As long as they play within themselves and inside of the system, they will maximize their own efficiency and that of the team.

Suzi Marshall 5 years, 7 months ago

Wiggins came onto a team with a bunch of unproven newbies, whereas Jackson comes onto a team of highly successful vets (Mason/Graham/Mykailiuk/Lucas). The '13-'14 team would seem to be more appropriated to a dominate personality, like MJ or how Jackson is promoted, whereas coming onto the '16-'17 team might require the more unobtrusive or sensitive approach taken by Wiggins.

Wiggins never wanted to step on anybody's toes, when/where toes needed to be stepped upon, especially ... If someone like MJ came onto that team, he would have brought living hell upon some of those guys. If Jackson comes on this team in a heavy handed way, there could be some team-chemistry issues.

Joe Ross 5 years, 7 months ago

Well I hope youre not setting up Jackson to fail in your mind with your own philosophy. If you begin by saying Jackson is not suited to this year's edition of the team and is a better fit for a former one, you give yourself nowhere to go with your expectations. I grant that the Wiggins-led Jayhawks were young from top to bottom (in fact, Tarik Black was a valuable addition to the team for that reason), and I also concede that having core players around a OAD is ideal. But I do not go so far as taking it for granted that a dominant player cant learn to play within the flow of an offense. I can think of countless examples in college and in the pros where the opposite proposition has been confirmed. This is not to say that Jackson will be a good fit; only that it can't be assumed based on his style of play that he won't be.

Suzi Marshall 5 years, 7 months ago

I'm just saying he needs to proceed carefully and be smart, which he certainly seems to be.

The team's vet need for Jackson to be as successful as possible. The Team wants Number 13 but nobody on the'16-'17 team has been to a Final Four.

Joe Ross 5 years, 7 months ago

"I'm just saying he needs to proceed carefully and be smart, which he certainly seems to be."

Yes, I agree! For my part, I'd define "smart" as being able to find that balance between being aggressive enough that you don't neutralize your strengths by being timid and not being too aggressive so that you destroy the fabric of the offense by being too-selfish and neutralizing your teammates' strengths.

Tom Jones 5 years, 7 months ago

Jackson's actually the perfect fit for this team.

Bill Corey 5 years, 7 months ago

I posted this a year ago after NC game. "I think HCBS would ideally like to develop a team like Wisconsin has done. Which is great if you want to make it to the NC game every 71 years. I know we don't want a sleezy program like Kentucky. And one could argue that CaliPIMP has under performed with the talent he has had recently. So the solution is a better handling of OAD's and mixing with experienced players. However, HCBS is so rigidly wedded to an inside-out offense. Sure it's been successful with an 83% winning record. However, I see too few professional teams that play inside-out. Sure they have big centers to protect the rim and rebound but, anymore, they rarely run their offense through the center. Exception Duncan with San Antonio. At one time Shaq. But anymore the pro scoring is outside, 3 point shots, and wings slashing to the basket. And potential guard/wing OAD's know this and I think they want to go to college programs that will let them shine. HCBS will not allow that much freedom so we are often not attractive to really talented guard/wing OAD's. Let's hope we can shore up the low post and get back to Billy Ball. Win Big 12 and, unfortunately, flame out in NCAA again and again and again. Dunno! Unless HCBS can modify his coaching. If you don't agree be kind. I readily confess I know virtually nothing about basketball and I am the world's worst basketball player. But I've been loyal through 27 seasons since '88. I'd like another NC before I die but................" Somewhat prophetic after this last season. But, he did get JJ. Let's hope we make necessary changes. I don't want the results and my original post to be pathetic.

Richard Joseph III 5 years, 7 months ago

I agree with you completely. With all due respect to the teams success, I would love for HCBS to tweak the offense to better accommodate perimeter scoring. Sadly, I doubt it will ever happen.

Mike Greer 5 years, 7 months ago

I hate it, every year I think I've been watching KU basketball, only to read a post like this and find out someone else has a Jayhawk on their jerseys and I haven't been watching KU basketball at all. Even this Perry Ellis guys was shooting 3 pointers this year. Seems for the longest time this team with the Jayhawk on their uniform, was one of the top 3 point shooting teams in the country. Many games they had a better percentage from the 3 than from the field. But then at the end of the season, when they really needed some 3s to fall, the same players that had made these shots all season, forgot how.

My point is, you need some balance. The inside game opens up the outside game and vise versa. Just like the running game opens up the passing game. Usually the team that can do both wins. If anything I thought the team I was watching this year didn't have many inside options and relied quite heavily on the outside game. But, maybe I wasn't really watching KU.

Bill Corey 5 years, 7 months ago

I basically agree Mr. Greer. However, Nova collapsed on Ellis and was nullified. Why wasn't he brought out to try some of those 3's? No we plodded along with same game plan. Jus' sayin'

Jeff Coffman 5 years, 7 months ago

Next year west virginia, Oklahoma state, and teas all will use the full court press. Personally I think it will make the B12 really hard to watch. When we played these teams in 15-16; Mason picked up his dribble, seldom tried to dribble through it, and Graham dribbled well around. The handles of these athletes will be interesting to watch. Mason will need to improve this else Graham will continue to trend to the pg and mason will be actually the one that will be disappointing.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 5 years, 7 months ago

Ah, yes!! Same song, 33rd verse! We have yet another wonder child still in high school who can bounce a ball and occasionally toss it through a hoop what wants to be a candidate for the KU NBA Academy. The newspaper starts it's yearly aggrandizement of this child as the savior of the team's yearly failure to make it past the initial games in the NCAA tournament.

You know. I am not much of a KU fan. It really makes no difference to me. But you would think that someone at the Journal World would wake up to these pre, pre, pre season gaffes and stop all this pre season baloney.

Jay Scott 5 years, 7 months ago

It's sad to imagine that your life is so empty that you have to post a comment on how much you hate something to admit to bot caring about.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 5 years, 7 months ago

Thanks for your assessment of my life. Jay. Too bad.

Learn to proof read sometime.

Jay Scott 5 years, 7 months ago

Sorry Fred. We 21st century guys have these cool little devices that "double" as a computer,phone,camera,gps navigator,camcorder,music player and a dozen more uses that you may not even know exist. What they don't have is a full keyboard for thick can add one but they aren't as portable as would be ideal...

Steve Macy 5 years, 7 months ago

Before you go all grammar police, check your spelling and sentence structure.
proofread, one word, comma in front of Jay. "Too bad" is not a complete sentence. By the way, my spelling and grammar are notoriously bad, so criticize all you want. Any basketball thoughts? I know you don't care about KU basketball,but feel free to add to the conversation with something in the way of proof that Josh is the same as all the others. Can you at least name the other 32, you did say 33, or has that escaped your memory?
I normally don't go on this way, but grammar police are annoying on sports sites.

Benz Junque 5 years, 7 months ago

The nerve of these writers posting a story about a recruit who just committed to Kansas during the offseason...

There is not ONE prediction in this article about how Jackson will perform next year. It talks about what kind of player he is and what kind of person he is. That's it.

Perhaps it's you, Fred, who has the reading comprehension problem.

Gary Bedore 5 years, 7 months ago

Thanks for the support, Benz. I guess one either wants to hear about the new players as soon as they sign up or they don't. Some become irate when they see such a story. Cheers.

RJ King 5 years, 7 months ago

Obviously, it all remains to be seen. But I LOVE the Iguodala comparison.

Soon after the Warriors acquired him, this All Star ended up the sixth man. Rather than bitch and complain and disrupt chemistry, Iggy brought hustle, production, and killer defense - and ended up with pretty much starter minutes.

He is certainly one of few (the only?) bench player to earn MVP honors in the Championship series. Anything from JJ resembling Andre would be fantastic.

Harlan Hobbs 5 years, 7 months ago

Good response, Steve.

I have a dream (my deepest apologies to the inspirational Martin Luther King, Jr. for using his message in a far less meaningful way)! One year from now, Josh Jackson tells the KU crowd at Senior Night that, "although I believe and Coach Self has told me that I am ready for the NBA, I am enjoying my time here at KU so much that I am coming back for at least another year to get closer to my and my mother's goal that I get a college degree." Would that send shock waves through the system or what?

Dee Shaw 5 years, 7 months ago

Oh it will send shockwaves alright. Shockwaves of stupidity. The projected #1 pick of the NBA draft and you stay for college. If that happens I question how smart the young man is. I question how smart Bill Self is. If you are # 1 you leave. No debating, no questioning. Get the money when you can.

LJ Gee 5 years, 7 months ago

I have nothing to say about this article other than, I am, like everyone else, excited to see this kid in a KU uniform and to see what kind of an impact he can have on the team. Everything sounds great so far, but isnt that always the case? Either way, Im really liking the way the team is taking shape. Hopefully we can produce results on the court that match our 'on-paper' potential.

That said, the reason Im posting at all (which I dont do usually) is to ask this question: is there anyone worse than Jay Scott? I really enjoy reading the comments b/c some of you have great value to add, in my opinion. But I absolutely hate coming here and having to read this jackweed trolling everyone and acting like a 10 year old cyber-bully wanna-be. We get it bro, you think you're the smartest man on the planet and you are never lacking in petty comments. You are not however, in any way whatsoever, funny or interesting and you have not once that ive seen added anything of value to any conversation. You are the absolute worst and I cringe every time Im reading through the comments and see your name come up b/c I know the level of discourse is about to plummet.

Sorry for the rant, I just couldnt hold my tongue any longer. Im off my soapbox now. RCJH

Harlan Hobbs 5 years, 7 months ago

Geez, Dee. What' the problem? I said it was a dream which, by definition, is not expected reality. I also said that, in my dream, Bill Self told him that he was NBA ready, so what's your beef? Do you take all of life this seriously?

L. J., I respect your opinion and agree that Jay is often over the top. I believe he once said that he is a Donald Trump supporter, so maybe he is emulating his candidate. By the way, I like Donald Trump as well so I am not trying to turn this into a political discussion which should be left to other venues. However, it is apparently a sign of the times that efforts at civility are long gone.

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