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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Freshman Josh Jackson’s consistency a huge factor for Kansas

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) goes wild after a dunk during the second half, Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016 during the championship game of the CBE Classic at Sprint Center.

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) goes wild after a dunk during the second half, Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016 during the championship game of the CBE Classic at Sprint Center.

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One game is all that stands between Kansas freshman Josh Jackson and a return to some of his favorite haunts in the world.

Shortly after the Jayhawks (10-1) close out the non-conference portion of their schedule Thursday at UNLV in Las Vegas — 8 p.m. tip-off on CBS Sports Network — Jackson will fly from Vegas to his hometown of Detroit and will arrive with his three-day itinerary already planned out.

A good chunk of it will involve spending time with family members, eating his grandmother’s cooking and trying to thwart off requests from his mother to entertain the family on the saxophone.

But when he steps out, three Detroit restaurants will be mandatory stops — Captain Jays, Coney Island and Capers, a steakhouse in downtown Detroit.

Jackson said he already had his order prepared at each place and that he and his teammates were looking forward to the short-but-sweet upcoming holiday break.

“Oh, definitely,” Jackson said. “That’ll be good for a lot of the guys on the team, especially myself. Guys are getting a little weary, but I think we need to just keep going at it, because it’s not gonna get any easier from here on out.”

Jackson’s daydreams about his favorite dishes are just that. Because when he’s awake and aware, the one-and-done freshman who is averaging 15.1 points per game remains sharply focused on KU’s next game and what he needs to do to make sure it goes the way the Jayhawks want it to go.

That mentality, as much as his play on the floor, is what has made Jackson’s start to what is likely to be his lone college season so remarkably consistent. Ever since finding his way through the frustration of early-season foul trouble, Jackson has been one of Kansas’ most active and impactful players on the floor night in and night out.

“I think it’s hard (to be consistent) if your specialty is shooting the basketball, because I think that kind of comes and goes,” KU coach Bill Self said Tuesday. “But I don’t think it’s as hard when your specialty is doing all of the other things. You can have an off day but still try hard or hustle and compete and rebound and get deflections and guard and that kind of stuff. And I think that’s what makes him so effective, is that he doesn’t have off days very often doing those things.”

In addition to ranking second in scoring, Jackson leads the team in rebounds (69) and rebounds per game (6.3), is tied for the team lead in steals (19), second in blocks (16) and third in assists (37). All of that after a slow start in which he played 21 minutes or fewer in two of the Jayhawks’ first three games.

Jackson admits that the beginning of the season caught him off guard. He knew playing college basketball would require him to play at a higher level. But he did not know it would take time to adjust.

“I’ve never been on a team this talented before in my life,” Jackson said. “... In the beginning, it was a lot harder, but as the season went on, you know playing more and more games, having more practices and just getting more comfortable, I’ve been able to figure things out a little easier.”

One of the biggest keys in Jackson finding his rhythm has been trust in his teammates and their trust in him.

When you consider that Jackson, Frank Mason III and Devonte’ Graham all are averaging 13.4 points per game or better, it’s clear that whatever they’ve figured out is working.

And Self said Tuesday that, even when it wasn’t, he knew it was just a matter of time before the talented trio figured it out.

“I think that happens all the time,” Self said. “It sounds all fine and dandy (for freshmen) to come in here (and say), ‘Hey, I’m gonna be aggressive and I’m gonna be all this.’ But then you’ve got some older fellas saying, ‘Listen here, young fella. This is my show, not yours yet.’ We don’t have that, but there’s been teams that even though those words weren’t spoken, they’re somehow put in kids’ minds and they defer too much. And Josh has probably deferred a little bit, but not a lot.”

Jackson may have deferred at times when it came to taking shots, where he ranks second to Mason (134-124) and is just 18 attempts ahead of Graham. But he rarely has taken his foot off the gas in other areas.

“I think my job for the team is pretty easy,” he said. “Just being able to know what I have to do in order for my team to be successful, game in and game out, just rebounding, playing defense, bringing energy ... I feel like if I always do those things, I’ll be fine.”

Svi to start

Self said before Tuesday’s practice that he was planning to start 6-foot-7 junior Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk on Thursday against UNLV.

Mykhailiuk, who last Saturday against Davidson made his first start since his freshman season, has been one of the Jayhawks’ more consistent and impressive players during the past couple of weeks.

Averaging 13 points per game in the last five outings — and having reached double digits in scoring in all five — Mykhailiuk has shot the ball well, been more aggressive on the offensive end and also increased his presence as a rebounder and defender.

“I actually like how he’s playing,” Self said.

Familiar date

Although the Jayhawks have traveled to Honolulu, New York City and Kansas City three separate times, Thursday’s game at UNLV’s Thomas and Mack Center will be the first true road game for the Jayhawks this season.

It marks the exact same date (Dec. 22) that Kansas has played its first true road game of the season during five of the last six seasons and is 12 days later than the Jayhawks’ first road game of the 2013-14 season, a 67-61 loss at Florida.

KU’s results during the five other recent Dec. 22 games: 78-63 win at Cal in 2010; 63-47 win at USC in 2011; 74-66 win at Ohio State in 2012; 77-52 loss at Temple in 2014; and 70-57 win at San Diego State in 2015.

Comments

Tony Bandle 4 years, 10 months ago

As a Jayhawk for 50 plus years, I have always felt this last game before Christmas has always been a "trap" game for the Hawks. I remember specifically watching the St.Louis University Billikens beat a powerful KU team with Ryan Robertson's youinger brother just killing us,

GO HAWKS!!! After 45 years as an architect I am retiring this Friday. A win in Vegas would be a great going away gift!!

Jay Scott 4 years, 10 months ago

Congrats on your impressive career. You're part of why KU Architecture is nationally revered.

Joe Joseph 4 years, 10 months ago

I'm worried about the looming holiday break in regards to the game against UNLV, as well. It would be unfair to expect a bunch of college kids, who have spent countless hours in the weight room, traveling and playing ball the last several months NOT to look forward to a few days off and time with family.

The good news (or bad news?) is that UNLV isn't very good. This game probably looked a lot tougher on paper a couple of years ago when it was initially scheduled!

Still... I doubt it will be easy. And I won't be totally surprised if UNLV pulls off a big upset.

Stephen Burtin 4 years, 10 months ago

Congratulations on your retirement! Rock Chalk!

Suzi Marshall 4 years, 10 months ago

Congratulations upon your retirement. I've been retired for over a year but can't seem or don't want to let go, especially now with such a recharge in the O&G/energy industry.

With regards to the upcoming December 22 game, I don't put much emphasis on the results, especially the '14 Temple blow out loss. The guys are looking forward to Christmas and the away game is part of the process to get everyone back home for a nice break.

They all need to come back focused because the pre-season is over Dec. 30th when the Big 12 gets off with a bang with TCU at home.

Marius Rowlanski 4 years, 10 months ago

Big congratulations on your retirement Tony. I've just reached 40 years since my graduation from KU but I considered myself a Jayhawk well before graduating from Leavenworth High School. 45 years as an architect is a long career that has seen a lot of changes since the computer was introduced from drafting to the modern HCPA.

I've got a feeling that you probably have one hell of a house to call home.

Joshua Hann 4 years, 10 months ago

I was that game in St. Louis. The first of many games I've been at that they lost on the road while being ranked #1. But the day before the game, we were in a large mall in downtown St. Louis, just killing time. We are eating in the food court and my dad told me to look across the way. What do I see? Eric Chenowith. I went over and met him. They were staying in the hotel that was in the mall. We spent the next four hours walking around and getting all of their autographs, plus Roy. He was very nice to us. The next morning we were at the airport early. NIck Bradford was the only other person there and we spoke to him for a few minutes. He stated coach was not very happy. We wished him happy holidays and a good rest of the season and parted ways. Great memory I have of the Hawks. Still have the plaque with all of their signatures.

Brett McCabe 4 years, 10 months ago

Jackson has been so good already that it's easy to forget that he actually still has plenty of upside development opportunity this year. One of the great things for him is that, because he's so active, he's speeding up his learning process by getting in the mix, seeing more situations on the floor and finding ways where he can be even more effective.

And the attitude? Just terrific.

Joe Joseph 4 years, 10 months ago

And he's only averaging 28 minutes per game!

Suzi Marshall 4 years, 10 months ago

Jackson's game and personality reminds me of Jordan's. Wiggin's had a game which was also similar. Jordan, Jackson, Wiggins don't/didn't had/have much of a jump shot early in their careers but their superior athleticism made them special. Jackson has that Jordan overt driven passion to compete and win.

Jay Scott 4 years, 10 months ago

I've always said that Jordan would have been a superstar in my (5'10 195) body. His game IQ, competitive fire and instincts were more amazing to me than his considerable physical skills.

Marius Rowlanski 4 years, 10 months ago

The old joke was that Dean Smith was the only one who could keep Jordan under 20 points a game while still in college. In that regard, there are definitely similarities between both players as they learned how to contribute on both ends of the court instead of just scoring.

Harlan Hobbs 4 years, 10 months ago

Very good points, Brett. Josh is clearly a "doer."

Marius Rowlanski 4 years, 10 months ago

I hope Vick gets why he is no longer starting. It seems he has lost some confidence in his three and isn't driving the ball nearly as well Svi. Coach Self is still giving him about the same minutes but he really needs to take the open shot when Graham and Mason get him the ball.

Dirk Medema 4 years, 10 months ago

A year or 2 into MJs time in Chicago he was being criticized for being just an Offensive player, 1 dimensional. The next year he was DPOTY.

Suzi Marshall 4 years, 10 months ago

He was injured and out most of his second year when he came back to torch Boston in the playoffs. That was when Bird said something like 'I've just seen God play basketball."

Greg Ledom 4 years, 10 months ago

Duke destroyed this team in Vegas a couple weeks ago by about 40 I think. This should not be a game past the first 5 minutes.

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