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Monday, October 24, 2016

Intense initiation right on schedule for KU freshman Josh Jackson

Kansas guard Josh Jackson

Kansas guard Josh Jackson

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Kansas freshman Josh Jackson never hid the fact that one of the biggest reasons he chose to play his college basketball in Lawrence was the opportunity to be coached — and pushed — by KU coach Bill Self.

And, so far, Jackson has received exactly what he hoped.

From the arm-around-your-shoulder, smiling-and-grinning players’ coach who can be everyone’s best bud to the taskmaster who will shout at a player not even involved in a drill just because the rest of the team is messing things up, Jackson already has experienced the many sides of Self during the first two weeks of practices.

In that short time, Jackson has seen that whether you’re a one-and-done phenom or an unrecruited walk-on, you’re treated the same by Self when you’re wearing KU practice gear.

“He knows that I’m kind of a special player,” Jackson admitted. “And he still never takes it easy on me, doesn’t kiss my butt. He’s really hard on me sometimes and I think I need that. It’s really good to have a coach like that.”

Always charismatic and charming in the public eye, Self can be the same with his players during practices. Of course, if things are not being executed to his liking, he also can flip the switch, sometimes in the same sentence, and turn into a relentless drill sergeant demanding excellence.

Jackson has seen both and has developed an appreciation for each of them. What he’s not sure of is what he’ll think of the side of Self teammates have promised him is still coming.

“I didn’t expect him to be quite like this,” Jackson said. “But what’s kind of scaring me is some of the players telling me, ‘Oh, this is nothing, he gets so much worse.’ I’m just waiting to see what that’s like.”

Asked for an indication of what exactly “quite like this” means, Jackson paused.

“There’s a lot of examples,” he joked. “But I’m not sure I can use his exact words on camera.”

So far this season, Jackson has found himself in moments of self-reflection long after practices have ended.

Most often those moments cover parts of the game that are new to him — KU’s offensive sets, Self’s defensive demands, approaching each day and every drill with the level of intensity required to survive at the Division I level. But just as often, Jackson finds himself thinking back on the coaching he got from Self that day. Whether it’s good or bad, calm or crazy, Jackson already has discovered he likes it.

“It was a little bit of a shock,” Jackson admitted. “But, at the end of the day, when I’m thinking about it in my room, I’m like, ‘Man, he was really hard on me today, but there’s a reason for it so I can handle it.’”

Handling it is nothing new for the 6-foot-8 freshman from Detroit by way of Prolific Prep in Napa, California. Facing high expectations at every stop of his career and with the white-hot spotlight shining brightest for the past few seasons, Jackson said he felt most at home when competing.

It’s always been that way. Even when he was a little pest trying to outclass his mom and dad in games of one-on-one as a 5-year-old, Jackson wanted and expected to win.

It was during those showdowns in the backyard that a fierce competitor was born. And the ups and downs, praise and criticism, hype and reality that Jackson has experienced in the dozen or so years since all have prepared him for this moment, his one shot at college basketball at the highest level.

“As a kid, I played against both of them a lot,” Jackson said of his parents, including mom, Apples Jones, who played college basketball at UTEP. “They would never take it easy on me. They would always foul me kinda hard, block my shot and just beat me all the time. It really made me mad because I always wanted to win and I felt like this 5-year-old kid was supposed to beat these adults but it wasn’t happening that way.”

Jackson’s breakthrough did not come until his teenage years. He was 13 or 14 when he finally defeated his mother, whom he credits for “hanging in there” for quite a while.

What became of the games after he finally beat her?

“Didn’t play after that,” he joked.

Today, Jackson is much older than 5 and far more skilled than the little boy who scrapped in the backyard all those years ago. But the challenge remains the same.

In a couple of weeks, the long, tall freshman who was regarded as the top recruit in the entire country just one year ago, will kick off his Kansas career on the biggest stage possible, with high-profile, marquee games against fellow blue blood programs Indiana in Hawaii and Duke in New York City.

One might wonder how Jackson possibly could be ready for such a challenge right out of the gate. He credits Self and his teammates for helping him get ready, especially backcourt mates Devonte’ Graham and Frank Mason III.

“The best thing for me is coming to practice every day knowing those two are gonna go at me really hard,” Jackson said. “It’s not gonna do anything but make me better and I really like playing with them. Love it a lot.”

When asked for his welcome-to-college moment, Jackson listed two, one from senior forward Landen Lucas and another from Mason.

“A couple times Landen has set a couple screens on me, hit me really hard,” he began. “And a couple times trying to guard Frank, I’m running as fast as I can and he’s still a mile ahead of me. They’re just really far ahead of me right now, but I think I’m catching up a little bit.

“There were a few times over the summer where I was in bed and my body hurt so bad I couldn’t move and I was like, ‘What the heck am I doing here?’ But I got through it and it’s coming easy now.”

For Mason and Graham, sending Jackson down that path was precisely the plan.

They heard about the accolades and knew the name. But, to them, Jackson was nothing more than another teammate when he hit campus last summer. And, one-and-done phenom or not, the only way they could ensure that he would help this team as much as possible was if the veterans who have been there and done that roughed him up a little early on.

“When you first come in, I’m trying to go at you,” said Graham, softening his words a bit for print. “At first we were battling during workouts and stuff like that, but we’ve become closer and he’s gonna be real good for us.”

Comments

Dirk Medema 4 years ago

“When you first come in, I’m trying to go at you,” said Graham, softening his words a bit for print. “At first we were battling during workouts and stuff like that, but we’ve become closer and he’s gonna be real good for us.”

Reminds me of the quote from Josh that at times he has cringed at competing against those guys until he stopped and remembered that they are on his team. It is great to have that leadership to mix with the new elite talent.

Trace Stark 4 years ago

Got to love this young man's desire to compete. Not only a prodigious talent, but it sounds as if he's going to be a hell of a team mate as well... Can't wait till the 1st! Rock Chalk

Joe Ross 4 years ago

Josh Jackson and Andrew Wiggins, who both entered college as the No. 1 rated high school players in the country, each stand 6-8 and weigh about 205 and do some of the same things on the court.

Jay Scott 4 years ago

Wow... That's amazing insight Joe. I bet almost nobody knew that.

If they put on a few lbs do they turn into Perry Ellis? Or Harrison Barnes? Same thing? When does Ellis sign his max deal?

Jay Scott 4 years ago

Surely that can't mean you're not a believer in Joe's adamant axiom that all players who are the same size have the same skills, the same potential and play the same position?

Joe's favorite examples are Perry Ellis and Harrison Barnes. As anyone can plainly see, because they're the same size, they're identical players...except that Barnes has a max contract and Ellis is unemployed... You can't possibly find this idea implausible, do you?

Suzi Marshall 4 years ago

I wish Trump had your ability to stay on a message.

Shannon Gustafson 4 years ago

It doesn't matter what we think. You've made your point saying variations of the same thing for the last 3 months, we get it, move on. Think of how much time you'll have free to say or do other things. Are you still going to be stuck on this when the season starts and there are other topics to discuss?

Jay Scott 4 years ago

With the amount of really ugly abuse that Joe was willing to spew rather than admit he was wrong? Yes. Until Joe apologizes. Or maybe Joe really believes such things...

Greg Ledom 4 years ago

Too many Dicks, not enough Richards.

Greg Ledom 4 years ago

Too many Dicks, not enough Richards. One of my favorite bumper stickers I saw on a car. I think it applies here.

Noah Oone 4 years ago

They might look similar, but they are much different - Jackson is known for his competitiveness - Wiggins, not so much. Not saying that Wiggins is not competitive and isn't a winner, but there is a reason people say he needs to be more aggressive.

Jay Scott 4 years ago

This contravenes Joe Ross law. ALL players who are the same size have all the same skills and attributes, the same potential and play the same position.

Joe is fanatical about this...his favorite examples are Perry Ellis and Harrison Barnes. As anyone can plainly see, because they're the same size, they're identical players...except that Barnes has a max contract and Ellis is unemployed...

Brett McCabe 4 years ago

Joe, what's funny, of course, is that he didn't even get the joke - which he never does. Not surprisingly, Suzi showed her lack of self-control once again.

Jay Scott 4 years ago

Brett... You and Joe are the joke.

If you'd both stop saying asinine things, people wouldn't make fun of you. Saying "it was a joke" either means that you missed Joe's angry and idiotic arguments or that you're just dishonest. Likely both. While we're at it, it's pathetic for someone who constantly makes a fool of themself to accuse somebody else of a lack of self control. You personify that.

Steve Macy 4 years ago

One week until the first game, exhibition or not, is it on TV where a non TWC viewer can watch? I want to see the jump shot that has everyone worried. :)

Deb Fitch 4 years ago

Steve Macy, hook your computer up to your tv and sign up for zenmate.com. Its like $9 a month and you only need it for Nov. and Dec. It will change your IP address to western united states and that way espn3 will not be blacked out. I do it all the time.

Shannon Gustafson 4 years ago

You don't even have to sign up, the free version works just fine. It's how I've watched the "blacked out" games for the last 2 years for free.

Buck Bukaty 4 years ago

They have several products. Which do you use for free for a laptop? Is it the VPN For Desktops?

Noah Oone 4 years ago

The best solution for watching all KU games is to get Cox - I can watch every single game with no problem.

Robert Brock 4 years ago

This kid is pretty fair on offense. What I hope he brings, though, is intense, relentless defense. If the Hawks can take the ball away, they will be frightening in transition.

Mallory Briggans 4 years ago

i took a peek at the kentucky website to see the comments trae young made about his official visit there last week.....he liked what he saw but i made more of what his dad and mother said about it....his dad especially ....he seems to be pushing him in the direction of kentucky probably feeling he could have more success there moreso than oklahoma his home town. kentucky seems to feel like they have him in the bag.he may announce his decision next month which also influence what collin sexton does as well as sexton would love to team with young as a backcourt mate at ku....having said that ku may be on the outside looking in at this point

Jay Scott 4 years ago

Coach Self projects to have a MINIMUM of 7 scholarship players next fall. Newman, Vick, Garrett, Azubuike, Coleby, Lightfoot and Maxwell.

There's no guarantee that Graham, Svi and Bragg don't return. Jackson not so much.

It's a little early to panic or for top rated/OAD mentality kids to choose Kansas.

Marius Rowlanski 4 years ago

By design or by chance, Self seems to get the majority of his recruits in the in the spring recruiting period. These are the players looking for playing time, possible teammates, coaches/playing style or whatever.

The last several years have worked out well esp. 2013/14 but you really don't know how a player will do until he shows it in the game. Also, the NCAA has become more of an obstacle than an org. trying to help teams/players getting cleared to play.

Couldn't help but notice Jay that the 7 scholarship players next fall are a pretty good foundation on their own.

Mallory Briggans 4 years ago

no panic here jay.......as we all know we are dealing with high school kids who are being pulled in 10 different directions.....we as fans are just in the speculation game ......of what may or may not happen......none the less coach self is just that ......the coach and i will leave it in his hands ....he knows more than any of us as far as the recruitment process .

Mike Greer 4 years ago

I guess he has managed to pull in a couple of #1 prospects over his tenure at Kansas, and even the not so #1 guys have turned out pretty well for KU. He didn't do too shabby of a job at Illinois or Tulsa either. I think it's safe to say he knows his stuff.

I wish every recruit in the country would read this article and see what Josh Jackson has to say about Coach and Kansas. The tradition, the teammates, the coaching, the University, it's a heck of a package and if you want to play with and against the best and get coached up to the best of your ability, I think KU is the place. If gutting it out isn't part of your plan, go somewhere else, . . . please.

Harlan Hobbs 4 years ago

Josh is one special young man. He seems so well grounded - - a marvelous example of great parenting.

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