Self praises Josh Jackson: Most versatile player in college basketball
Kansas basketball coach Bill Self is known as a master motivator. He demands a lot from his players in practices and games, always looking to bring the best out of them.
That’s what made his praise of freshman Josh Jackson stand out following Jackson’s 20-point, 10-rebound performance in KU’s 79-73 win over Kentucky at Rupp Arena.
When players have good games, Self usually mentions in post-game press conferences how they can improve whether it’s scoring, rebounding or playing better defense. But with Kansas playing a four-guard lineup for nearly every minute Saturday, Jackson filled a critical role after the Jayhawks trailed by 12 in the first half.
At halftime, Self told his team to win the first two or three possessions of the second half. That’s when Jackson took over. He drilled a 3-pointer on the opening possession, KU’s first three of the night. Then he grabbed a rebound on defense and hit another 3-pointer for a one-point lead.
“Josh’s two shots obviously got the lid off,” Self said on the Jayhawk Radio Network. “God, did he play good. I mean he played good. He showed America tonight that’s about as versatile of a player as there is in the college game.”
Along with the double-double, Jackson had three assists, two steals and two turnovers in 39 minutes. He scored on a put-back of his own miss with 7:15 remaining and the Jayhawks never trailed again. Kentucky coach John Calipari called the tip-in “huge” because it started a 10-0 run.
“I’m real, real, real proud of our guys,” Self said. “I thought they were so tough tonight. We talk about it all along, what are we going to do when we don’t play well? What are we going to do when we don’t make shots?
“Well, that first half was a typical deal. But they hung in there enough that when the lid came off that’s about as good of offense as we’ve run in a long time in the second half because they are very good defensively.”
Another side effect of Jackson’s dominant game was it solidified some thoughts on the recruiting trail. There was a perception that freshmen don’t make a huge impact at KU. Billy Preston’s mother, Nicole Player, seemed to hint at it on Twitter after the game.
“Y’all said Coach Self don’t let FRESHMAN rock but yet Josh Jackson has 20 & 10. I made the right choice for MINE,” she wrote on Twitter.
It was the fifth career double-double for Jackson, but this one stood out considering the stage and comeback effort against the fourth-ranked team in the country.
Of course, there were plenty of talented freshmen on the court Saturday. But Jackson showcased his argument for why he was the top ranked player in the class of 2016.
“(De’Aaron) Fox and (Malik) Monk and (Bam) Adebayo, they are terrific too,” said Self when asked whether Jackson wanted to prove himself. “There’s a lot of terrific guys out there. But I don’t think I would take any of them over No. 11 (Jackson).”