Leading up to next week’s NBA Draft, many have scrutinized the merits of Josh Jackson’s basketball skills and debated just how high those attributes should carry him up the big board of a loaded rookie class.
The defense, passing and athleticism Jackson displayed during his one season at Kansas make him worthy of a top pick, but every time someone takes a deep dive into his draftability, his off-the-court stumbles from his time in Lawrence come up, too.
As the Journal-World reported in May, the 20-year-old prospect reached a diversion agreement in a case of criminal damage to property, which included writing a letter of apology and anger management classes.
Fielding questions from the media for the first time since then earlier this week in Los Angeles, following his second pre-draft workout with the Lakers, Jackson didn’t mind addressing those mandated classes when a reporter asked him about the matter.
“There is some truth to that. I have been taking an anger management course,” Jackson said. “I’m just about wrapping it up right now. It was just something I had to do and I learned from the mistake that I made. I’m making it through it.”
The 6-foot-8 wing, who could end up playing in L.A. if the Lakers decide to take him with the No. 2 overall pick, said he had learned from the experience.
“One of the biggest things I got out of it was just to worry about the things that I can control and not to worry about the things that I can’t,” said Jackson, who never bristled at any topic thrown at him by media during his brief time with the Jayhawks. “It sounds so simple, but I went home and I thought about that a lot. It made a huge amount of sense to me, because there’s a lot of things in this world that we can’t control, yet frustrate us. But you just can’t worry about them too much.”
Jackson, no doubt, has answered questions on the matter every time he has spoken with an NBA decision-maker over the past couple of months. And franchises all have ways of performing in-depth background checks on incoming rookies, especially those who could soon become the young face of the team. Owners and management don’t want to invest their money or the organization’s future in a person who will bring them unnecessary headaches.
It doesn’t appear teams are too worried about Jackson the human being, despite his mistakes. If they were, you would hear predraft reports of his stock dropping and teams leaning toward staying away from him.
With a week to go before the big night in Brooklyn, if anything, Jackson is trending upward, challenging UCLA’s Lonzo Ball for the No. 2 spot. The way he handled the questions regarding the anger management class that accompanied his diversion is a sign he’s addressing his maturity, as well as his game, which will only impress the NBA teams that are paying very close attention.
It turns out the Josh Jackson to Los Angeles buzz was just starting to hum when the one-and-done Kansas standout canceled a workout with Boston the week before the NBA Draft. Less than 24 hours later, Jackson showed up Tuesday at the Lakers’ practice facility for an examination with the Celtics’ historical rival.
A possible draft target for L.A., which owns the No. 2 pick, Jackson told media following the session he was excited about working out for the Lakers for the second time in a six-day span.
“I was all for it. Of course, I’m not gonna tell them no,” Jackson said. “It was just an honor to be here today. I just want to thank the whole organization for having me.”
The 20-year-old wing who displayed his versatility on both ends of the court throughout his lone season with the Jayhawks met with and played in front of Lakers legend and president of basketball operations Magic Johnson, head coach Luke Walton and other members of the organization the previous week, too. That was in Sacramento, with Jackson’s trainer, and more on his terms.
“But today I kind of got out of my comfort zone a little bit working out with their training staff,” Jackson said. “I thought both went pretty good.”
In the mind of the 6-foot-8 prospect from Detroit, he felt in better shape for workout No. 2, and his objective for the on-court job interview was to provide proof that he’s addressed some of his perceived weaknesses as a player, such as 3-point shooting and ball-handling.
“A lot of things people know I can do. I’m athletic, long, lanky,” the 203-pound athlete with a 6-9 3/4 wingspan said, “but I’m just trying to show that I’ve improved since the end of the season at Kansas.”
From the moment the Lakers secured the No. 2 pick via the draft lottery, many assumed the organization would select UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball in that spot — right after the Celtics presumably take Washington guard Markelle Fultz at No. 1. But given the Lakers’ interest in meeting with Jackson a second time (they reportedly are trying to do the same with Ball), the incoming rookie was asked whether his chances of playing for L.A. seem to be improving.
“It was definitely more of a ‘come in, try to impress them.’ And hopefully I impressed them enough,” Jackson replied. “But they can’t look past any guy in this draft because we’re all really, really talented, and I think we all bring a lot to the table.”
Fultz, Jackson, Ball and Kentucky point guard De’Aaron Fox, who worked out for the Lakers before Jackson on Tuesday, all seem to be coveted talents. The rumors and conjecture surrounding who ends up where only will ramp up between now and the June 22 draft.
While the two best teams in the NBA clashed in The Finals Monday night, news of one top incoming rookie canceling a pre-draft workout with a preeminent franchise sneaked out.
ESPN’s Jeff Goodman came through with the surprising scoop: One-and-done Kansas wing Josh Jackson scrapped a workout with the Boston Celtics, who own the No. 1 overall pick in next week’s NBA Draft.
This past Thursday, Jackson met with and played in front of the Los Angeles Lakers, who will pick No. 2. So why would he decide against displaying his skills for the Celtics?
It’s not as if Jackson is in Lonzo Ball’s overpriced Big Baller Brand shoes, with his father appearing on every sports-based argument show that will have him, claiming the Lakers are the best fit.
Jackson is fierce on the court, and you know he would take great pride in being selected first overall. So obviously there are other factors at play.
Perhaps Jackson’s management has advised him against a session with Boston because Washington’s Markelle Fultz has emerged as a lock for the No. 1 spot. Or maybe, as many have speculated since Goodman reported the cancellation, a team (conceivably the Lakers) already has made a promise to Jackson that it will draft him.
Who knows? The only conclusion we can really draw from this is there’s little chance of Jackson ending up with the Celtics, unless the team trades down in the draft, with Jackson becoming a piece of a more enticing collection of assets than Fultz alone.
Now it seems — barring some as of yet unforeseen trade, of course — Jackson is bound for either the Lakers at No. 2 or Philadelphia at No. 3. Neither would be a bad place to start for the 20-year-old talent from Detroit. Both the Lakers and Sixers have struggled the past few years. But the NBA’s structure sets such organizations up with high lottery odds, enabling them to stockpile young, talented players.
As a Laker or Sixer, Jackson would join a core built for the future, and that’s certainly not a bad thing, considering Golden State and Cleveland seem bound to meet in The Finals as long as LeBron James plays for the Cavaliers and Kevin Durant and Steph Curry are Warriors.
Maybe three years from now, LeBron finally shows some rust, just as the Sixers are on the come up with Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Jackson leading the way.
Or, possibly, the Lakers really do prefer Jackson to Ball, L.A. gets Paul George next year and the purple and gold are back to their yearly playoff runs sooner than everybody thought.
Either way, Jackson will be just fine — even if he doesn’t get to join a Celtics organization much closer to contending for a title.
The first five-star prospect to ever commit to the University of Kansas football program, New Orleans prep receiver Devonta Jason has heard the murmurs and seen the skepticism floating around the recruiting world in response to the non-binding pledge he made back in February.
That much was clear in Jason’s comments to Bleacher Report, for a feature titled: Do You Believe 5-star WR Devonta Jason is Kansas-bound? LSU and Alabama don’t.
"People were asking me if they gave me something," Jason told Bleacher Report’s Adam Kramer. "Everybody was going crazy. They wanted to know what I was thinking. I'm just going to be me."
A 6-foot-3 rising senior at New Orleans’ Landry-Walker High, Jason, of course, is the marquee prospect in third-year KU head coach David Beaty’s Louisiana-heavy 2018 recruiting class. Rivals ranks Jason as the 22nd-best player in the country, and considering KU’s current seven-year streak of winning three games or fewer, many outsiders scratch their heads or scoff at the idea of Jason officially signing with the Jayhawks months from now.
According to Jason, a coach from another program texted him “really?” upon hearing of his verbal commitment to Beaty, associate head coach and Louisiana native Tony Hull and Kansas.
"It really didn't get to me," Jason told Bleacher Report. "I know they went 2-10 and 0-12 the year before. It's really not about what school you go to or being a big fish in a big pond. It's about your future and making an impact on your life. It's about being known and recognized."
Given that most prospects of Jason’s caliber typically sign with the likes of Alabama, Florida State, Clemson, Ohio State or some other renowned program, Rivals’ national recruiting director Mike Farrell characterized Jason as a “unicorn.”
Farrell explained: “I’ve never seen one in person, and I don't know if they exist. If this sticks, it will prove that they do."
Hull, who also helped lure commitments from Jason’s current Landry-Walker teammates, four-star cornerback Corione Harris and three-star defensive end Josh Smith, as well as former L-W standout Mike Lee, gets credit for making this unique recruiting situation possible. Jason said he connected with Hull when he visited Lawrence.
“Being as far away as I was,” he told Bleacher Report, “it still felt like home.”
As Jason had stated previously, he intends to graduate from Landry-Walker early and enroll in college for the spring semester of 2018, ahead of his freshman year of college football.
The Washington Wizards are one of the best teams among the also-rans that comprise the NBA’s
LeBron Conference — sorry, that should read: Eastern Conference. But for all the skills D.C.’s superbly talented backcourt combo of John Wall and Bradley Beal bring to the floor, the Wizards are in obvious need of a backup point guard.
And it just so happens someone who would fit the bill came through Washington’s practice facility on Monday.
His name is Frank Mason III. He’s a national player of the year at the college level. He values toughness and winning. What’s more: he even has a personal history with the Wizards.
“I watched them a lot growing up and now to actually be out here working out in front of everyone that’s going to decide whether they want to pick me or not, I think it’s a really cool experience,” Mason told reporters after his latest pre-NBA Draft workout, roughly two and a half hours from his hometown of Petersburg, Va.
Why would a team that reached the second round of the playoffs and already has two high-priced guards need to draft a 5-foot-11 point guard not expected to be worthy of a first-round pick? The answer to that question came in the playoffs, when neither Brandon Jennings nor Trey Burke provided any punch to the Wizards’ bench combinations. Wall and Beal had to play 39 minutes a game. By the end of a seven-game, second-round series against Boston, both looked too gassed to produce at their typical high-octane levels.
Both Jennings and Burke hit free agency July 1, so Washington doesn’t even have another legitimate point guard under contract for the 2017-18 season. If the Wizards want a relatively cheap answer, drafting Mason in the second round on June 22 would be a low-risk fix. Even if the Wizards fear Mason — currently projected as the 48th pick at Draft Express — won’t be around when it’s their turn at No. 52, second-round slots are easily acquired on draft night, so Washington could move up to make it happen.
Mason wouldn’t have to play a lot of minutes for Washington, because Wall and Beal are so productive and integral to the Wizards’ success. But that would be ideal for Mason, too. In his senior year at Kansas, head coach Bill Self needed all the point guard could give him for 36.1 minutes a game. Obviously his opponents will be far more talented at the NBA level, but if Mason can throw every ounce of energy into 15 or so minutes a game it should highlight his best qualities in his rookie season.
The college star described what he considers some of his most impactful skills after his workout with the Wizards.
“Just my quickness. Just getting around guys and kind of finishing before they get a chance to contest or block the shot. And other than that just getting my body into them and throwing them off balance so I can get the shot over them,” Mason said of how he can score despite his below-average (by NBA standards) height.
“Just how consistently I shoot the ball and my play-making skills,” he added, “and my toughness and my defensive mindset — taking pride and just trying to get a stop every possession.”
There, of course, are other avenues — free agency and the trade market — for Washington to acquire a reliable backup point guard. But why go for a cheap veteran on the down side of his career when you could go get a 23-year-old leader with a history of proving his doubters wrong?
Mason cited his loyalty and other attributes to The Washington Post’s Candace Buckner when explaining why a team should value his experience and the success he had at KU.
“How I’m a team-first guy. It’s always ‘we’ instead of ‘I,’ and if we win, the pie’s big enough for everyone,” Mason said.
Sounds like someone ready to complement an outstanding starting NBA backcourt.
The days of NBA commissioner Adam Silver shaking the hands of one-and-done draftees from Kansas, such as Andrew Wiggins, Kelly Oubre Jr. and Josh Jackson, could be over in the not-too-distant future.
Since 2006, the league has not allowed players to enter the NBA Draft directly out of high school, meaning most of America’s elite basketball prospects end up playing at least one season of college basketball. But Silver said during a press conference at the NBA Finals he — and many others impacted by the current structure — would like to put a “better system” in place.
The topic of the league’s current age requirement — 19 years old and one year removed from high school graduation — came up, Silver pointed out, during the latest collective bargaining negotiations. The NBA’s formal position, Silver stated, is in favor of raising the minimum age to 20. The NBA’s players association wants it lowered to 18, allowing the most coveted rookies to maximize their career earning potential.
The NBA’s owners and players tabled the issue when the sides last got together. Silver said in Oakland, Calif., on Thursday further study on the matter is needed.
“This year the projection is that we're going to have 20 one-and-done players coming, actually being drafted this year. When we first changed the minimum age from 18 to 19, the following year in 2006 we had two one-and-done players,” Silver began. “So my sense is it's not working for anyone. It's not working certainly from the college coaches and athletic directors I hear from. They're not happy with the current system.”
From the NBA’s perspective, its leader said franchises aren’t happy about the present one-and-done format, either. Silver related the feeling among organizations that the youngest incoming rookies aren’t arriving with the training teams expect to see out of top picks.
What’s more, Silver said veteran players have voiced their concerns that rookies often don’t enter the league game-ready, the way some of them did out of college.
“And we're also seeing a dichotomy in terms of the international players,” he added. “They're coming in, when they come in at 19, many of them have been professional for up to three years before they come into the league and have a very different experience than what we're seeing from American players coming through our college programs.”
With all sides apparently unsatisfied, Silver plans to get together with the interested parties — “whether it be the colleges, the, of course, our union, agents, lots of points of view out there, and see if we can come up with a better system,” he said.
Asked for a timetable regarding said age-requirement discussions, the commissioner anticipated they would take place over the course of the coming year.
“To be honest, I'm not standing here today saying I have the perfect solution,” Silver admitted.
The issue is far from resolved, but it appears Bill Self and other top college coaches might one day have either the benefit of keeping top prospects such as Wiggins and Jackson for two seasons — or return to the days of not recruiting the NBA-bound LeBron James and Kobe Bryant types.
Now less than three weeks away from discovering what’s next for his basketball career, Kansas All-American guard Frank Mason III already has bounced around from Orlando, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Utah and Sacramento for pre-draft workouts. And at every stop along the way, Mason knows neither the prolific numbers he put up for the Jayhawks as a senior, nor his stash of national player of the year trophies mean anything to the NBA teams appraising his pro potential.
The 5-foot-11 point guard from Petersburg, Va., arrives at every on-court job interview with an impressive portfolio, featuring a substantial body of work from his four seasons at KU, but Mason told a group of reporters in Sacramento he’s gotten over the fact that his 20.9 points, 4.2 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 47.1% 3-point shooting this past year with the Jayhawks might not be valued greatly by potential employers.
“I focus on what I can control and that’s just how the NBA is,” Mason said. “My job is to get better and go out and compete every day and just focus on those things, and everything else will take care of itself.”
Likewise, the 23-year-old prospect knows regardless of which team selects him — Mason is projected as a late second-round pick at the June 22 draft — he isn’t walking into a situation where he will play as much or be asked to contribute in a fashion similar to what Kansas coach Bill Self demanded of his star guard.
“It’s a process,” Mason said, when asked whether he could pick up in the NBA with the success he experienced in college. “I just want to enjoy that and focus on the things I can control.”
While showcasing his strengths in NBA facilities across the nation of late, Mason doesn’t mind the rigors that come leading up to the draft, saying he enjoys “getting in front of every team, every owner, GM, head coach, just the whole staff and just trying to impress them and show what I do best.”
Asked what teams have found most intriguing about his play, Mason didn’t mention speed or shooting or driving and creating. Instead, itt has been a familiar intangible helping him stand out.
“My toughness. I think that’s what every team’s been intrigued on from me,” Mason said, “and I just want to continue to do that and show them who I am.”
Those who watched him develop during the past four seasons at KU know all about Mason’s grit, and because he finished his college career as the nation’s top player at an elite program, he is set up to embark on an NBA career that few would have envisioned when he arrived in Lawrence as a relatively unheralded recruit.
“It gave me more opportunities. More teams started to like me,” Mason responded to reporters earlier in the week, in Salt Lake City, Utah, when asked how playing at Kansas helped him. “But, you know, it’s a different level. A lot of great players … national player of the year doesn’t mean anything anymore, so it’s like a fresh start. Now I’m just working harder to get even better.”
More Mason Q&A nuggets
- In Sacramento, Mason, as usual, worked out with a small group that included other college standouts. A reporter asked him whether it was tough running into an Oregon Duck — Jordan Bell — at the session, given the outcome of KU’s Elite Eight meeting with Bell’s team.
That evoked a rare smile and chuckle out of the often stoic Mason.
“Not at all, man. This is actually our second workout together, and we actually played on the same team at the NBA Combine,” Mason said. “I think that was the past and it was a great experience. We lost the game, but overall it was just a fun experience in college.”
- Leading up to the draft, not every prospect has to travel the country in search of his first NBA contract. In Utah, Mason was asked whether he had participated at any workouts with KU teammate Josh Jackson.
“Josh is a lottery pick and he’s not doing too many workouts,” Mason said. “But I wish the best for him.”
- During the next two-plus weeks, Mason will keep racking up frequent flier mileage as he meets with more franchises. He said he has “five or six” more lined up before the draft.
Forget Markelle Fultz. Ignore Lonzo Ball. Get out of here with that Jayson Tatum noise. Pay no attention to the De’Aaron Fox buzz.
ESPN NBA analyst Jalen Rose has seen the most valuable incoming rookie. And his name is Josh Jackson.
Rose, a Detroit native like Jackson, brought up the most promising Kansas basketball talent in the draft during a broadcast of the show he co-hosts, “Jalen & Jacoby.” And Rose did so while discussing whether Boston, owner of the No. 1 overall pick, will draft Fultz, the versatile guard who spent his one-and-done season at Washington, or trade the pick in a move to land an established all-star.
“If I’m the Celtics, and they’re drafting for somebody else, don’t be surprised if that team wants them to take (Jackson),” Rose said. “I’m looking at you, Indiana.”
The Pacers, with whom Rose played for six seasons during his NBA career, are rumored to be looking into trade options for all-star forward Paul George before he hits free agency in 2018. Whether Jackson ends up with that franchise or another, Rose proclaimed the 6-foot-8 forward who wowed spectators and scouts alike with the Jayhawks is an NBA rookie to watch out for next season.
“He’s gonna be a player,” Rose said of Jackson, who averaged 16.3 points, 7.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists for KU. “I haven’t really decided who I’m gonna compare him to, but he’s gonna be a lockdown defender that can play multiple positions. He’s an improved jump-shooter. And he has more bounce to the ounce at the hoop.”
Rose wasn’t done there, going on to praise Jackson’s toughness.
“See, that’s one of the things I look for in a player that ain’t a measurable that’s gonna be on the stat sheet,” Rose added. “And so, if I’m picking number one, just in a vacuum, regardless of need, if I’m thinking I’m taking the best player that’s actually who I personally would take first overall.”
According to Rose, the 20-year-old Jackson is the “most valuable” rookie in the 2017 draft class.
“When we’re watching basketball, in November, December, he’s gonna be a guy out there (getting thrown) in for minutes, SC Top 10 just banged on somebody catching a lob,” Rose predicted. “Like that’s gonna be his trajectory. Other players are gonna have terrific situations, hopefully, that they can be productive in. But if he falls in the right spot…”
At DraftExpress.com, Jackson is holding steady as the projected No. 3 pick, for Philadelphia. But all three teams at the top of the board — Boston, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Sixers — have seen their names come up in draft trade rumors. So there’s a chance Jackson might not necessarily end up playing for the Celtics, Lakers or Philly, or even the teams who should hope he drops out of the top three, Phoenix and Sacramento.
David Beaty’s already hyped 2018 recruiting class for Kansas football now has a five-star prospect in its midst.
The Jayhawks haven’t snagged another commitment from a coveted rising high school senior. The boost, instead, comes courtesy of one of the young men who ignited the so-called “Louisianimal” frenzy in the first place. A four-star wide receiver when he first announced in February his intentions to sign with KU, New Orleans’ Devonta Jason has since impressed enough within the recruiting world for Rivals to bump him up to five-star status.
The latest Rivals 100 rankings for 2018, unveiled Tuesday, list Jason, a 6-foot-3 wideout from Landry-Walker High, as the No. 22 senior in the country, with an extra star next to his name. Jon Kirby of Jayhawk Slant said this makes Jason the first five-star prospect ever to commit to KU.
When Jason visited Kansas nearly four months ago and — along with prep teammate Corione Harris, a four-star cornerback — committed to Beaty, Louisiana native Tony Hull and the Jayhawks, Rivals rated the talented receiver as the 35th-best player in the country.
So what has changed since then, considering Jason’s senior year at Landry-Walker is still months away?
“The Kansas commit spent the spring making highlight reel catches at camps and 7-on-7 tournaments across the country, proving that he belongs in the five-star class,” Rivals’ Woody Wommack explained. “Jason has everything from measurables to on-field and camp production on his résumé, and his size and catch radius makes him one of the nation's best. Kansas has never signed a five-star prospect in the Rivals.com era, but now has a chance to do so.”
Only three Class of 2018 receivers in the country are currently ranked ahead of Jason in the Rivals 100.
“His ability at his size to go up and get the ball and really outplay defenders has been really impressive,” Wommack detailed in a Rivals video highlight package of Jason. “You know, he’s not the quickest wide receiver in the world, and that’s what some people are concerned about, but we feel like he can get enough separation, especially when he needs to be. And he’s a guy that may not light it up on the clock, but when the lights come on in a game situation, he’s super-productive. We’ve seen it on film, we’ve seen it in person and now we’ve seen it at several elite camps.”
Jason and many of the country’s other top high school seniors will soon converge to compete and prove themselves at the Rivals 100 Five-Star Challenge, June 9 and 10, in Indianapolis.
KU’s 2018 recruiting class, highlighted by Jason and Harris, currently ranks 21st nationally, according to Rivals.
In 2013, Frank Mason III showed up at the University of Kansas as a 5-foot-11, 185-pound freshman and, given the lack of recruiting buzz around him, a bit of an afterthought. At the time nobody other than Mason envisioned the quiet, compact point guard from Petersburg, Va., transforming into the consensus national player of the year of serious NBA prospect.
In just his second game with the Jayhawks, Mason showed flashes of the toughness that would one day make him a college great, scoring 15 points in a win over Duke. But he didn’t become an overwhelming talent on the floor until his senior season.
Becoming an authentic 3-point marksman proved a pivotal component of his overhaul. Mason recently sat down with DraftExpress.com for a one-on-one interview ahead of his ongoing NBA Draft preparations and his vastly improved 3-pointer featured prominently in the workout footage that accompanied the Q & A.
Mason scored 20.9 points a game as a senior for KU because he could score anywhere on the floor — he shot career-bests of 49% from the floor, 47.1% on 3-pointers and 79.4% at the free-throw line.
It was that long-rage accuracy that caught the attention of scouts and decision-makers in the NBA, though. Just in time to make him a more viable pro prospect, Mason knocked down 82 of 174 3-pointers as a senior — after making 85 of 211 (a respectable 40.1%) combined during his sophomore and junior seasons.
“It’s just something I’ve got better at over the years,” Mason told DraftExpress, when discussing his 3-point precision, “and I think the game was just a little too fast for me my first year in college. So I was kind of rushing a lot. And I just kind of got at my own pace and it kind of got better.”
Mason’s emergence as a dynamic play-maker and shooter at the college level forced NBA teams to take him seriously as a prospect, and weeks ahead of the June 22 draft, DraftExpress projects him as the 48th pick.
The 23-year-old Kansas star still has numerous workouts lined up with franchises around the country before one is expected to snatch up his rights late in the second round. Mason told DraftExpress how he plans to make the most of his in-person auditions.
“I can show them how athletic I am, what a good defender I am, a good leader, a good play-maker and how much I improved on my jump shot,” Mason said.
At this stage of his development as a basketball player, Mason thinks his 3-point shot should only help his ability to attack off the dribble, get to the paint and create shots for his teammates. But his time at KU also helped his on-court personality.
“I was a guy that really led by example, but over the years I worked on being more verbal and vocal and I think I got better at that,” Mason said, while describing various attributes that help make him an effective point guard.
Mason’s stock has gradually trended upward over the past several months. We shouldn’t be surprised if that continues in the weeks ahead and Mason ends up an early- or mid-second round draft pick.