It’s an award that Justin Jackson will remember forever. The North Carolina recruit was named the John R. Wooden Co-Most Valuable Player at the 2014 McDonald’s All American Game Wednesday. He shared the award with Duke recruit and Chicago native Jahlil Okafor.
A Tar Heel recruit has now won the award three times out of the past five seasons as Harrison Barnes (2010) and James Michael McAdoo (2011) were the others. It’s the sixth time a Tar Heel has won the award in its 36 year history.
Jackson got the scoring started quickly as he grabbed the opening tip and layed it in for the games first points, he was the only Tar Heel to be in the starting lineup and he flourished. He finished with 23 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists. Okafor’s East team held on to win over Jackson’s West team 105-102.
“It’s definitely a huge honor for me,” said Jackson. “I wouldn’t be here without God, that’s the main thing. I’m definitely thankful, it’s a big blessing.”
Jackson also earned the Jack Daly Sportsmanship award at halftime. The award goes to one high school boys and one high school girls player who displays great sportsmanship throughout their season.
The Tar Heels had a total of three recruits in Wednesdays game which was second most to Duke and Kentucky who had four each. Joining Jackson were small forward Theo Pinson and Joel Berry II who also had impressive games against some of the nations best talent.
Pinson finished with 3 points and 3 assists, but got the crowd on its feet with a huge dunk early in the second half. It wasn’t the only time this week that Pinson impressed the crowd with a dunk.
At the Powerade Jam Fest, the 6-foot-6 small forward wowed the crowd with a variety of dunks. His first dunk included him jumping over former Duke star Jay Williams to bring the crowd into a frenzy. Pinson, Jackson and Berry then gave Williams a UNC sweatshirt to which Williams was a fair sport with.
It was Pinson’s second dunk that really brought the creative side out of him. Pinson took a “selfie” in mid-air before slamming the ball. It wasn’t even Pinson’s idea for the selfie, but he rolled with it.
“Stanley Johnson was supposed to do it originally,” said Pinson during Tuesdays media day. “He couldn’t get it down, so I just decided to do it and I got it down. I’m glad the fans enjoyed it.”
For point guard Joel Berry, it was a chance to go up against some of the best point guard recruits on another big stage. Berry handled himself well and looked impressive at times going up against Duke recruit Tyus Jones. Berry finished with 7 points and 4 assists. He played his point guard role in the offense by distributing the ball and running the offense effectively.
“It was a great experience,” said Berry. “I went out there and did what I had to do, as a point guard I was unselfish and gave the ball to the other guys to let them do what they had to do. Overall it was a great experience and I enjoyed myself.”
As far as Jackson winning the MVP, both Pinson and Berry had nothing but praise for their future teammate. “It was great to see Justin get the MVP. This game is all about offense, but he did the little things,” said Berry. “I’m honored to be playing with him next season.”
The trio of UNC recruits will now turn their attention to the Jordan Brand Classic in Brooklyn on April 18th.