Key Question: Is Justin Jackson Ready to be UNC’s Star?


Today Keeping It Heel answers this key question — is Justin Jackson Ready to be UNC’s next star player?

Justin Jackson had a stellar freshman season at UNC. During the 2014-2015 season, Jackson went from being a freshman struggling to learn the system to being a dependable player who led Carolina in scoring several times. His quick rise to stardom represents one of several factors that will ease the departure of veteran player J.P. Tokoto. In addition, his high basketball IQ makes Jackson a huge reason for rebuilding Carolina’s program.

“Jackson is poised to take over the team next season. Paige may be the captain of the team, but Jackson will be one of the primary scorers.”

Jackson played the majority of his freshman season as a shooting guard. He started alongside point guard Marcus Paige in the backcourt a great deal. In the postseason, UNC head coach Roy Williams experimented with “small ball” lineups that placed Jackson at the small forward and power forward positions. Although Jackson stands tall at 6’8,” he weighs 193 pounds. He is tall enough to man the post, but he doesn’t have the muscle to bang down low; hence, the “small ball” label when Jackson mans the low post.

Jackson is smart enough to know his areas of improvement. This summer, he is in the weight room bulking up. Jackson’s strength and conditioning coach is Rashad Ford, Memorial Hermann Ironman Sports Medicine Institute. Expect to see Jackson spend more time at the four (power forward position), mainly as a “stretch four.” This gives Carolina the ability to spread the court, run the floor at a high pace and score quickly.

North Carolina Tar Heels
North Carolina Tar Heels /

North Carolina Tar Heels

Adding muscle to his slender frame will complement Jackson’s style of play quite well. He cannot be pigeonholed as a shooter, because he will blow by his man and pull off a “tear drop” shot if a defender presses up on him. If you leave Jackson open on the perimeter, he will drain the three. The only thing to add to his game is the ability to score in the low post. It seems as though this is the direction Jackson is learning towards this summer.

In the 2015 ACC Tournament and NCAA Tournament, Jackson left us with the impression that he was ready to be “the man” at UNC. His highlights include 22-point game against No. 3 ranked (and the ACC Tournament’s No. 1 seed) Virginia Cavaliers. When Carolina lost to the Wisconsin Badgers in the Sweet 16, Jackson led UNC in scoring with 15 points, which included going 6 of 11 from the field and 3 of 3 from three-point range. Jackson also scored Carolina’s last four points against Harvard in the first round. Carolina almost lost to Harvard, until Jackson regained the lead with a dunk on a fast break.

Jackson is poised to take over the team next season. Paige may be the captain of the team, but Jackson will be one of the primary scorers. There is no reason to assume anything less from this young man. In last season’s postseason, Jackson showed that he is capable of taking big shots, leading the team in scoring and being a versatile player. The most important thing Jackson showed last season was that he is coachable. He is willing to improve his game and work hard. This marks the sign of a leader, which he will be during the 2015-2016 season.