Kansas basketball coach Bill Self has had plenty of nice things to say about freshman sensation Josh Jackson during the team’s current, five-week homestand.
Here’s a sampling of the superlatives as the No. 3-ranked and 8-1 Jayhawks prepare for Saturday’s 2:15 p.m. home game against 5-4 Nebraska — the eighth of nine straight KU will play in Allen Fieldhouse or the Sprint Center.
“Certainly from a talent standpoint and an athletic and competitive standpoint, he’s as good as we’ve had,” Self said of Jackson, Rivals.com’s No. 1-rated prospect in the Class of 2016. The 6-foot-8 Detroit native is second on KU in scoring at 14.6 points per game, first in rebounding at 6.1 a game, tied for first with 15 steals and is second with 10 blocks and third with 32 assists.
“He is more of a complete player maybe than some of the other kids we’ve had in here. Making the game easier for others, he’s about as good as I’ve seen. Blocking shots, altering, rebounding, pitching ahead in transition, he’s about as good as I’ve seen.”
Never miss a local story.
There’s more …
“Probably what he does best is pass. His vision is probably the best thing. He’s shown when he catches the ball inside the zone he’s really effective. Julian (Wright) was the best we’ve had at that. Josh is not far off, if not already there. Defensively he is getting to the point he’s becoming kind of a dog where he can be a lockdown defender,” Self said.
Finally, regarding the mental part of the game. …
“Josh is one of those guys who is even though he’s really, really bright, he knows he doesn’t know. It’s amazing to me, when we do scouting report, he hangs on every word,” Self said. “I ask Josh a lot of questions sometimes to see if he’d know the answer, and half the time he does and half the time he doesn’t and he’s totally intrigued on why he doesn’t. He’s one of those guys that wants to know those things. That’s one of the things that impresses me the most about him is he wants to get better.”
Jackson’s deficiencies thus far have been three-point shooting, 5 of 19 for 26.3 percent, and free-throwing, 26 of 45 for 57.8 percent.
Self says those numbers should improve without the coaches having to tinker with Jackson’s shooting form.
“He has a little bit of an unorthodox way to get the ball to this position, but once he gets it here,” Self said of eye level, “it’s as good as Devonté’s (Graham). It’s as good as Frank’s (Mason). It’s as good as anybody else once it gets here.
“Can he do things better with his shot? Absolutely. Can it become quicker? Absolutely. But I think sometimes people look at it as a negative to him getting it to the spot when we should be looking at it as nobody can deny his shot is soft. Nobody can deny his follow through is perfect.
“Now can he tighten it up and do some things differently? Absolutely. But that will probably be on somebody else’s watch. That won’t be on our watch as much. I don’t see a reason why when you have a young man for a very brief period of time why you want to totally cloud his brain with something other than very, very few, simple things.”
In other words, the team that selects Jackson in the 2017 NBA Draft will be the one to make any adjustments to shooting style.
“I personally like his shot. I said all along, one of the best things he does since he’s been here is shoot the ball compared to what I thought it could be and it’s going to continue to get better,” Self said, adding, “his best ball is down the road as he gets more comfortable. His natural instinct is to be slithery. When he jumps in the air, avoiding contact, he’s really good at that.
“We’ve got to figure a way to post him more. He has to shoot free throws better, needs to get where he is stretching the defense a little bit better.”
While acknowledging the compliments are nice, Jackson says he’s far from a finished product.
“My mechanics could get a lot better. My confidence in the shot could get better. The biggest thing is having confidence in it,” Jackson said.
“I will try to continue to get better. I see how hard the other guys go in practice, how bad they want to win. I don’t want to be the guy on the team who didn’t try hard enough. As long as they are trying I’m trying. If they are fighting I’m fighting.”
Lucas health update
KU senior forward Landen Lucas was held out of a short practice Wednesday to rest his strained oblique.
“He’s close enough (to 100 percent) that he doesn’t want to take himself out of anything. We made him not practice yesterday so he can limit his exposures to getting hit,” Self said. “We feel like if he can get through Saturday you could rest him until maybe Wednesday next week because we have a week off with finals. We feel he could be close to 100 percent in the next week or so.”
Of his injury, Lucas said: “It’s nothing serious. Just trying to work through it. Every season you go through little nicks and stuff. It’s just another one of those. I’m getting better, definitely feeling more comfortable on the court.”
Lucas explains tweet
Lucas, who has been off to a slow start this season and been subjected to some negative comments regarding his play on Twitter, posted on Nov. 23: “The level of hate. My goodness.”
He explained his reasoning behind the tweet Thursday.
“The tweet was more in light because I’ve gone through it so many times. By now it’s kind of almost comical to me because you’ll see the ups and downs from an outside perspective. It doesn’t really get to me any more. But personally I have been on myself probably just as hard or harder than some of the other people. I just need to make sure I’m focused on the end result,” Lucas said.
Headed to Chiefs game
Self said he was looking forward to attending the Chiefs-Raiders game after practice Thursday night. He indicated he’d be in one of the suites, not in the stands on a very cold night.