Sometimes, life is about timing.
As humans, we compare to what we’ve seen before. And perhaps that’s not fair when it comes to Kansas guard Josh Jackson.
Three years ago, KU fans were able to watch one of the greatest athletes that has played the game. Andrew Wiggins’ father was a former NBA player and his mother was an Olympic track star, giving him extraordinary genes that helped him become a No. 1 pick.
So after Jackson signed with KU, analysts always seemed to hedge. Yeah, he could run and jump. But often, four words would follow that analysis: “He’s no Andrew Wiggins.”
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He’s not. Few are. But that doesn’t mean Jackson’s physical attributes should be overlooked, especially when they’re helping KU win games.
Teammate Mitch Lightfoot pointed out an example Tuesday. A lot was made of Landen Lucas and Frank Mason’s contributions in the final minutes of the Jayhawks’ 67-65 victory over Baylor, but guys in KU’s locker room also were talking about Jackson.
With 2:40 left, he received a pass in the lane from Mason and found himself face to face with 7-footer Jo Lual-Acuil, who ranks 18th nationally in block rate. A showdown at the rim seemed likely.
And then, it never happened. In less than a second, Jackson exploded into a jump, putting down a one-handed slam before Lual-Acuil could extend his right arm.
“He was off the ground before you knew it,” Lightfoot said.
That athleticism has helped Jackson in another unlikely way as well.
Try to think of an example of a Josh Jackson blocked shot. Do you have an image in your mind?
When I asked myself this same question, it was hard to think of an example. Yet, look at the stats, and Jackson is leading the Jayhawks with 32 blocks.
It made me curious: How has Jackson been getting all these rejections? And is there a pattern?
With help from Synergy Sports Technology’s video logs, I looked at each of Jackson’s 32 swats this year. And a few things stood out:
1. All of Jackson’s blocks were with his right hand, and because of that, a majority of them are on the left side of the rim when players have challenged his dominant arm.
2. Most of his blocks were in half-court settings, which surprised me a bit, as I assumed he had more than seven chasedowns.
3. Almost all of his blocks (30 of 32) were in the lane.
Though one of the common concerns about this KU team has been its lack of defensive presence inside, the Jayhawks actually rank 64th in block rate (they were 100th a year ago). They also have posted the Big 12’s second-best two-point percentage defense since league play began.
Whether it’s being noticed or not, Jackson is using his quickness defensively to serve as part of a rim-protection duo alongside Lucas. And it’s working better than most people believe.
No, Jackson is not the best leaper KU has had in the last five years. He’s not Andrew Wiggins.
That doesn’t mean he’s not one of the most gifted players in college basketball this year, though.
And I have a hunch that if Wiggins never came to KU, we might be talking about Jackson’s athleticism a whole lot more.