It wasn’t much — a 30-minute run-through in front of youth campers at Kansas’ Horejsi Center — but Tuesday was a bit of an unofficial welcoming for Josh Jackson at KU.
The nation’s No. 1 recruit circled through shooting drills and, at the end, skied high during an impromptu dunk contest, wearing a KU practice jersey for the first time.
Though Bill Self is quick to say no one should make too much of this — it wasn’t an official practice, and this is early June, after all — the KU coach wasn’t backing down expectations for the 6-foot-7 guard in his first season.
“I want him to be the best freshman in the country,” Self said Tuesday. “I really think he has a chance to impact us as much as any freshman can impact any program.
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“Obviously, he’s got to knock the rust off, get stronger. There’s a lot of things he needs to do to put himself in a position to be that, but certainly, that’s our goal for him, and I think that’s the goal for himself too.”
Jackson, who arrived on campus Monday, has often been compared to former KU player Andrew Wiggins as a tall wing who thrives in transition, is a strong defender and has a developing jumpshot.
Wiggins, though, had more of a quiet nature. Self has seen something different from Jackson in his first two days.
“Surprisingly, to me, he’s very, very humble and I would say responsible, disciplined. I figured that recruiting him and reputation-wise, he’d be kind of rough around the edges,” Self said. “He’s pretty refined in so many ways. Now his game needs to become more refined, but off the court, he’s got a personality. He’s smart. He’s ridiculously bright, articulate, makes an unbelievable first impression.”
Word had gotten around to Self by Tuesday that Jackson had already won over many of his teammates, as he didn’t wait for others to talk to him. Instead, he walked up and introduced himself.
“He’s one of those kind of guys,” Self said. “I think his personality’s going to be pretty infectious.”
It also was a first day for Rivals’ 31st-ranked recruit Udoka Azubuike, a 6-foot-11, 270-pound center who appears to weigh more than that.
“I don’t know if you guys could tell, he’s really big and strong and athletic. He’s a big young man,” Self said. “I don’t think I’ve ever had anybody who has as many physical tools as what he has from a post-man position. He’s got a lot of things you can’t teach, and certainly, he’s very athletic.”
Freshman Mitch Lightfoot and transfer Evan Maxwell are the other newcomers on campus. The only player not in Lawrence is Svi Mykhailiuk, who will be competing for internationally for his native Ukraine this summer.
Ole Miss transfer Dwight Coleby, who sat out last year with a redshirt, also went through drills though he hasn’t been cleared to play in games. Coleby tore his ACL during a team workout last September, and Self said the team hoped to have him up to full speed in the next month.
▪ KU also announced Tuesday that Late Night in the Phog would be Saturday, Oct. 1 at Allen Fieldhouse. The event traditionally has taken place on Fridays to not coincide with KU football, though this year KU plays at Texas Tech on Thursday, Sept. 29.