Josh Jackson ascended a few stairs just outside Kansas’ practice gym, waiting a few seconds as local reporters swarmed around him for the first time.
Three years ago, another top-ranked recruit — Andrew Wiggins — had stood in the same location for his first KU interview, grinning sheepishly and talking softly while showing off the quiet personality he became known for.
Jackson, who often has been compared to Wiggins basketball-wise, offered a glimpse of his own self Wednesday, joking with reporters and seeming at ease with the cameras pointed in his direction.
“I’m just trying to come here and be a part of a winning team, win as many games as we can,” Jackson said. “Hopefully I fulfill every expectation I have this year.”
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It was only last year when KU coach Bill Self spoke openly about his team needing more personality, a team that dragged at times because some of its best players weren’t outgoing. Eventually, guard Devonte’ Graham stepped in as an emotional leader when it became apparent that Perry Ellis, Frank Mason and Wayne Selden weren’t comfortable speaking up.
Perhaps that won’t be as much of a problem this season with Jackson’s arrival in Lawrence. The 6-foot-7 wing, ranked the No. 1 player in his class, gained a reputation in high school of being a competitor who wasn’t afraid to let opponents know he was playing well or teammates know if they were slacking.
“I picked KU because I felt like it would better me the most, on and off the court, as a man and as a player,” Jackson said. “I felt like the coaching staff around here, I could really trust. I loved all the guys on the team. I felt like they were all playing for the right reasons, and I just got a real family feeling here.”
Self already has been impressed by Jackson in his first three days on campus, using words like “humble,” “responsible” and “disciplined” to describe him. The coach also was happy to hear reports that Jackson had gone out of his way to introduce himself to teammates.
“I felt like I had a lot of expectations to live up to, not only for the media and the outside world, but also the guys within this team and within the gym that I’m in,” Jackson said. “I just didn’t want to let anybody down. I just wanted to show them I can play and I can be helpful to the team this year.”
Jackson showed glimpses of his talent in Wednesday’s camp scrimmage at Horejsi Center, unofficially scoring 21 points that included three-pointers, midrange jumpers and dunks.
He also survived a bit of a scare as he fell hard on his back after taking a drive to the rim and getting fouled by freshman Mitch Lightfoot.
“It wasn’t as bad as it looked,” Jackson said. “I just got the wind knocked out of me. It’s part of basketball.”
For now, Jackson isn’t looking too far into the future, as the projected 2017 lottery pick isn’t interested in talking about next year.
“A lot of people would say that I’m a one-and-done player, but I don’t really view myself that way,” Jackson said. “I think I’ll be here as long as I need to be, until I feel like I’m ready to take that next step. While I’m here, I just want to get as good as I can and win as many games as I can.”
Through three days, Lawrence had felt like home. Jackson was most surprised by the weather, saying the sunny Kansas days reminded him of California.
“I had no idea, but it’s lovely. I love the campus. It’s beautiful. It’s everything I thought it would be,” Jackson said. “Just being here makes me feel even more good about making the choice that I did.”