Josh Jackson’s trademark jersey No. 11 isn’t available for his use during his upcoming rookie season with the NBA’s Phoenix Suns.
That number is occupied by veteran Suns guard Brandon Knight, a former University of Kentucky standout who will make $13.6 million during the 2017-18 season to overall No. 4 draft pick Jackson’s $5.1 million.
Needing to come up with new digits for his uniform, Jackson, a 6-foot-8 former Kansas wing, selected No. 99 for his NBA summer league debut on Friday night in Las Vegas.
“I wore 99 back in high school when I was in the ninth grade AAU season,” Detroit native Jackson said, appearing on NBA.com’s “The Starters” show after scoring 18 points and grabbing eight boards in the Suns’ 89-85 victory over former KU guard Frank Mason’s Sacramento Kings.
“It was the last number I wore before I wore 11. I couldn’t wear 11 this year, so I was, ‘All right, I’m going to wear 99.’’’
Jackson hit 6 of 17 shots Friday, missing his only two three-point tries. He cashed 6 of 7 free throws in 34-minutes. He has impressed the Suns with his defense in early summer-league workouts and again in Friday’s game.
“He’s very active on both ends of the court,” Suns point guard Tyler Ulis told Azcentral.com, “whether it’s crashing the boards or locking in defensively. He’s tough-minded.”
“He’s just a defensive presence,” Suns forward Dragan Bender told Azcentral.com.
“He’s a competitor. He has a fire to him,” forward Marquese Chriss added.
Noted Phoenix summer league coach Marlon Garnett: “One of our goals for him is him being the X factor. He’ll take on a leadership role. Obviously, he’s one of our high picks. We have good expectation for him, but it’s not like we’re going to try and put pressure on him. We kind of want to let him get a feel for it, get his feet wet. I think he’ll be just fine.”
Jackson told “The Starters” panel of four reporters he was “a little bit nervous” for his pro debut. “As the game went on I had to realize it was just another game.”
First pitch flop
“The Starters” panel showed Jackson a video of his errant first pitch before a June 23 Arizona Diamondbacks baseball game against the Phillies.
Jackson fired the pitch wide of his target all the way back to the screen.
Arizona Cardinals first-round draft pick Haason Reddick, who was standing next to Jackson and throwing to a different catcher, completed his toss successfully into the catcher’s mitt.
“In my defense, I’ve never stood on the mound and thrown a baseball before, never before,” Jackson said with a laugh.
Mason says opener ‘exciting’
Former KU point guard Frank Mason, who is wearing No. 15 with the Kings instead of his college number 0 (former Kentucky forward Willie Cauley-Stein has 00), was guarded by Jackson on a possession or two during the summer league opener for both players.
The 5-11 Mason scored four points on 2-of-9 shooting with four rebounds, two assists and two turnovers in 17 minutes.
“Exciting,” Mason said of his first game in the pros in an interview with ESPN.
His goal in summer league? “To compete at a high level,” Mason said, “play unselfish, don’t try to force anything, do what got you here and be a great teammate.”
Selden hits game-winner
Former Kansas guard Wayne Selden, who recently signed a two-year deal with the Memphis Grizzlies, scored 28 points with six rebounds and two assists in Saturday’s 91-88 Las Vegas Summer League victory over Washington. He hit 10 of 20 shots, including 4 of 6 from three. Selden converted a fadeaway jumper while being fouled with 2.3 seconds left.
Minnesota’s Ellis blanked
Former KU forward Perry Ellis missed three shots and did not score while grabbing three rebounds in Minnesota’s 97-72 Las Vegas summer league loss to Toronto on Saturday. He played 12 minutes.
Second-year pro Ellis has a contract to play in Sydney, Australia this season if he does not make the roster of an NBA team. … Former KU forward Julian Wright scored five points and grabbed four rebounds while playing 15 minutes in Utah’s 72-63 loss to Portland on Saturday. Wright, 30, who played in the NBA four years and the past six seasons overseas, is trying to make it back in the NBA with the Jazz.
Barrett, Canada shock Team USA
The R.J. Barrett-led Canadian Under 19 team stunned Team USA, 99-87, in Saturday’s World Cup semifinals in Egypt. Barrett, a 6-7 junior from Montverde (Fla.) Academy, who may reclassify to the Class of 2018 from the Class of 2019, scored 38 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and dished five assists before fouling out with 2:55 left.
“The reality was, one kid really went crazy, and then the rest of their kids did what they did, so hats off to them. Congratulate Canada, they deserved to win the game,” said Kentucky coach John Calipari, the coach of Team USA, after the game.
Barrett, the No. 1-rated player in the Class of 2019, is being recruited by Kansas, Arizona, UCLA, USC, Kentucky, Texas, UNLV, South Carolina, Illinois, Duke, Oregon and Michigan and others.
The U.S. which won the 2013 and 2015 U19 World Cups, will meet Spain for the bronze medal on Sunday. Canada and Italy will play for the gold. Former KU players Danny Manning (coach, Wake Forest) and Tad Boyle (Colorado) are assistant coaches for Team USA.