Prized recruit Justin Jackson was always going to enter North Carolina with big expectations. But those expectations have reached another level since Jackson won co-MVP honors in the McDonald's All-American Game.
Jackson took the award for the East squad, which fell to the West 105-102.
On the strength of 17 points and seven rebounds, big man Jahlil Okafor took the honor for the West. Scout.com's Evan Daniels tweeted that news:
McDonald's AA game MVPs Justin Jackson & Jahlil Okafor pic.twitter.com/f8FfvX5Pa8— Evan Daniels (@EvanDaniels) April 3, 2014
Jackson is a 6'8" wing player with a silky shooting stroke. He knows how to score, and he knows how to do it efficiently.
In its composite rankings, 247Sports has Jackson as the No. 1 small forward in the class and the 10th-best recruit overall.
How many points per game will Jackson average next year?
Given North Carolina's lack of outside shooting last season, Jackson has had hopes pinned on him by North Carolina fans from the get-go. You only have to watch him shoot a handful of jumpers to know he can be a marksman.
Still, given that he checks in at under 190 pounds, all expectations were tempered by the fact that it was likely going to take him a while to gain the strength needed to be a featured scorer at the college level.
His lack of bulk didn't slow him down Wednesday. Granted, defense is not a huge priority in these contests, but Jackson displayed a natural feel for the flow of the game that finds him constantly around the ball.
As ESPN's Reggie Rankin points out, Jackson is a fluid athlete:
Justin Jackson is such a quite killer scores in a variety ways smooth and easy scoring machine. @ESPNRNHoops— Reggie Rankin (@ReggieRankin) April 3, 2014
That fluidity allows him to work around his lack of strength. It certainly did among the most heralded players in his recruiting class.
As The Fayetteville Observer reported, Jackson finished with 23 points on 11-of-14 shooting, and that came after he missed his final two shots.
The first thing that jumps out at you is his efficiency. We aren't talking about a center who bulled his way into the lane for easy dunks. This is a skinny wing player.
Daniels certainly loves Jackson's efficiency:
Justin Jackson is always efficient ... no matter the setting. Getting easy lay ups & put backs. Also one jumper from 12-feet. 14 points #UNC— Evan Daniels (@EvanDaniels) April 3, 2014
Prior to this game, it was easy to view Jackson as just one part of a recruiting class so strong it's ranked third overall in the 247Sports rankings. After shining with apparent ease in the McDonald's All-American Game, Jackson will be looked at as the leader of this class.
He has the game to handle these kinds of expectations. It's impossible to tell if he will live up to them, but there is no doubt people are aware of his vast potential.