Tom Keegan: No chance Josh Jackson lets the big stage get the better of him

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) pulls up for a shot over Washburn guard Cameron Wiggins (11) during the second half, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Josh Jackson arrived at Kansas amid inevitable comparisons to Andrew Wiggins. Their similar size (6-foot-8), ranking (No. 1 by Rivals) and excuse-me-while-I-kiss-the-sky dunking histories made it impossible not to compare them, and not to wonder which would leave a louder one-year mark on Kansas basketball.

Wiggins had set the bar high for Jackson by averaging 17.1 points and 5.9 rebounds, earning first-team and freshman-of-the-year honors from the Big 12 and second-team All-American honors.

Jackson cleared the bar set by Wiggins and has a chance to leave him in the dust with a longer, more productive tournament performance.

Jackson plays for a better team than did Wiggins, but the freshman from Detroit’s motor is part of what makes it a better team.

Nothing about the way Jackson has played for Kansas has hinted that he’s a one-and-done player watching the clock, waiting for the required one year of college basketball to expire, even though he absolutely won’t stay beyond this season.

Jackson plays every possession as if losing it amounts to a wasted opportunity at making himself and the scoreboard better. He plays with every bit as much zeal defensively and on the boards as when hunting shots.

His adrenaline seems to flow at a high rate without interruption.

Stats for Jackson/Wiggins: 16.4/17.1 points, 7.2/5.9 rebounds, 4.0/1.5 assists, 3.6/2.3 turnovers, .545/.493 2-pt. pct., .377/.341 3-pt. pct., .559/.775 free-throw pct.

Jackson had a better regular season than Wiggins and won’t have to do anything special to have a better NCAA tournament performance. In his final college game, a 60-57 loss to Stanford, Wiggins totaled four points, four rebounds, one assist and four turnovers and shot 1 for 6 from the field.

Wiggins’ highs were higher than Jackson’s, his lows lower. Wiggins scored more than 23 points in five games with a high of 41. Jackson surpassed 23 points once, scoring 31 at Texas Tech. Wiggins scored in single figures in six games, Jackson three.

As a competitor, Jackson stays in the moment, doesn’t think about the great or awful play he just made, doesn’t ponder what he needs to do to impress NBA decision-makers. He plays in the moment, determined to win that possession. Just as people who live in the moment tend not to be burdened by stress, competitors who stay in the moment tend not to be bothered by the big stage.

“Josh Jackson has probably played about as consistently as any player in the country, I would say, the last two months,” Kansas coach Bill Self said.

So consistent, Self pointed out, that he has scored at least 14 points in 16 of 18 games to end the regular season.

“And that's not what he does,” Self said of scoring. “What he does is all the other things, and then the points come as he does all the other things. So, yes, I have every reason to believe that he'll handle everything very well.”

Safe guess.


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Comments

Bill Pitcher

Great young man and a joy to watch. Let 'em hang!

1 month, 1 week ago

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Steve Johnson

Mason has that calming factor on every player. Just keep Bragg on the bench and we will be fine.

1 month, 1 week ago

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Creg Bohrer

It depends which Bragg shows up. I think we really need him to play well to go to the final four.

1 month, 1 week ago

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Craig Alexander

This is a nice article but I don't like the idea that Wiggins was not competing in the Stanford game because he was focused on the NBA. My personal opinion was that Wiggins hadn't developed that competitive spirit where when things got tough he responded by being stronger and tougher. He was a great Jayhawk and his bad game obviously did not help us in that game but to say he was only really thinking about NBA scouts and his next destination is probably a little disingenuous.

Jackson on the flip side has so many facets to his game. As Self has described him before, it is his competitive nature that sets him apart. We saw it at the beginning getting T's. He responds completely differently than Wiggins during crunch time and has done it consistently. It is that past behavior that gives us some insight of what to expect. He loves the moment and has assisted on nearly 3x the number of shots a game than Wiggins. His passing is phenomenal and allows him to be aggressive because opposing teams know he just might flip a pass to a dagger from the outside (Svi, Vick, Graham, Mason). The biggest stage will bring out more in Jackson. I can't wait.

1 month, 1 week ago

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Brock Wells

I completely agree with your comments. There is reason to believe that Frank and Josh have big game after big game. 6 would be nice!

1 month, 1 week ago

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Steve Corder

Jackson is a "gamer"!

1 month, 1 week ago

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Barry Weiss

Twiggy was great, but if I had to choose between him and Josh, for my team, I would go with Josh.

1 month, 1 week ago

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Harlan Hobbs

I second that emotion, Barry and Steve. Of course, Josh has the benefit of having a better supporting cast led by the experience of Frank, Devonte, and Landen.

1 month, 1 week ago

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Mike Greer

Because of the difference in the two teams, it's really difficult to make a comparison between Andrew and Josh. The two teams are so very different, yet this year's team has had to go without Dok and the 13-14 team lost Joel for the last half dozen or so games. It's interesting to ponder where both of these teams would have been without those injuries and how that's affected both Josh and Andrew's performances over their seasons.

If I had to pick one, I'd say Josh is in a better position as post season starts than Andrew was. Josh's performance bell curve isn't as high, but it's not very wide either. He hasn't had a 41 point game, but then, he hasn't had a 4 point game either. At this point in the season, I don't see any team taking Josh out of the game the way Nova took out Perry or Stanford did Andrew. And if they try, there are 4 other guys that I believe will make them pay.

1 month, 1 week ago

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Creg Bohrer

Josh isn't seeing any double or triple teams like Wiggins did, teams this year can't because of all the offensive weapons we have.

1 month, 1 week ago

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Adam James

How does NC Central potentially land themselves as a 16 seed and Kentucky plays Northern Kentucky as a 15. These two seeds should be flipped. NC Central won their conference and finished with a better overall record and actually played Ohio State and LSU tough. On the other hand, Northern Kentucky finished 3rd in their conference, lost head to head vs. NC Central and got blasted by any decent team that are playing. Northern Kentucky should be playing UC Davis for the 16 seed and NC Central earned at 15 seed. I believe the committee gets lazy with the 14-16 seeds and one of these years the 16 is going to beat a 1. Be prepared for NC Central to take it to UC Davis and then give us a game for a half and maybe a little longer.

1 month, 1 week ago

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Harlan Hobbs

They put Northern Ky. against UK to create local interest. However, your analysis of the comparison cases is spot on, Adam.

1 month, 1 week ago

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