At a time when most of the rest of the Big 12’s top teams appear poised to take a step backward, Kansas is just reloading.
The Jayhawks bolstered an already strong roster on Monday night when they landed a prospect Rivals.com considers to be the best in the 2016 class.
Shooting guard Josh Jackson committed to Kansas, choosing the Jayhawks over fellow finalists Michigan State and Arizona. The 6-foot-7 senior at Prolific Prep in Napa, Calif., is a consensus top-three prospect nationally along with Duke-bound forwards Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum.
What makes Jackson one of the elite wing prospects to enter college basketball in recent years is his ability to impact a game at both ends of the floor. The tough, ultra-competitive Jackson has a nonstop motor, an explosive first step to the basket, a knack for making plays in transition and the ability to lock down an opposing team’s best perimeter player.
Some of Jackson’s attributes were on display at the McDonald’s All-American game earlier this month when he scored an efficient 19 points on 9-for-11 shooting. He earned co-MVP honors and led the West Team to a 114-105 victory.
For Kansas, the addition of Jackson reduces the sting of starting wing Wayne Selden and reserve Brannen Greene both entering the NBA draft. Jackson should slide into the starting lineup alongside returners Frank Mason and Devonte Graham with promising Svi Mykhailiuk also playing heavy minutes off the bench.
How deep Kansas’ frontcourt is will depend on whether Cheick Diallo stays in the NBA draft or not, but the Jayhawks have options even if he leaves. Heralded sophomore-to-be Carlton Bragg has the skill to replace some of the production Perry Ellis provided at power forward, while Landen Lucas emerged late this past season as a strong defender and rebounder.
That nucleus should be enough to make Kansas a preseason top 10 team and a favorite to capture a 13th consecutive Big 12 title.
Oklahoma loses a minimum of three starters from its Final Four team including national player of the year Buddy Hield. Iowa State faces life without Georges Niang as well as fellow seniors Jameel McKay and Abdel Nader. West Virginia and Texas both have the potential to contend next season, but the Mountaineers have to hope forward Devin Williams doesn’t stay in the draft and the Longhorns have to do the same regarding guard Isaiah Taylor.
Kansas had emerged as the favorite to land Jackson in recent weeks even though he had strong ties to both Michigan State and Arizona.
Jackson grew up in Detroit and is close with several members of the Spartans’ highly touted 2016 recruiting class. Jackson also played for Arizona’s Sean Miller with USA Basketball and said recently that he is closer to Miller than any other head coach recruiting him.
Had Jackson gone to Michigan State, he’d have been the centerpiece of a recruiting class that already may be Tom Izzo’s best ever. Had Jackson gone to Arizona, he’d have joined a collection of talented wings that already includes returning star Allonzo Trier and talented freshman Ray Smith.
Instead Jackson is Kansas-bound, keeping the Jayhawks in their customary position as preseason favorites in the Big 12.
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