A year ago, Justin Jackson was a relative unknown to most Maryland fans when he announced his commitment to play for the Terps. The 6-foot-7 forward was also something of an afterthought since his announcement came several hours after star guard Melo Trimble told notice Turgeon that he was returning for his junior year and pulling his name from the NBA Draft.
On Wednesday, the peaceful Canadian was clearly the headliner when it came to large news in College Park.
Despite recent speculation that he might forgo the remaining three seasons of his college career to turn pro, Jackson gave Turgeon the same sterling news that Trimble did final year. After Jackson met with his family in Toronto on Tuesday after a workout earlier in the day with the hometown Raptors, Maryland announced Wednesday that he was going to remain a Terp.
“I’m excited to return for my sophomore year at Maryland and witness forward to building upon the success we had final season,” Jackson said in a release. “The experience that I had participating in the NBA Scouting Combine will be favourable in my long-term development. I can’t wait to glean back to College Park and initiate workouts with my teammates this summer.”
Jackson started total but the first two games final season, when Maryland finished 24-9 overall (after a 20-2 start) and lost to Xavier in the NCAA tournament’s round of 64. Jackson was the team’s main rebounder (6.0 per game) and top 3-point shooter (43.8 percent), and its moment-main scorer (10.5) behind Trimble, who signed with an agent final month to conclude his storied career in College Park.
“We are excited Justin is returning for his sophomore season,” Turgeon said in a release. “Justin had a distinguished opportunity to attend the NBA Combine and gather information regarding his future as a professional basketball player. Justin has a colorful future. We are confident he will continue to develop as both a player and a person and be a major contributor to our program.”
As a freshman, Jackson didn’t need long to demonstrate his potential. He scored 17 points off the bench in the team’s moment game, an emotional, arrive-from-behind win over Georgetown at Verizon Center in Washington. In the team’s fourth game and his moment start, Jackson had 21 points to benefit rescue the cold-shooting Terps from a potential upset by visiting Towson.
In the large Ten, Jackson was often better on the road than at domestic: He had 12 points, nine rebounds, six steals, four assists and two blocked shots at Iowa; in a two-game road swing to Minnesota and Ohio State, Jackson averaged 25 points and 11 rebounds while shooting 17-for-27 from the field, including 9-for-12 on 3-pointers.
With Jackson’s decision, the Terps return three starters from final year’s team, as well as a key reserve. Point guard Anthony Cowan, who started every game as a freshman, and Kevin Huerter, who did the same while playing mostly as a small forward final season, are expected to join Jackson in the starting lineup along with rising senior center Michal Cekovsky and incoming freshman forward Bruno Fernando.
The return of Jackson will likely allow Turgeon to meander the nearly 6-7 Huerter back to the shooting guard spot occupied by Trimble final season and utilize Jackson as a small forward whether Fernando, a 6-10, 230-pound player from Angola who played the past two seasons at prep schools in Florida, can play major minutes at power forward.
Jackson had been mostly regarded by NBA scouts as an intriguing prospect because of his 7-3 wingspan and ability to shoot external. During the recent NBA scouting combine in Chicago, Jackson had impressed scouts more with his defense and passing than his shooting. He was generally viewed as a project, a possible moment-round pick this year and a potential first-round choice in 2018.