Justin Jackson has performed on the biggest stage.
It has served the North Carolina junior forward well in preparation for the coming NBA Draft. Jackson has played in two consecutive NCAA Championship games, winning this year’s national title with the Tar Heels. He is well aware of the scrutiny that comes with such success.
Jackson worked out for the Hawks on Friday in advance of the draft on June 22. He is ranked the No. 13 prospect by Draft Express and may not be around when the Hawks select in the first round at No. 19.
“Playing more games, obviously, gives (NBA officials) more opportunities to watch,” Jackson told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Saturday. “It can also work in the opposite way. It gives them more opportunities to watch and also to critique your game and have them second guess if they are interested. Playing at a school like North Carolina, playing on the big stages that I’ve played on, and luckily I’ve been with great teammates and great teams. I think it does help a lot.
“I’ve been through pretty much every basketball situation that you can be in from the college aspect. Maturity-wise, that definitely helps. Things don’t rattle me, one, from who I am, and two, that I’ve seen a whole bunch of things thrown at me before. It helps a lot.”
Jackson, 6-foot-8, 193 pounds, averaged 18.4 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists as a junior this season. He had 16 points, four rebounds and three assists in North Carolina’s championship victory over Gonzaga in April.
Jackson said he is intrigued by the possibility of playing for the Hawks in an offensive system that stresses ball movement and unselfish play. His ability to spread the floor would seem a fit for the Hawks.
“I love to score the ball,” Jackson said. “That is probably my No. 1 strength. In these workouts, for me for a little bit, I can show that I can play in a pick-and-roll system. We don’t do that much at North Carolina. I can show that I can come off that and make the right reads and be patient with what is going on in the play.”
Jackson is the second player in North Carolina history, along with Rick Fox, to have 1,600 career points, 150 3-pointers, 400 rebounds and 300 assists. He set the school’s single-season record with 105 3-pointers. He increased his 3-point field-goal percentage from 29.2 (on 3.0 attempts per game) two seasons ago to 37.0 (on 7.1 attempts) last season.
The Hawks’ pre-draft invitation was Jackson’s fifth workout. He expects to participate in five or six more workouts.
“Honestly, I’m just trying to put myself in the best position,” Jackson said. “Whether that is (overall pick No.) 10 or 20. In the back of my mind, I know these guys have watched me play all year, pretty much my whole career. At the end of the day, it’s one workout.
“I’m going to go in there and play as hard as I can and try to play as well as I can but I’m not going to put extra pressure on myself. I’m already playing in front of the GM, the coach, the front office. For me, it’s just going out there and play and leave it all out there.”
Jackson said he spoke to his agent following the workout and that he received encouraging feedback from the Hawks. Officials said he separated himself and that they are “extremely interested.” Although a big man appears to be a priority in the first round for the Hawks, it may be hard to pass on Jackson and his wealth of experience if he is available.
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