Illini 2020 target Jackson values connections with coaches above all else

Illini 2020 target Jackson values connections with coaches above all else

Andre Jackson had put together another solid weekend on the Nike EYBL circuit last month in the north Indianapolis suburbs.

The 6-foot-7 wing out of Albany, N.Y., literally stuffed the stat sheet with 27 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals during the upstate New York-based City Rocks' opener that weekend against Indy Heat. He hit double digits in scoring in his last two games, too, including City Rocks' finale against EYBL newcomer Alabama Fusion.

That didn't stop Jackson from being upset for allowing Fusion's game-winning shot in a 74-72 loss. The Illinois-offered Class of 2020 recruit had been pleased with his defensive effort that weekend in mid-May — an improvement he felt like he'd been able to show off about his game this spring.

"Definitely just showing my defensive skills that a lot of coaches didn't see over the course of my high school career and last year since I didn't play that much in the EYBL," Jackson said.

Jackson managed to put his overall game on display throughout the EYBL regular season. He finished that 13-game slate averaging 14 points, 6.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.8 steals — production he managed to punctuate with a 20-point game in each of the three sessions.

The only item missing was a consistent jump shot. More than once, Jackson wowed fans in attendance at the Pacers Athletic Center in Westfield, Ind., with high-flying dunks.

What he didn't do was take many three-pointers (or make them). Jackson finished the EYBL regular-season shooting just 1 of 13 from beyond the arc. He knows he has to continue to improve that area of his game.

"I've just got to work on my jump shot and get that to game speed," Jackson said. "It's going down in practice. I can feel it being comfortable in practice. I've just got to get it to game speed so when I get to the games it's natural and comfortable."

Where Jackson is comfortable is flashing what would now be a secondary skill. He might be a 6-7 wing now, but it wasn't that many years ago he was a smaller guard used to the ball in his hands. That changed when he grew to 6-5 by the eighth grade and tacked on a couple inches by the time he was a sophomore, but he's still more than capable in transition leading a fast break.

"Growing up I always had a ball in my hands," Jackson said. "I just learned how to get around people and stuff like that. That's probably the biggest part. Then my athleticism also helps. ... Growing up I was trained as a guard, and then I grew taller than expected."

Jackson received his Illinois offer during his sophomore season in 2017-18. That it came as he helped lead Albany Academy to the New York Federation Tournament of Champions Class A title game shouldn't be surprising. Illini coach Brad Underwood has taken a liking to recruits from top winning teams in New York.

The Cadets lost in the title game a year ago, but got redemption in March with their fourth state championship in seven seasons. Jackson was a key member of that title-winning team, averaging 17.4 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocks playing alongside Yale-bound former Illinois target August Mahoney.

Jackson said Syracuse, UConn and Iowa have recruited him the longest, but he's open to building relationships with other coaches. That's what is most important to him in the recruiting process.

"I'm trying to see what coaches I'm feeling and what relationships I'm building — what coaches and what programs I feel comfortable with," Jackson said. "The relationship definitely matters the most. If I feel comfortable, I'm going to play my best.

"To be honest, that's the only thing important about college basketball. It's not about the location or what's going on at the school or stuff like that. I'm just worried about relationships and being comfortable while I'm on the basketball court."

Scott Richey covers college basketball for The News-Gazette. He can be reached at 217-351-5605, by email at srichey@news-gazette.com and on Twitter@srrichey.

East Coast vibe

Albany Academy (N.Y.) forward Andre Jackson isn't the only recruit playing in the Tri-State area with an Illini offer. He's got company:

Class of 2020

NAME SCHOOL HT. WT. POS.

Jabri Abdur-Rahim Blair Academy (N.J.) 6-6 180 Forward

Posh Alexander Our Saviour Lutheran (N.Y.) 5-11 170 Guard

Matt Cross Woodstock Academy (Conn.) 6-7 224 Forward

Andre Curebelo Long Island Lutheran (N.Y.) 6-0 170 Guard

R.J. Davis Archbishop Stepinac (N.Y.) 6-0 161 Guard

Zed Key Long Island Lutheran (N.Y.) 6-8 215 Forward

Clifford Omoruyi Roselle Catholic (N.J.) 6-11 230 Center

Class of 2021

NAME SCHOOL HT. WT. POS.

A.J. Griffin Archbishop Stepinac (N.Y.) 6-7 200 Forward

Jonathan Kuminga Our Savior New American (N.Y.) 6-8 210 Forward

Alexis Reyes Cushing Academy (Conn.) 6-5 180 Guard

Nate Santos The Loomis Chaffee School (Conn.) 6-8 200 Forward

 

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