What will top 20 point guard Elmarko Jackson bring to the Kansas lineup?

What will top 20 point guard Elmarko Jackson bring to the Kansas lineup?

As the Kansas staff went out and watched players during the spring and summer, one player kept catching their eye each and every time they saw him, Elmarko Jackson.

The more they saw the 6-foot-3, 185-pounder at the South Kent (Conn.) School play with his summer team We R1, the more he became an absolute must have out of the class of 2023. Thursday night, Bill Self and the Jayhawks got what they wanted when the nation’s No. 18 ranked player committed.

Kansas wanted to hit it big on the perimeter in the class of 2023 and they’ve certainly done that by adding Jackson to a recruiting class that already includes top 50 guards Jamari McDowell and Chris Johnson and their games should complement each other nicely. First, let’s take a look at why Jackson is such a great fit.

By any standard, Jackson fits the profile of guards who have found the most success under Self. No, his game isn’t the same as a Sherron Collins, Devon Dotson, Devonte Graham gold Frank Masonbut he’s got traits that all of those guys had.

First and foremost, Jackson is tough. If there is anything Self covets most in a guard it is toughness. That toughness shows on his willingness to get to the rim, his ability to defend and perhaps most importantly it shows with his mental makeup. This guy wants the ball in his hands when he is all on the line and that mentality is exactly what has been the trademark of Self’s best guards at Kansas.

While 247Sports projects Jackson as a point guard, he’s also got the other thing that Self really covets and that’s versatility. Perhaps as much as any coach in college hoops, Self loves combo guards that can play multiple backcourt spots. Given that Dejuan Harris is going to be back with a ton of experience under his belt at the point, it is likely that Jackson will play a bit “off” the ball but in reality, he’ll be another guy who can be used to initiate offense, play fast and put tremendous pressure on defenses because of the job he and Harris will be able to do in getting into the lane to create deep finishes or opportunities for others.

On top of all of that, Jackson is going to inject a level of athleticism, physicality and size into the Kansas backcourt. Now, he does need some polish as a decision maker – that’s where playing alongside Harris will be quite beneficial – -and he will need to get more consistent as a jump shooter but it’s pretty tough to envision any scenario where Jackson doesn’t play big minutes early on.

Ok, we know why Jackson was Kansas’ top backcourt target, now let’s take a look at his fit with McDowell and Johnson – who played together on the Houston Defenders and against Jackson in the Under Armor Association.

Like Jackson, Johnson is another physical and explosive guard who loves to get downhill. He’s also a streaky shooter and prone to being a little wild at times, but when he’s playing in a role where he’s more of a two guard, he is considerably more efficient. He makes smart passes, gets his feet set for jumpers and is then dangerous on drives. Having Jackson there to shoulder more of the ball handling load should free Johnson to do what he does best and that’s score. As for McDowell, he is a bit of a do-it-all kind of guy that will be able to assume more of a wing role. He can certainly be an additional ball handler, but his long-term projection is a glue guy who defends multiple positions, slashes and does a lot of the little things. Travis Releford played that role on a team that made it within about 30 seconds of winning a National Championship and McDowell could be that type of guy before his career is over.

Make no mistake, Kansas has hit all that they were targeting with Elmarko, Johnson and McDowell.

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