Jaren Jackson Jr. Brings Length And Personal Style to Nike Hoop Summit
There were a few men who redefined “uniform swag” in the early ‘90s, and they played at the University of Michigan. We know them as the “Fab Five” and their swag was like their play – loose. But perhaps you have noticed a certain basketball fad resurging, which is not loose or baggy or synonymous with cool from the turn of the millennium.
It is slimming, though, and that is particularly noticeable on Jaren Jackson Jr., who will be bringing his popular, rolled-at-the-waistband shorts style to the Spartans of East Lansing, Michigan, next fall.
Jackson has shoulders as wide as a pickup truck and enough length to resemble a young Chris Bosh or Anthony Davis. It is clear he is continuing to grow into his body, which is currently measured at 6-foot-11, 225 pounds, but the rolled-up shorts are here to stay.
“It complements the tight jerseys that people are wearing,” said the Michigan State University signee. “I've stuck with it because it hasn't seemed to fail me yet. You know what they say, look good, play good,” he added with a smile.
Even looking for pictures of Jaren’s father – who played for various teams in the NBA and had notable stints as a guard for the Washington Bullets and San Antonio Spurs – one must dig to find him in pictures with short shorts.
And yet, some of that is attributed to size. Jaren Jackson Sr. was listed at 6-foot-4, much smaller than his son. Now towering over his father, coaches primarily have asked Jackson to run block-to-block. When you’re the son of a former NBA guard, however, your game is much more versatile than that.
“I am a stetch-four that runs the floor, and I’m a team-first guy. I get everybody involved. I think am an underrated passer, and I’m able to find guys really well when they are maybe not expecting me to throw a pass like that. I can push the ball, I can shoot 3’s and stretch the floor like that.”
His highlight reel is full of weak-side blocks, thunderous dunks, stepback jumpers and then more rejections into the stands. His timing and rim protection are his biggest upsides, but his ability to stretch the floor and change the game in the open court with his energy are intangibles he truly values.
“I want to become more of an all-around player with a high motor. I think giving effort and running the floor has become more of a skill at these higher levels, and if you do that, it highlights everything else you’re doing,” he said.
In his senior season at La Lumiere School in La Porte, Indiana, Jackson has showcased his versatility on the national stage. The No. 2 nationally ranked team with a 26-1 overall record, La Lumiere is expected to make another run at the DICK’s High School Nationals in New York City, March 31-April 2. The Lakers fell to Oak Hill Academy (Va.) on a last-second tip-in in the national championship game last April.
He transferred to La Lumiere from Indianapolis’ Park Tudor High School, where he won two 2A state titles, prior to his senior season, but this year has not disappointed.
“I couldn’t really ask for more. We’ve had an unbelievable season.
“Playing with the group of guys that I’ve been playing with has been very fun. I think we really have a lot of momentum heading into the national tournament, and hopefully we can continue the trend that we’ve had and try to win games.”
Shortly after the national championship in New York City, Jackson will head to Portland, Oregon, to meet up with his USA Junior National Select Team teammates for the 20th annual Nike Hoop Summit, which will take place April 7 at the Moda Center.
It is Jackson’s second selection for a USA Basketball team, after winning a gold medal with USA Basketball at the FIBA U17 World Championship in Zaragoza, Spain, last July. He appeared in six games on that team, recording a team-high seven blocks and averaging 4.3 points and 5.2 rebounds per game.
He admittedly recently took a phone call during class from USA Basketball Men’s National Team assistant director Samson Kayode, muting his own line so Kayode could not hear him yell with excitement after learning of his Nike Hoop Summit selection. Jackson is still surprised by his various selections, and even more grateful for his opportunities.
“I think for me, getting all three – McDonald’s, Nike Hoop Summit and Jordan Brand Classic – that is just crazy. It’s honestly left me speechless, because I know not a lot of players get all three, and those are the three big things we hope for all season. It’s just an honor.
“Just representing your country is a different type of feeling. I think the game will probably be more competitive, and there is just something special about playing ‘USA versus the World.’ You want to continue to prove that we can do this at any level, even if they are a bit older than us.”
There is more to Jackson than what is seen at the surface in his lanky stature. He is confident and yet kind and well-spoken, and he thanks his mother for that. Terri Carmichael Jackson serves as the director of operations for the Women’s National Basketball Players Association, and she, Jaren says, is the one that pushes him the hardest.
“She is one-of-a-kind. She pushes me in all areas. On the court, she is pushing me, in the classroom, she is pushing me. Outside, making sure that I present myself with class and dignity. I couldn’t ask for more.
“She always tells me that everybody is watching me all the time, and you don’t want to take a play off – you don’t want to take a moment off where you do something that you think nobody will find out about. You always do things as if everybody is watching you.”
The younger Jackson does not have to look far for support from his father, either. He can just look to the bench. Jaren Jackson Sr. plays a multitude of roles – dad, friend, trainer, coach – the list goes on. Together, his parents have been believers and motivators.
“I think they have just instilled a confidence in me that has just grown over the years,” he said. “They have always had confidence in me, and I think at times, more than I had in myself when I was younger. My dad always knew that I could do great things in basketball at this level, but I wasn’t so sure.”
Jaren acknowledges he and his father’s style of play are polar opposites, with the exception of their shooting abilities. As Jaren wishes to become more complete, his father continues to push his comfort zone and challenge his game in all facets. Those are the advantages of having a former NBA guard for a father.
But, basketball in the Jackson family is fully focused on Jaren Jr. and his immediate future. There is no more time for walking in his father’s shoes or wearing his father’s shorts. It is Jaren’s time, and plus, those shorts are too long, anyway.