Charlotte Hornets

UNC’s Justin Jackson says he’s 50-50 on whether to stay in NBA draft

After taking advantage of a new rule that allowed him to go through the NBA draft combine Justin Jackson has decided to return to North Carolina for his junior season.
After taking advantage of a new rule that allowed him to go through the NBA draft combine Justin Jackson has decided to return to North Carolina for his junior season.


That is what North Carolina forward Justin Jackson fixes as the odds on whether he’ll remain in the NBA draft. He’s not indecisive. He just doesn’t know yet and it sounds like he will need every day until the May 25 deadline to decide the best course.

He’s lucky, because before this college season he would have already been forced irrevocably to have made that call. The NCAA changed its rules, now allowing underclassmen with remaining eligibility to test their status – to participate in the NBA’s combine and potentially a few days of subsequent workouts – before making a final decision.

Jackson, a 6-foot-8 forward, has athletic grace. He has the lean, but sturdy, body type pro teams like. Think a Marvin Williams in the making.

But unlike ex-Tar Heel/current Charlotte Hornets forward Williams, Jackson hasn’t proven he can make outside shots consistently. His future in the NBA is likely at small forward. Even if he can play some minutes at power forward, he’ll still have to demonstrate some 3-point accuracy to fit in the 1-in/4-out offensive style that’s becoming the norm in the NBA.

Jackson understands all that. He also understands his résumé so far is deficient in this area. Against ACC opponents as a sophomore last season, he shot 51 percent from 2-point range but only 28 percent from the college 3-point line.

“A lot of it is” about the shooting, Jackson said in a Thursday interview. “I did not shoot the ball (last season) the way I wanted to. That’s what teams keep telling me: I’ve got to do a better job from 3-point range. So tomorrow I’ve got to do a better job.”

Jackson didn’t change impressions for the better in a scrimmage Thursday at the combine. In 20 minutes, he shot 2-of-8 from the field and 1-of-4 from 3-point range.

After the combine concludes this weekend, Jackson will have one or two workouts for teams interested in drafting him. So far the only team committed to such a workout is the San Antonio Spurs, who will be picking late in the first round.

Jackson said no team has committed to using a first-round pick on him. That doesn’t mean teams aren’t interested, the Hornets included. They were one of several teams that had Jackson in for interviews this week in Chicago.

Jackson said there was a difference between his interaction with the Hornets, who select 22nd overall, and interviews with other teams.

“They knew a whole lot about me. They did a lot of background stuff,” Jackson said. “It’s obvious they’ve watched me play quite a bit. They knew more than other teams.”

Jackson considers himself blessed to have this time to make a more informed decision. He’s leaning on Tar Heels coach Roy Williams, who is in Chicago this week, to help canvass NBA front offices for feedback.

“It’s great. It does nothing but help an undergrad who gets invited” to the combine, Jackson said of the new rules.

“At the end of the day, this is a dream, a goal, for every basketball player.”

That doesn’t mean he’ll go all dreamy when it’s time to make a call. Intellect and knowledge have to carry that day.

“I’m on that brink of being out or in. For me, right now, it would be real hard” to make a call, Jackson said.

“Whatever they say, I’ve got to make a good decision. Not necessarily just the one I want to make, but the right decision.”