When Justin Jackson stepped on the court in 2010 as a wide-eyed freshman he gained the instant reputation as a sparkplug from the coaches, players, and fans. As soon as he entered a game insanity ensued with most of it emanating from the Bearcats’ new power forward. But not all of that energy was beneficial to the team. Jackson also had the unfortunate reputation of being extremely foul-prone. He is a high-energy player that just didn’t seem to be able to control himself when on defense. Mick used him key situations as a freshman when the team was flatfooted and typically alongside Sean Kilpatrick who provided a scoring boost.
“Here comes a foul”, most of us would groan when #5 checked into a game.
During that freshman season, Justin Jackson truly was a foul magnet. Before I get into the numbers I should mention that the following data is used on a per minute basis. Most stats are compared on a ‘per game’ basis but that can be deceptive. If Player A averages 10 ppg and Player B averages 15 ppg, it seems like Player B is better. But if Player A plays 20 minutes per game (avg. 0.50 points per minute) and Player B plays 35 minutes per game (avg. 0.43 points per minute), Player A is better because he is more efficient with his playing time. Simple.
A prime example of this is Sean Kilpatrick during his freshman season. In his first year in red and black he averaged the 3rd most points per game (9.7) despite being 6th in minutes played (20.6). As a result his efficiency (points per minute) was the highest on the team at 0.47 ppm. Coming in second was Dion Dixon with a 0.43 ppm but he also was 2nd on the team in both points (11.6) and minutes played (26.8) per game. Clearly Kilpatrick was the most dangerous player with the ball in his hands and deserved more court time. That came in his sophomore season when he started every game and, what-do-you-know! he paced Cincinnati with 14.3 points per game. So it is obvious his ppm stats was a more accurate indicator of how good of a shooter Killa was.
Getting back to Jackson, as a freshman he was second on the team averaging 0.157 fouls per minute (fpm). Only Ibrahima Thomas had more fouls with 0.159 fpm. In 2011-12 Jackson was more efficient with a lower 0.147 fpm. He also contributed 0.039 blocks per minute (bpm) as a freshman but doubled that as a sophomore to 0.076 bpm. Jackson was a block-seeking missile this past season leading all Bearcats with 61 blocks. The next most came from Yancy Gates with just 29. Finally, Jackson has scored at a higher rate than ever before. In his first year at UC he averaged 0.194 points per minute (ppm) compared to 0.241 ppm as a sophomore. It’s no secret that Jackson was a man-on-fire near the end of the season and the fact that he was able to improve his productivity (lower fouls, higher points/blocks) while on the court is the primary reason why.
Here’s where the comparison to Kenyon Martin begins:
|Height - Weight||6'4" 225 lbs|
|Hometown||South Euclid, OH|
|247 Sports||*** - 83|
|Rivals||*** - 5.6|
|ESPN||*** - 76|
Martin dwarfs Jackson in most statistical areas but the improvements they made between their respective freshman and sophomore years is intriguing. Both players cut down on their fouls between those seasons and ramped up their scoring efficiency. But when it comes to blocks, Jackson made a remarkable improvement nearly doubling his efficiency in this area. Martin’s stayed relatively the same. In a way the number of fouls and blocks a player makes are inversely related. When a player goes up to block a shot he either a.) actually blocks it, b.) fouls the shooter, or c.) outright misses everything. The fact that Jackson has improved his blocking and cut down on his fouls is a sign that he is displaying better body control than ever before. Despite having to adjust on the fly as a freshman to the speed of the college game it seemed to slow down for him late last season.. He’s gotten to the point where he can anticipate shots very well and is why he has transitioned into a defensive machine.
This improvement has resulted in blocks like this that have garnered so many #JustinJacksonMeanFace’s in the Twitter world:
Like I mentioned, comparing Justin Jackson to a Bearcat so unbelievably dominant as Kenyon Martin seems outrageous on the surface. Admittedly the similarities fall apart in one area: Scoring. K-Mart could do it all on the offensive end; hit 16 ft floaters, drive the lane for a layup/slam dunk, he even shot well from beyond the arc! The dude was simply that good. Jackson on the other hand just isn’t there yet. He is more than capable of handling the ball underneath the basket and making shots around the rim but he hasn’t developed a mid-range shot and should be no where near the three-point line other than to set high screens. So in this sense Jackson has a lot of catching up to do.
But in other areas such as blocks and fouls the soon-to-be junior forward shows clear upside, just like Kilpatrick did with his scoring between his freshman and sophomore years. Of course Jackson needs to continue to become a more proficient scorer like Martin. The good news is he will certainly have that opportunity this Fall with Yancy Gates having graduated. No one has emerged as the front-runner to replace the production of big #34 so why not Mr. Electric who has already made so many improvements on the defensive end? I think he can as long as he can find a mid-range shot because defensively there is no one on this roster that plays as much like K-Mart than Justin Jackson.
Chew on that idea this weekend.