Summer is the time to refine not only players’ skill sets, but also their bodies. Kansas’ highly-touted freshman duo of Josh Jackson and Udoka Azubuike have fulfilled the latter thanks to the Jayhawks’ strength and conditioning program.
“These guys have goals,” Adrea Hurdy, Kansas’ long-time assistant director for sports information, told The Star. “They come here in part because we have the resources to help them attain their goals.
“They want the challenge and want to become better people, better basketball players and better athletes.”
Only 16 years old, Azubuike arrived in Lawrence having been consistently listed as weighing around 270 pounds throughout his prep career. Getting leaner while still maintaining – and increasing – strength is a significant development for such a young player, who was a consensus top-50 player in the 2016 class.
Jackson, the country’s top rated incoming freshman, now weighs in at slightly over 200 pounds at 6-foot-8. Six-foot-10 forward Carlton Bragg,a sophomore, also got in on the body-changing as he’s put on 26 pounds to head into the fall at 247 pounds.
Kansas is a likely top-five preseason team with returners like Frank Mason III, Devonte Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk, and having newcomers like Jackson and Azubuike along with sparsely-used but talented returnees like Bragg making gains in the weight room will only make them more formidable as they look to capture an astounding 13th-straight Big 12 title.
Freshman phenom production under Bill Self has been something of a contentious topic. Many fault the coach, who has won one national title and 12-straight Big 12 championships, for not developing one-and-done talent to their fullest potential during their single-season stays in Lawrence. Cliff Alexander and Cheick Diallo are Exhibit 1-A and 1-B for this argument in recent years.
Whatever outside criticism there is (Andrew Wiggins did go No. 1 overall just 2 years ago, after all), Self isn’t shying away from hyping the latest freshman with big expectations to come to KU. When asked who the greatest athlete of all-time is at the school’s annual Tradition Night last week, Self had a simple, if tongue-and-cheek, response.
With others answering with the likes of Michael Jordan and Muhammed Ali, it’s pretty fair to say Self was playing to the crowd with the answer, but it’s still telling that he was willing to deliver such a sound bite, even if it was before a welcoming audience. Self didn’t try to seriously depress expectations for Wiggins, a player Jackson is often compared to, and it looks like he won’t for Jackson as well.
Jackson, though, won’t have the burden Wiggins had as there’s one of the country’s best backcourts in Frank Mason II and Devonte Graham to help shoulder the workload for the Jayhawks.
Josh Jackson mixtape from the Under Armour Elite 24 (VIDEO)
Detroit native Josh Jackson is in a battle for the No. 1 spot in the Class of 2016 and he’s coming off of another MVP performance at the Under Armour Elite 24. The 6-foot-7 Jackson shooting guard has elite level skill as a scorer, rebounder and defender and has a chance to be an immediate impact at the college level.
Arizona, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville, Maryland, Michigan State, North Carolina, N.C. State and UCLA are some of the schools currently in the running for Jackson.
Here’s a mixtape of Jackson from the last two Elite 24 games, from NextUp Recruits.
Josh Jackson, Harry Giles stay at top of new Rivals150 Class of 2016 national rankings
Rivals unveiled its new Class of 2016 national rankings in the latest Rivals150 and the top four players are staying the same. Detroit wing Josh Jackson, North Carolina forward Harry Giles, St. Louis wing Jayson Tatum (Duke) and North Carolina point guard Dennis Smith remain the top four players in the class while Texas native De’Angelo Fox moves up to the No. 5 spot.
Jackson and Giles have battled for the No. 1 spot hard the past few months and national analysts seem split on who to put at No. 1. Fox also made a late push to dethrone Smith as the No. 1 point guard. This national Class of 2016 is considered by many to be one of the most talented classes of the last 20 years.
The group has a strong crop of point guards, as noted by Rivals national recruiting analyst Eric Bossi. Of the top 60 players in the 2016 class, seventeen players are point guards, which will really help college basketball when those players enter.
The 10th annual Under Armour Elite 24 took place last Saturday at Pier 2 at the Brooklyn Bridge Park with Team Do Be Doo defeating Team EZ Pass, 111-110.
While Nike’s coinciding showcase took elite prospects such as Harry Giles and Duke-commit Jayson Tatum to the Bahamas, the Elite 24 was still a star-studded event with the nation’s top recruit, Josh Jackson, who won the slam dunk contest the night before, sharing MVP honors with Edrice ‘Bam’ Adebayo, Billy Preston and Frank Jackson.
Josh Jackson, rated the top player in the Class of 2016 by Rivals, won the Under Armour Elite 24 Dunk Contest on Friday night at Pier 2 in Brooklyn with an off-the-backboard, between-the-legs dunk for his second perfect score of the night. Jackson defeated Baylor commit Mark Vital in the finals.
The 6-foot-7 Jackson added to an impressive summer. In July, the rising high school senior started on USA Basketball U19 team that won the FIBA World Championships in Greece. After averaging 19.2 points per game for 1 Nation in the Under Armour Association, Jackson broke the scoring record at the Big Strick Classic with a 50-point performance earlier this month.
Jackson will look to build on Friday night’s showing on Saturday night in the 10th annual Under Armour Elite 24.