Buzz surrounding freshman forward Isaiah Jackson and his status as an immediate-impact standout for the Kentucky Wildcats continues to grow.
Listed as the No. 30 overall prospect and No. 7 center in the 2020 247Sports Composite Rankings, Jackson came in as a likely role player off the bench, contributing as a solid shot-blocker and rim-runner in limited minutes. Behind graduate transfer Olivier Sarr and sophomore forward Keion Brooks Jr., there wasn’t a genuine need for him to produce from day one, at least significantly.
Back in October, though, college basketball insider Jon Rothstein turned heads with a report noting that Jackson had been impressing in early practices and was going to have a “big role” for Kentucky this season.
KSR’s Matt Jones and Kyle Tucker of The Athletic followed it up with individual confirmations of their own noting the rumblings behind the scenes were legit, while Kentucky’s current coaches publicly raved about the 6’10” freshman.
“I’ll tell you another kid that’s surprised me is Isaiah,” Kentucky head coach John Calipari said. “He can do more than I thought.”
“I mean, he is a special, special shot blocker,” UK assistant Jai Lucas said of Jackson. “I think he is probably one of the ones that is going to surprise a lot of people this season. … I think he’s a name that people will start to talk about and mention as we start playing games.”
“You do what you do best, and what he does is rebounds and blocks shots,” assistant coach Bruiser Flint added. “I think he will be a really, not a good defensive player, a really good defensive player. I think the sky’s the limit for him. … I think he’s got a chance to be really, really good.”
To continue the trend of optimism surrounding Jackson’s game, star freshman Brandon Boston Jr. doubled down on the hype Friday afternoon, calling the talented forward a flat-out “pro.”
“That guy is a pro, he’s a professional,” Boston said. “He blocks every shot. He has a seven-foot – I don’t even know how long – wingspan and blocks every shot. He always rebounds, he just does what he has to do at the five position. He can shoot the midrange, can shoot the three if needed. He’s just a good all-around player.”
Jackson, a 6-foot-10, 206-pound forward out of Pontiac, Mich., was named to the watch list for the 2021 Karl Malone Award this week, an award presented annually to the nation’s best power forward. As a senior at Waterford Mott High School, Jackson averaged 19.7 points, 13.0 rebounds, 7.7 blocks, 3.3 assists and 2.1 steals per game en route to Michigan All-State Division I Team (Associated Press) honors. The Mr. Michigan Basketball finalist was also a three-time All-State selection and a four-time defensive player of the year in his conference.