As draft combine intensifies, NBA officials think Maryland's Justin Jackson should return

When the NBA draft combine's on-court portion starts Thursday in Chicago, the most interesting Maryland men's basketball player on hand will not be Melo Trimble but Justin Jackson.

The Terps freshman forward was a surprise inclusion last month on the 67-man combine list. He has not signed with an agent, meaning he still can return to College Park next season, but the Canadian import struggled toward the end of the 2016-17 season. Questions about his position at the next level linger. His defense often was not up to snuff.


But his long-range shooting (43.8 percent from 3-point range at Maryland) and length (7-foot-3 wingspan) make him an intriguing prospect, possibly worthy of late-first-round consideration. (Second-rounders are not guaranteed an NBA contract.) Jackson last week was rated the No. 46 overall prospect in DraftExpress' top-100 rankings, but did not make the site's latest mock draft.

Asked Tuesday about Jackson during a conference call with reporters, ESPN's Fran Fraschilla and Jeff Goodman said they had reached a similar conclusion: He's good, but he should be better after another season.


"You know, he had a very good freshman year," Fraschilla said. "He's kind of always reminded me of Boris Diaw, a young Boris Diaw, not the guy that you see out there now. But Justin has to get more athletic. I have a sense that he's not going to stay in this draft. We used to say he was a tweener, but the way the NBA has evolved, he's a guy that can play — he's really an NBA 3-man.

"I'm sure at Maryland he played the 4 some. But he shot it really well this year. He's a good playmaker. But the thing that I think he needs desperately is to go back to school, be a little more athletic, work on his lateral quickness and become more of an NBA wing player. So that would be my two cents, just based on what I've seen, not only on tape, but also what I've seen during his days in AAU and high school player."

Goodman said said three "NBA guys" told him Monday that they thought Jackson should return to Maryland and play his way into a late-first-round or early- to mid-second-round selection.

"He could sneak into the end of the first round maybe, but if he comes back, he could solidify himself with a really good year next year into being a first-round pick," he said.

Jackson reportedly has worked out for two NBA teams: the Oklahoma City Thunder, who have the No. 21 overall pick, and the New Orleans Pelicans, who tentatively have a lottery pick and the No. 40 overall pick. Jackson has until May 24 to decide whether to remain in the draft or withdraw.