Landing four-star prep player Justin Jackson 'huge' for Maryland basketball

Findlay Prep's Justin Jackson #12 in action against Montverde Academy in the DICK'S Sporting Goods High School National Basketball Tournament on Friday, April 3, 2015 in Queens, NY.
Findlay Prep's Justin Jackson #12 in action against Montverde Academy in the DICK'S Sporting Goods High School National Basketball Tournament on Friday, April 3, 2015 in Queens, NY. (Gregory Payan / AP)

A day after news of his verbal commitment was reported, four-star prospect Justin Jackson officially signed his national letter of intent with the Maryland men's basketball team on Friday, coach Mark Turgeon announced in a statement released through the athletic department.

Turgeon said the 6-foot-7 forward "is prepared to make an immediate contribution to our program," adding that Jackson is a "skilled scorer, good passer and has the ability to create mismatches on the offensive end. Defensively, Justin can guard multiple positions and overall has a great feel for the game."


Jackson was ranked the No. 26 recruit in the country after his junior year at Findlay Prep in Las Vegas, where he averaged 14.1 points and 7.1 rebounds, but saw his ranking fall when he returned to his home in Canada to finish high school at the Hill Academy in Ontario.

As a result of Rivals.com not rating players outside the United States, Jackson's composite rating dropped to No. 87 overall.

Scout.com still has Jackson ranked No. 36 nationally.

"Landing Justin Jackson was huge for Mark Turgeon and his staff," said Scout.com national recruiting analyst Brian Snow. "Jackson is one of the best players in this class, and someone who brings a ton of versatility to the floor. He can play either forward spot, and can make threes or score near the rim."

Jackson's addition to a recruiting class that included two other four-star recruits, 6-6 wing Kevin Huerter and 5-11 point guard Anthony Cowan Jr., as well as 6-7 forward Micah Thomas, a three-star recruit, helped the Terps jump from No. 21 overall to No. 9 in the country.

Maryland also added 6-7 forward L.G. Gill, a graduate transfer from Duquesne.

"I am a very versatile player and I am excited to be a part of a very good team," Jackson said in a statement released by Maryland. "I feel as if I fit in and can play the wing position. I can score from all three levels. I can defend multiple positions – one through four. But most importantly, I feel that I make the right play -- whether it is the correct pass or make a big bucket for the team."

Jackson is expected to play mostly at small forward and could wind up starting there depending on whether the Terps use a two or three-guard lineup.

Maryland is deep in the backcourt, with the return of point guard Melo Trimble, who announced Wednesday that he was pulling out of the NBA Draft, and Dion Wiley, who missed last season with a knee injury. Along with Huerter and Cowan, the Terps also have rising juniors Jaylen Brantley and Jared Nickens.

Jackson was a member of the Team Canada's U19 team that finished fifth in the FIBA World Championship in Greece last year, and also led his AAU team, Canada Elite, to the Under Armour Associations Championship. Jackson has long been considered one of his country's top young players.

"Justin was a prodigy," said Canada Elite coach Devon James. "He was a tremendous talent at a very young age. He was always bigger at a younger age. But I give his coaches a lot of credit because they helped develop him. Justin is a successful basketball player who has great skill sets and a tremendous basketball IQ."

Jackson had initially given a verbal commitment to UNLV, but reopened his search when the Runnin' Rebels fired coach Dave Rice after the 2015-16 season. Maryland reportedly beat out Oregon and Connecticut for Jackson.

Hill Academy associate head coach Jordan McFarlane said Thursday that Jackson's decision was swayed by the return of Trimble to Maryland for his junior year and sophomore forward Dillon Brooks, a fellow Canadian, to Oregon.

Paulette Jackson said in a statement released by Maryland that many factors played into her son choosing Turgeon's program.


"There is an opportunity for Justin to excel both academically and in basketball," she said. "I liked the academic support and the staff in place to guide Justin through this transition.  The strength and conditioning program was very impressive. They shared examples of how they worked with each player with programs focused on strength and conditioning and nutrition. You could see the players' transformation after putting in the hard work."

Said Justin Jackson: "I felt like I immediately fit in with the student body. They were all very welcoming and I just enjoyed being a part of the university. The team is filled with great and funny personalities. But when it is time to work and get serious – they can really buckle down and work hard."

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