Matthew Ryan (@matthewryan02)
Elmarko Jackson had just gotten back from one of the biggest events of the offseason. He flew back from Florida on Saturday after spending the last handful of days at the NBPA Top 100 Camp.
Instead of resting and getting ready for another live period that starts later in the week, Jackson came to Virginia for the DMV Warmup during a recruiting quiet period to play with WeR1 on Sunday.
That’s just the kind of player he is.
“Think about it, most guys that would have come back from NBA Camp would have taken the whole weekend off,” Jackson’s trainer Julian Dunkley of Difference Makers said. “[...] But he wants to make sure he gets that camaraderie and that chemistry back intact going into the live period with his guys because he wants to win. Every time he steps on the floor, he wants to win.”
Elmarko Jackson (above) has seen a dozen high-major programs all offer in the last two weeks. (Photo: Matthew Ryan/CoBL)
Jackson has erupted this summer. Since June 19, he has received 12 offers, all from high-major programs — Tennessee, DePaul, Pitt, Nebraska, Rutgers, Virginia, LSU, Kansas, Michigan, Texas, Indiana and Villanova — and he has recently heard from Auburn.
Of the over two dozen offers Jackson has, two made a little extra impression.
“Kansas and Michigan was kind of like, ‘wow,’” he said. “Just because Kansas is like a blueblood. And then my uncle (Marlin Jackson) went to Michigan for football, so it was kind of a legacy-type thing.”
In addition to playing at the NBPA Top 100 Camp, Jackson was at the Under Armour Future 60 Camp, where he took home MVP honors.
He is a strong 6-foot-4 guard who is elite at getting downhill and is extremely athletic. He can also create his own shot at all three levels, and Dunkley said that over the years, the biggest part of Jackson’s game that he has seen improve is his overall shooting ability.
At the DMV Warmup, Jackson showed that shooting ability. In the two games Jackson played, he made four 3-pointers, including one to tie the game against Team Takeover with about three minutes remaining. He also knocked down some jumpers, a floater, a tough layup, and a dunk, while making nine free throws.
He showed off his athleticism and aggressiveness with a poster attempt on a fast break, where he got fouled, and also had an impressive chasedown block and crashed the boards.
This offseason, Jackson is working on understanding the game, his shooting, even though he said it’s come a long way, and his defense because he knows you have to be able to defend to really get minutes at the next level.
With high-major programs and bluebloods after Jackson, the rise he has taken isn’t something that comes as a surprise to people that have been around him for a while.
“Absolutely [I saw it coming],” WeR1 head coach Terrell Myers, who has known Jackson for three years and coached him directly for two, said. “It was just the opportunity. He hasn’t had an opportunity or a stage. And then, at times, it takes certain players the right time, the right timing to get the exposure he needed. I think it just came together at the right time. I think he matured as a player at the right time.”
“I knew he was gonna be special for the first day I met him while we used to work out at LA Fitness in middle school, in the mornings and stuff like that,” Dunkley, who has known Jackson since middle school, said. “[...] My program I’ve had in place for about 10 years now. And we’ve had numerous Division I players come through my program, but I knew he would be one of the special ones from the first times I linked up with him.”
So far, Jackson has only taken unofficial visits, going to Miami, St. John’s, VCU, Maryland and Seton Hall during the school year. He plans to cut his list by the end of the summer and then will take his official visits. He wants to take them during the school year to see what the “energy is like on campus.”
As for favorites, Jackson said there aren’t any right now, and he is keeping his options open, evaluating aspects of the programs and schools. Jackson noted that Maryland, Kansas State, Syracuse and Miami are recruiting him hardest.
When it comes to his eventual college, there are a few things that Jackson is looking out for.
“The biggest factors for me is like a place where I could develop as a player. So I want to maximize my potential, get the best I can,” he said. “A nice family environment where the team and the program all rallies around each other if anything goes bad and just a place where everybody’s cool with each other. There’s no bad blood between none of the players, none of the coaches.
“Academics, obviously, is something big for me, so in my time there, I would love to take advantage of the free scholarship the school’s giving me. And then just facilities is big for me. I like player development. I’d like to maximize all my stuff there. All my physical abilities, my mental abilities, just understanding the game more.”
Jackson has spent the last couple of seasons at Academy of the New Church in the Friends School League, but in June announced that he’s transferring to South Kent (Conn.). Last season, Jackson was named to the FSL All-League First Team and led the Lions to the league championship game, where they eventually fell to powerhouse Westtown.
Last season, South Kent went 18-16, and Jackson noted that the team is going to the Bahamas this year and plays “solid teams around the country.”
The program has a good reputation for producing high-level college players and even NBA players. The Cardinals have had nine players drafted, including Isaiah Thomas, a two-time all-star with the Celtics, and the 2012 15th overall pick Maurice Harkless. Former Big East Player of the Year and First Team All-American Myles Powell also went to South Kent.
“I just felt like it’s a good situation for me to challenge myself against some of the best players, best coaches, best teams in the nation,” Jackson said. “I feel like it’s a good place to just prepare myself for college, for that next level.”