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Penn gets commit from 7-3 Utah center for 2017

09/01/2015, 6:15pm EDT
By Josh Verlin

Mark Jackson (above) brings his 7-3 frame to Penn in two years. (Photo: Francisco Kjolseth/Salt Lake Tribune)

Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)

Penn landed its newest commitment on Tuesday, with head coach Steve Donahue securing a verbal pledge from Salt Lake City East (Utah) big man Mark Jackson.

But it will be a while before the 2015 high school graduate dons a Quaker jersey.

Jackson, a Mormon, has already begun his two-year mission to Paris, but will join the Quakers’ roster as a true freshman in 2017.

While his head coach on the AAU circuit, Utah Prospects' Tim Davis, admits that Jackson will be "rusty" when he arrives in Philadelphia, he doesn't think the two year layoff will ultimately be a disadvantage for Jackson.

After all, at 7-foot-3, Jackson could use the time to settle into a frame that could still ultimately add another inch or two by the time it's all said and done.

"He's really a talent that's been ready to blossom," Davis said. "He'll be out of shape...but it'll help his body, because it's a development thing.

"It's really long-term to me a huge advantage, I think. Right away it might nto be the biggest advantage, but long-term it's huge, because you're getting a 20 or 21-year-old kid instead of an 18-year-old, so mentally, there aren't as many distractions and their priorities are a little different."

Jackson is the second commitment for Penn in the 2017 class, joining Locust Valley (N.Y.) guard Jordan Salzman, who committed under former head coach Jerome Allen. Donahue already has two commitments in 2016, Downingtown West (Pa.) shooting guard Ryan Betley and Northfield Mt. Hermon (Mass.) forward A.J. Brodeur.

The Quakers are also bringing on one center this fall, another Northfield Mt. Hermon product in 6-foot-11 post Collin McManus.

A visit to Philadelphia three weeks ago helped seal the deal, with Jackson drawn in by the school's academics. With his flight to Paris leaving on Wednesday, he needed to make a decision quickly, and went with the school where he felt most comfortable.

"It was pretty bam, bam, bam," Davis said.

Davis specifically mentioned Penn assistant Nat Graham, a holdover from Allen's coaching staff, as the coach who put in the most work with Jackson.

"Coach Graham was phenomenal," Davis said. "He got a lot of looks on the West coach, bigger conferences and things, but coach Graham has been the draw to Penn on top of the school itself."

When he arrives on campus, Jackson will certainly be tough to miss.

At 7-3, he will immediately be one of the taller players not just in the Ivy League but in the entirely of college basketball.

That's why he entered the summer with no offers but left it with most of the Ivy League in pursuit, as well as a few high-majors; Davis mentioned Washington State as one school that had offered.

"Mark's going to be a very, very talented, special player," Davis said. "His size alone, and his ability to attract the ball and block shots, he did some damage against some of the best bigs in the country, especially in July."

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