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Former Terps Forward Justin Jackson: 'Everything's Feeling Great' Ahead Of NBA Draft

June 11, 2018
Former Maryland forward Justin Jackson, who was shut down last December to undergo surgery on a torn labrum in his right shoulder, said on Glenn Clark Radio June 8 that he still hasn't been cleared for contact but is progressing well as he prepares for the NBA Draft June 21.

"First and foremost, I feel great," Jackson said. "Shooting a lot better, just getting my touch back. My range is great, my range of motion. Everything's feeling great. The only thing holding me back is just waiting that full six months, so I'm ready to get back in the gym like you said. I've been itching to get back on the court, play against somebody, have somebody guarding you, something like that."

A video on Jackson's Instagram shows the former Terp going through individual drills involving driving to the basket and dunking and shooting from 3-point range. He's also been participating in team workouts -- he worked out for the Los Angeles Lakers earlier this month -- and took part in the NBA Draft Combine on a limited basis in May.

Jackson had surgery in January, so the six-month mark to potentially be cleared for contact will come in July. That's limited how much he can show teams in the lead-up to the draft.

"There's a bit of difficulty just because I'm not cleared for contact, but you know what, I had a great freshman season," Jackson said. "I feel we accomplished a lot of things, especially earlier on in the season. I got to show a bit of skill during my few games that I played my sophomore season, so I'm confident that they know what they're getting out of me."

Jackson said the injury surfaced before his sophomore season began -- "I fell on it, something happened, my arm went numb," he said -- and tried to play through it until it became too painful. Though the injury affected Jackson's shooting -- he shot 25 percent from 3-point range as a sophomore after shooting 43.8 percent as a freshman -- the Terps missed his defensive versatility and rebounding while he was out. The injury contributed to Maryland finishing 19-13 and missing the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) in addition to the NCAA Tournament. 

"It was tough having the season we had this year. I really felt like I could help," Jackson said. "We had a special group of guys and unfortunately I didn't get a chance to fight for a national championship or anything like that. But I made a lot of good relationships and friendships, and Maryland will always mean something to me."

The 6-foot-7 Jackson had a solid freshman season in which he averaged 10.5 points and six rebounds per game. He declared for the 2017 NBA Draft without an agent after the season, which preserved his college eligibility. Armed with a 7-foot-3 wingspan, a soft shooting touch and the ability to guard multiple positions and battle on the glass with Big Ten big men, Jackson likely would've been a second-round pick had he stayed in the draft. 

But he decided to return, preferring to work his way into the first round. Expected to be a big part of the Terps' offense, he'd have a chance to prove he could create off the bounce. Instead, his injury meant it was essentially a lost season. He entered the 2018 NBA Draft with an agent in April. Sports Illustrated draft analyst Jeremy Woo has Jackson going 57th overall to the Oklahoma City Thunder in his latest mock draft

"Honestly, it was a tough decision, especially with the injury coming into play," Jackson said. "This is something I've been thinking about for awhile. It was the toughest decision. I literally was split 50/50 right until the end. But I felt like I made a good decision. I'm confident in myself and my skills. I know I can play at the next level, so I'm just waiting to show all the critics what they've been missing out on."

Jackson won't be the only former Terp hoping his name is called July 21. Guard Kevin Huerter, Jackson's teammate of the past two years, kept his name in the draft and is expected to be selected in the first round. Woo has Huerter going 21st overall to the Utah Jazz. 

"I'm genuinely so proud of Kevin, just seeing him from when we both first stepped on campus until now, the progression he's made is crazy, not only as a basketball player, but just as a friend," Jackson said. "Everyone on our team, as a matter of fact, we've just grown to love each other, so we're all so proud of the decisions that everyone's making. We all support each other 100 percent. 

"He was my roommate while we were out there at the Combine, so got to spend some time with him. I hadn't seen him in awhile. It's just love. It's nothing but love on my side and I'm very, very proud of him. He's getting what he deserves. People are starting to see the true player he actually is. I'm really proud of him."

To hear more from Jackson about the pre-draft process, the Terps and a funny story about a mix-up he had with Sacramento Kings forward Justin Jackson, listen here:


Follow Luke on Twitter @luke_jackson10 

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox