Five-star re­cruit Jack­son chooses Spar­tans over Terps

Baltimore Sun - - COMMENTARY - By Don Markus don.markus@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/sport­sprof56

Jaren Jack­son, a five-star bas­ket­ball prospect from Indianapolis who at one time seemed to be lean­ing to­ward Mary­land, an­nounced Thurs­day that he will at­tend Michi­gan State.

Jack­son, ranked No. 26 over­all in the coun­try by ESPN, picked the Spar­tans over the Terps and Pur­due. Ge­orge­town — where his fa­ther, Jaren Sr., had played — and Notre Dame were also in the mix.

“Coach [Tom] Izzo has es­tab­lished a cul­ture and an at­ti­tude of win­ning, and I want to be part of that,” Jack­son told ESPN.

The de­ci­sion by the 6- foot-10, 225-pound power for­ward means that Mary­land coach Mark Tur­geon and his staff will con­tinue to search for their first com­mit­ment for 2017.

Ikechukwu “Ike” Obi­agu, a 7-foot, 245-pound cen­ter from At­lanta who ESPN ranks 42nd over­all in his class (ninth among the five-star big men), listed the Terps among his fi­nal six schools Wed­nes­day. Obi­agu vis­ited Mary­land re­cently. In an in­ter­view with ESPN, Jack­son said that a visit by Izzo the day af­ter the coach was in­ducted into the Nai­smith Hall of Fame this month might have made the Spar­tans front-run­ners.

“It was crazy he came to visit me right af­ter I was watch­ing him on tele­vi­sion from the Hall of Fame,” Jack­son said. “I heard he was com­ing, but I did not know for sure he would show up. That meant a lot to me.”

Jack­son’s an­nounce­ment came on his 17th birth­day.

“I didn’t plan it this way,” Jack­son said. “I have done all my home­work on each school ... and dis­cussed ev­ery­thing with my fam­ily, and the tim­ing just hap­pened to land on my birth­day,” Jack­son said. “When you have a Hall of Fame coach like Tom Izzo, it makes a state­ment about the pro­gram.”

ESPN re­cruit­ing an­a­lyst Jeff Borzello said he wasn’t sur­prised to see Jack­son choose Michi­gan State and that, de­spite this loss, Mary­land can still com­pete with the Spar­tans for some of the coun­try’s elite high school play­ers.

“It’s al­ways hard to go into some­body else’s backyard and come out with a high-level kid like that, but they’ve done it be­fore,” Borzello said, al­lud­ing to the Terps’ re­cruit­ment of Di­a­mond Stone away from Wis­con­sin.

“I think they have an at­trac­tive pitch, es­pe­cially for a Mid­west kid. They can say, ‘Hey, we play in the Big Ten. Your fam­ily can see a lot of your road games. You’ll be play­ing against a lot of fa­mil­iar faces.’ ”

Borzello said he ex­pects Obi­agu to be “one of their pri­mary tar­gets” for the Terps, along with point guard Trevon Du­val, the No. 5 ranked prospect in the coun­try.

“There’s still a lot of time left,” Borzello said.

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