HE’S FLY­ING

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Jonas Shaffer

COL­LEGE PARK — Justin Jack­son had played 71 min­utes of Di­vi­sion I basketball. He had started one game. To deem him ready for the NBA draft? Af­ter just three Mary­land men’s basketball games? That seemed, well, pre­ma­ture, like pre­dict­ing an aced fi­nal exam a week into the start of a 400-level class.

But af­ter the Terps’ fourth game, a tense 71-66 win Sun­day over Tow­son at Xfin­ity Cen­ter, Tigers coach Pat Sk­erry joked about the Cana­dian fresh­man for­ward’s fu­ture, and how he wished his team hadn’t Bar­clays Clas­sic Tonight, 7 TV: Big Ten Net­work Ra­dio: 105.7 FM, 980 AM Line: Mary­land by 171⁄ been a part of it.

“I was hop­ing he was go­ing to de­clare for the draft be­fore the game,” Sk­erry said af­ter Jack­son had 21 points and five 3-point­ers on just 13 to­tal shots in 36 min­utes, along with four re­bounds and two blocks. “That would’ve helped us. He’s re­ally good. It was just a mat­ter of time.”

He has been re­ally good twice now, and in the Terps’ two most im­por­tant games. His fifth game comes tonight against Stony Brook at Xfin­ity Cen­ter. The Sea­wolves, de­fend­ing Amer­ica East Con­fer­ence cham­pi­ons, are 0-2 un­der first-year coach Jeff Boals.

Against Ge­orge­town last Tues­day, Jack­son shot 7-for-12, in­clud­ing 3-for-5 from be­yond the arc, and fin­ished with 17 points and seven re­bounds in a come-frombe­hind win.

On Sun­day, in his sec­ond start, the 6-foot-7 Jack­son was the best player on the

court, and also one of the youngest. Just 19 years old, he hadn’t yet been born when Mary­land and Tow­son last played, in 1996.

At least he has a sea­soned run­ning mate. Jack­son and Melo Trim­ble com­bined for 48 of the Terps’ 71 points, and the ju­nior point guard found Jack­son for all three of his sec­ond-half 3-point­ers.

That they should be joined at the hip in the box score is be­com­ing less and less of a sur­prise. Trim­ble’s most im­pres­sive per­for­mance this sea­son: against the Hoyas. The Terps’ most im­por­tant two-day stretch this off­sea­son: when Trim­ble an­nounced he was re­turn­ing for his third sea­son and Jack­son, not long af­ter­ward, com­mit­ted to coach Mark Tur­geon.

“Justin Jack­son was ter­rific. Melo was great,” Tur­geon said af­ter Mary­land moved to 4-0. “Right now, we can’t make a jump shot, ex­cept for Justin.”

That is not by ac­ci­dent. Jack­son, by far the team’s lead­ing out­side shooter (9-for-15), with more 3-point­ers than Kevin Huerter, Jared Nick­ens and Dion Wi­ley have com­bined (eight), stayed af­ter prac­tice Sat­ur­day to shoot. For 21⁄ hours.

As­sis­tant coach Bino Ran­son has told him he has “so much po­ten­tial,” Jack­son said. Get­ting shots up, then, would help un­lock it. “It’s some­thing I al­ways do,” he said.

Jack­son was asked af­ter­ward whether there was a mo­ment Sun­day when he re­ally got go­ing. He said no, that he doesn’t get too high or low af­ter a miss or a make. Of course, noth­ing in his first minute in­di­cated that he would trail only Trim­ble in terms of play­ing time by game’s end.

The Terps’ first pos­ses­sion ended with him on his back­side, Tow­son for­ward Ar­naud Wil­liam Adala Moto hav­ing blocked his layup em­phat­i­cally at the rim. The next time down, he was wide open on the wing. Guard An­thony Cowan Jr. found him be­yond the arc. Jack­son set his feet, rose and missed so badly, the ball kissed off the bot­tom of the back­board on the other side of the rim.

But by the end of the half, he had 10 points. He missed another 3-pointer af­ter the in­ter­mis­sion, but his next two were true, cut­ting the Tigers’ lead to 50-48 and 54-41, re­spec­tively, mid­way through the sec­ond half.

Jack­son’s bucket two min­utes later wasn’t flashy. It was telling. With the Terps down two, he parked him­self in the left cor­ner while Cowan ran a pick-and-roll with for­ward L.G. Gill Justin Jack­son shoots over Tow­son’s De­shaun Mor­man in Sun­day’s win. The fresh­man had 21 points and five 3-point­ers on just 13 to­tal shots in 36 min­utes. near the top of the key.

Tow­son packed the mid­dle of the lane, and Jack­son raised both hands. He got Cowan’s at­ten­tion, then the ball. As Tigers for­ward John Davis closed out hard, Jack­son went around him and pulled up for an easy mid-range jumper. Mary­land never trailed again.

“They run good ac­tions and spread the floor,” Sk­erry said of the Terps. “They pass it. And then he just be­comes a weapon be­cause you’re try­ing to han­dle ball screens with two guys, and then you find him. He knocked down quite a few timely long balls when we had them on the ropes. He’s a spe­cial player.”

Just as im­por­tant for the Terps, he’s not on any­one’s 2017 mock drafts. Not yet, any­way.

“Justin Jack­son was ter­rific. Melo [Trim­ble] was great. Right now, we can’t make a jump shot, ex­cept for Justin.” Mary­land coach Mark Tur­geon

JOSE LUIS MAGANA/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

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