Happy May, everyone. A man named Andrew Woods emailed me saying "When are you going to continue the season reviews?" The answer is today. I've been suffering some burnout lately and I need a kick in the ass every once in a while from you guys. It's appreciated.
I needed a kick in the ass to get back on the season recaps just like the next player up in the recaps needed a mid-season kick in the ass to start playing well. The next man up is Justin Jackson. If you missed the earlier reviews that I have written about the program, Jeremiah Davis, Alex Eppensteiner and Kelvin Gaines and Ge'Lawn Guyn, click on the links and read those as well.
Before the season started, I wrote a Getting to Know the Bearcats piece in which I predicted Justin Jackson would have an 8 -7 -1.5 block – 1.5 assist – 1.2 steal season. I didn't just expect him to get better, I expected a pretty big jump from him. Except in blocks. My prediction was a little off from that. Jackson ended up averaging 1.5 blocks, 1.5 assists and 1 steal a game. That part was surprisingly accurate. The points and rebounds were way off. I thought it was a very disappointing season for Justin Jackson. Many of you thought it was a disappointing season for Jackson. I'm sure even Justin thought it was a disappointing season for him. The stats only tell part of the story. He was benched for a game. He suffered an injury. He played over 25 minutes twice all season. That's it. Justin Jackson was thought of to be a key cog on the team. By the end of the season, he was just 5 fouls to use on Doug McDermott and Gregory Echenique. It was a giant step back season for JJ.
Justin Jackson played in 30 of the 34 Cincinnati games this season, starting 22. He averaged 18.8 minutes a game. That was down from 21 as a sophomore. He took a small step up in his possession percentage, from 16.8 to 18.1. He took a big step down in his offensive rating. He had a career low 82.5 rating. For someone who had an offensive rating of 84.6 as a freshman, that's a pretty low number to sink beneath. Jackson was worse from the floor. He was 46-110, 41.8%. That was also a career low, 10% below his career average. Jackson's effective and true shooting percentages was 42.2% and 44%, 10% and 8.5% lower than 2011-12. Justin's lack of improvement showed at the foul line. He had a lower free throw rate, which probably came because of the cut in minutes, where he went 22-43, 51.2%. A lot of that was in the non-conference. To his credit, Justin was 15-27, 55.6% in conference play at the stripe. That's still awful, but it's not as awful. What was awful were the career high 11 three point attempts. JJ made only 1. There were audible groans when he attempted 3s as the season progressed. Progress is something that Jackson's offensive game did not do. Jackson averaged just 3.8 points a game.
Justin Jackson averaged 5.1 rebounds a game. It was nearly a full rebound a game improvement. That was 3rd on the team. Jackson was slightly worse on the offensive glass as he pulled in 9.4% of the offensive rebounds compared to 10.1%, but he was significantly better on the defensive glass. Jackson pulled in 20.4% of the available defensive rebounds while on the court. That's a huge upgrade from his freshman and sophomore seasons. The one thing Jackson really improved on was defensive rebounding. Jackson pulled in 4 less rebounds than last year in 7 less games. There was improvement there.
There was no improvement in the amount of turnovers Jackson caused. His turnover percentage was a career worst 32.5%. That means on every 100 UC possessions with Jackson the court, he turned it over on 32 of them. You all know how percentages work, but damn that is a lot. Jackson was a better passer but he had 44 assists to 54 turnovers. That was his career best assist/turnover ratio, but at 0.8 that's nothing to brag about. Justin's passing did see him assist on 15.8% of UC baskets. Jackson blocked 41 shots, 10th in the Big East. He averaged 1.4 blocks a game, 8th in the league. He blocked shots on 7.7% of possessions, 7th in the BE. The last two numbers were slightly down from last year. The total number of blocks was down by 20, but remember 7 less games. Although maybe he would have had more blocks if he didn't foul out 6 times. Jackson has played 67 games the last 2 seasons and fouled out of 13. Pretty much 1 of every 5 games he fouls out.
Justin got the season off on a solid foot with a 7 point, 11 rebound, 2 assist, 2 steal, 1 block performance. It was slightly marred by 5 turnovers. Turnovers were a problem with Jackson in the first 4 games. He had 13 total against sub-par competition. Jackson's numbers took a slight decline every game from there. 2 of them saw performances hampered by foul trouble He put up 5 and 8 in just 16 minutes followed by 6 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals against NCAA tournament team North Carolina A&T. Jackson played only 13 minutes because of fouls the next game, with 2 points, 6 rebounds, 3 blocks and 3 turnovers. Jackson had 4 fouls against Iowa State, holding him to 17 minutes when he was playing well with 6 rebounds and 3 blocks. JJ had 4 fouls yet again in the Oregon game. It truncated a 2 point, 5 rebound, 4 assist, 1 steal, 1 block outing. Jackson wasn't in foul trouble against Alabama, but outside of 4 blocks he did nothing in his 15 minutes of that game.
The next 3 games for Justin Jackson showed some offensive growth. He had 7 points, 4 boards, 4 assists and 4 steals in a win over UALR. Jackson had 9 points on 4-8 with 7 rebounds and 3 blocks against UMES. His only double digit outing of the season was a 10 point game against Marshall where he went 5-6 with 3 assists and 3 steals. Jackson had 5 boards but didn't attempt a shot against Xavier before fouling out, but he had 9 points on 4-10 with 7 boards in a win over Wright State. Unfortunately for Justin, he would score 10 points total the next 4 games. Despite 8 rebounds and 3 steals, he went 0-6 from the floor in a 1 point loss to New Mexico. He had a modest 4-2 against Pitt before being a train wreck with 0 points, 1 rebound, 2 turnovers and 4 fouls in 16 minutes against St John's. JJ was benched the following game against Notre Dame.
It appeared that the benching had opened up Jackson's eyes. He had 6 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks and 0 turnovers in 24 minutes against Rutgers. But he played just 12 minutes against DePaul in part because of 3 fouls and he only managed 16 minutes before fouling out in the overtime game against Marquette. Jackson played 14 minutes against Syracuse, a large part came when UC was playing well, with 4 points, 5 rebounds and an assist. He had his best game of the year the following game against Rutgers. Jackson had 7 points on 3-8 shooting, that part wasn't the best, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal and a season high 6 blocks. Jackson strung together 3 solid games in a row starting with that one. He had 3 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals and a block against Seton Hall and 5 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists against Providence before fouling out of that one. JJ went into another funk. He played just 7 minutes against Pittsburgh due to injury. He came back for 21 minutes against Villanova but didn't play that great with 3 rebounds, 3 turnovers and 3 fouls. He did have 1 block and 1 awesome picture that you can see at the top of the post.
Jackson attacked the offensive glass in the first meeting with Georgetown for a season high 5 offensive rebounds and 8 total to go with 3 blocks, 2 assists, 1 steal and 5 points. He was just 3-8 at the foul line in a close loss. Jackson would foul out of the next 2 games against UConn and Notre Dame, both UC losses, with just 6 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 blocks and 5 turnovers total. He would miss the next 3 games due to another injury.
Justin Jackson was able to come back just in time for the Big East tournament. He played 14 minutes against Providence with 5 rebounds. He rebounded very well against the Friars. He will miss them. He played just 13 minutes against Georgetown in the blowout with 3 points and 4 boards. He saw 22 minutes against Creighton in the NCAA tournament, many at center, with 2 points on 1-3 shooting, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocks and 3 turnovers before he fouled out.
We'll never know if Justin Jackson can be the player that he has the talent to be because he can't stay on the floor. If it's not silly defensive fouls, it's his inability to set a screen without moving. I'm not saying Jackson could throw up a triple double, but he has the talent to fill out a box score that way. The fact he has 5 double digit scoring games, 1 double digit rebound game and a career best of 4 assists shows he's not getting the most out of his talent. He has 0 career double doubles. That's just not good enough.
Maybe I'm seeing something that isn't there. Maybe he isn't the type of guy that can string 14-11-7 blocks-4 assists-4 steals together on one night. Those are his career highs in all those numbers by the way. It doesn't look unrealistic for a player to do that against a Tennessee-Martin or a Campbell or a SMU or a Houston. But the fact many of you scoff at when I say it's possible for Justin Jackson shows how much he has to grow this summer. It seems like he hasn't been around a long time but he has. This is his last year to break out. I think he has the skill in him. I don't know if he has the push to be great in him. It's disappointing to write that out about someone on your squad. I hope that Justin Jackson puts in the work this summer and gets it together. Sometimes the guy who can't score is always the guy who can't score. It doesn't have to be that way for Justin Jackson. His low shooting percentage could easily rise with better shot selection and some luck around the rim. If he could stay out of foul trouble, his minutes and rebounds rise. He's got the ability to impact games. We've seen it against Marquette last year and Rutgers this year. His ability to block shots is a special thing. He gets the arena rocking with the #MeanFace and all that other stuff. I do think that the mean faces and that got in his head some this year by the way. He would try to get the block and end up out of position. Basically what this long paragraph is saying is that I believe Justin Jackson has some big games in him. Sure they could be against Lewis College instead of Louisville, but the key is inside Justin Jackson. He's going to be relied upon to be a player this year. It's to you to deliver, Jack.