Michigan State freshman forward Jaren Jackson Jr. may be the player who elevates the Spartans to serious national title contenders. He provides a versatile and unique skill set to what might be the deepest frontcourt in the country. Listed at 6-11 and 242 pounds, Jackson is Michigan State’s biggest player and he’s able to protect the rim on defense, but he also has the shooting touch to stretch the floor beyond the 3-point line on offense.
In his first collegiate game, he recorded a double-double – 13 points and 13 rebounds – to go along with three assists, two steals and four blocks, in just 22 minutes. He was also 9-of-10 from the free throw line, a promising sign for his shooting potential.
Perhaps the best news for Jackson and the Spartans is that Michigan State is talented, deep and experienced enough that he won’t be expected to carry them as he transitions to the college game this fall. He’s flanked by a pair of productive sophomores in the team’s frontcourt – national player of the year candidate Miles Bridges (16.9 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 2.1 apg, 1.5 bpg in ’16-17) and Nick Ward (13.9 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 1.5 bpg) – who will likely be higher priorities on opposing teams’ scouting reports, at least initially.
Jackson’s athleticism and versatility at 6-11 make him one of the most exciting freshmen in the country.