Freshman Jackson leads Kansas into action against Stanford
LAWRENCE, Kan. -- The growth of Josh Jackson will not eliminate whatever pressure the highly-rated freshman feels to both satisfy his preseason hype and elevate his NBA draft stock.
Yet Kansas coach Bill Self has noticed his 6-foot-8 freshman welcomes whatever pressure is heaped on him with the No. 4 Jayhawks (6-1) riding a six-game winning streak entering a game Saturday against Stanford (6-2) in Allen Fieldhouse.
Depth enables Kansas to sometimes ride the hot hand of an unconventional leading scorer. A case in point came in the Jayhawks' most recent game when sophomore guard Lagerald Vick, in just his second career start, went 9 of 9 and netted a career-high 23 points.
"I don't think that Josh looks at it like, 'I'm glad everybody else is playing good, so that takes some pressure off of me,'" Self said. "I think (top-flight) kids look at it like I want all the pressure on me now.
"But it is an advantage to be able to have five guards out there that are all very capable and making plays and making shots."
Jackson is the tallest in that group, a 6-8 wing who can penetrate for points or assists, and also contribute with sticky hands on the defensive end.
The only time he failed to score in double figures was a nine-point performance in an overtime loss to Indiana to begin the season.
"Josh thinks of it like, 'I want to get as good as fast as I can,'" Self added. "I think he's shown unbelievable improvement. And he didn't have a bad game against Indiana."
At the rate Jackson is on, averaging 14.1 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists, he is quite possibly the most versatile freshman Self has coached at Kansas. Among other standouts on that list who left for the NBA after one year are Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid.
"He's got great vision," Self said. "He can pass and can alter (shots) and is getting more active defensively. He's probably as all-around as any freshman we've had who can do a little bit of everything."
The two small guards in the Kansas backcourt, senior Frank Mason and junior Devonte' Graham, join Jackson as double-digit scorers with averages of 19.6 and 12.9 points, respectively. Each averages 5.4 assists.
Stanford is coming off a 66-51 loss to No. 12 St. Mary's. The Cardinal led 30-26 at halftime but shot just 28 percent from the field in the second half and made just one 3-pointer.
"They came out more enthused than we did," Stanford coach Jerod Haase said.
Additional enthusiasm might not be enough for Stanford to upset Kansas, especially considering the Jayhawks are riding a 46-game home winning streak, which is tops in the country.
Haase, however, knows the territory.
He played at Kansas from 1995 to 1997 under Roy Williams. He then assisted the Kansas staff before moving on to serve as an assistant under Williams at North Carolina. Haase was head coach at UAB for four seasons before taking over this year at Stanford.
Reid Travis, a 6-8 junior forward who missed much of last season with a stress reaction in a leg, will try to cause problems inside. He leads Stanford in scoring (16.3) and rebounding (9.5) and could be a load for the Jayhawks, who have lacked frontcourt production.
Dorian Pickens, a 6-5 wing, averages 13.8 points and 4.4 rebounds.