By LARRY VAUGHT
Just how good is Kentucky signee Isaiah Jackson?
Waterford Mott head coach David McGlown has a story that UK basketball fans should love.
“We had a game earlier this season and a guy threw the ball up to him. Isaiah was running behind him, dunked and hit his head on the backboard. That’s how athletic he is,” McGlown said.
“Yet if you see him play, he’s so unselfish. You think this kid could just dominate the game and doesn’t have to score more than six or eight points to do it because of everything else he can do. He can fill the stat sheet.”
In one recent win, Jackson scored 14 points (with four dunks), grabbed 10 rebounds, blocked five shots and dished out five assists. Another game he had 32 points. Yet another game it might be 11 points, seven rebounds, two blocks and two assists. He had 12 points, 11 rebounds, five blocks and three assists in three quarters of another win.
“He is having a great season,” the coach said. “He has such an all-around game. He can make a jump shot, hit a 3, score inside, play defense and block shots. When he came back from his injury after two games, it turned our season around. He changes the game a lot because he plays above the rim.”
This is Jackson’s first year at Waterford Mott after transferring from Spire Academy (Ohio). McGlown knew Jackson’s father “a little bit” and knew some about Jackson before he arrived.
“He is so quiet and so humble, kind of shy at times,” the coach said. “It takes a while to get to know him but when you do he opens up, jokes around and just does things a normal kid does.
“If he’s maybe on the phone doing an interview, he’s kind of reserved. But you can tell he’s getting more comfortable with everything.”
He’ll play in a big spotlight at UK but at Spire Academy last year he played with LeMelo Ball, a possible top three pick in the 2020 NBA draft. Ball’s father, LaVar, is also a nationally know figure and Spire normally played in front of overflow crowds with large media contingents.
“He will open up even more once he gets there and gets other great players around him,” McGlown said. “Coach (John Calipari) will get him ready to handle the spotlight even better and handle the interviews and attention.”
He’s putting in plenty of extra work to be ready basketball-wise. McGlown says he works with his personal trainer on his jump shot and ballhandling skills.
“He is actually a small forward who is 6-9. He can handle the ball, shoot from the perimeter. He was playing point guard for us a little bit in one game to just show his other skills,” McGlown said.
Jackson has played for four high schools in four years and McGlown said bouncing around between different coaches and environments kept Jackson from having a chance to settle in and show all he can do on a consistent basis.
“He’s excited about next year and will sometimes mention Kentucky but right now he is focused on trying to make a state title run with our team because he values winning more than anything,” McGlown said. “He will say something every now and then about UK but then go a few days and not say anything. But there’s no doubt he’s excited about what lies ahead for him at UK and he should be. I think he’ll do great.”