Down the home stretch of his recruitment back in the fall of 2019, former five-star recruit Isaiah Jackson went back and forth on the Kentucky Wildcats and the Alabama Crimson Tide before ultimately signing on to play for John Calipari in Lexington.
Just over a year later, Jackson and the Wildcats are set to take on Nate Oats and the Tide for the second time in two weeks, with Alabama slaughtering Kentucky by a final score of 85-65 the first time around.
Despite the overwhelming victory, Oats’ former recruiting target finished with a team-high 14 points, seven blocks and six rebounds in the loss.
“We recruited Isaiah, obviously. He’s from Detroit, where I coached for ten years. I know him, I know his dad, we recruited him hard. Would’ve loved to get him,” Oats said Monday afternoon. “I think he’s come along well. I think his motor is great, his activity level is big time. Against us last time, he had more than double what his scoring output was, so we didn’t do a very good job on him last time we played him.”
He’s still a work in progress offensively, but Oats isn’t shocked in the slightest that Jackson is climbing up the draft boards and solidifying himself as a first rounder. The defensive and rebounding success is already there, and the potential elsewhere is through the roof.
“He gets most of his stuff running the floor hard, getting offensive rebounds, pick and rolls, sprinting to the rim, but he’s shown the ability here lately to face you up, take you off the dribble a little bit,” Oats continued. “His post-up game isn’t his No. 1 strong suit, but if you switch and get smaller guys on him or guys he’s got more length and size on, he’s shown he can do that, as well. He’s playing well, he’s on mostly everybody’s first round draft board. He’s got the upside to be on those first round draft boards. We’re going to have to deal with that tomorrow.
“They took him out of the starting lineup – my guess would be they’re just trying to get different lineups – but he’s still playing a lot of minutes. I don’t think it’s because of him, I think it’s because of them trying to get some other guys in the lineup a little bit more.”
When asked about his standout big man, who finished with a ridiculous 15 rebounds in 16 minutes in Kentucky’s win over LSU on Saturday, UK assistant coach Bruiser Flint said Jackson continues to improve and produce in his time on the floor.
“He’s been getting better and better. His potential is unbelievable and he’s gotten a lot better this year,” Flint said. “So, I think if we keep him out there, we’ve got a good rotation going with our big guys now. He makes a huge difference because he’s just naturally a great shot blocker and doing things defensively. But he’s a freshman and he struggles sometimes with some of the things you ask him to do like all freshmen do, but he’s getting with it so that’s all we can ask him to do.”
On the year, Jackson is averaging 6.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 3.0 blocks in 20.1 minutes per contest.