Jaren Jackson boosting recruiting stock entering summer #iubb

In a darkened hallway underneath the Bloomington South gym, Jaren Jackson Jr. whipped out his phone, held it in the palm of his left hand and gently turned on the screen.

He eye-balled through a log of messages, finding recent greetings from coaches at Michigan State, Purdue, Maryland, Michigan and Illinois.

“I gotta answer those,” Jackson said with a smile.

The four-star power forward is a popular kid this spring, making the most of his final year of recruiting exposure. Perhaps no other player from the state of Indiana has done as much as Jackson to boost their recruiting stock in recent months, and the 6-foot-10 prospect is hoping to make the most of the extra attention.

“(I’m) just proving to everybody that I’m one of the best players nationally,” Jackson said.

So far, there seems to be a growing list of believers in the Park Tudor product.

That includes Indiana, which has maintained a steady relationship with Jackson since offering him in the fall of 2014. After his Junior All-Star team fell to the Indiana All-Stars on Tuesday at South, Jackson said IU assistant Tim Buckley is among the names appearing consistently on his phone.

“He texted me right before the game,” said Jackson, considered the No. 35 overall player nationally in the 247 Sports Composite. “I know there were a lot of IU fans here. It was good to play in front of them, too.”

What those fans saw were flashes of a unique and versatile game that has begun to blossom for Jackson. He can play on the perimeter and has confidence in his 3-point ability. He can also play under the basket and swat away shots on the defensive end.

Having the freedom to do all of those things this spring, Jackson has found a higher level of confidence, which has bred both greater results and led to all of the recent attention from college coaches across the country.

“In high school, they need me to play down low and I’ll play down low,” Jackson said. “But if I’m in AAU and I have other big guys with me, I can play on the outside and shoot 3s and do whatever the team needs. … I didn’t play like this in high school. I didn’t play like this and do what I’m doing this summer at all. I think just the level of confidence raises your game.”

Dan Kline, his coach for Spiece Indy Heat, agrees. Kline has seen a better version of Jackson in recent weeks. Playing on the Nike EYBL circuit, Jackson has learned to play up to his competition, while using both his perimeter skills and growing strength to his advantage.

“He’s gained a lot of confidence,” Kline said. “He’s playing against name players and he’s performing. He knows he can play with them.”

And Jackson is showing he can do so in multiple ways.

In 16 EYBL games this year, Jackson is averaging 17.1 points while shooting 44 percent from 3-point range, grabbing 6.9 rebounds and blocking 2.1 shots per contest.

“People don’t realize it, but he passes the ball really well,” Kline said. “He handles the ball well and he handles it in traffic. When we get pressed, we put him in the middle and we let him go to work. He makes good decisions.”

Jackson comes from a good pedigree, too.

His father, Jaren Jackson Sr., played at Georgetown before authoring a 13-year professional career that included stops with nine NBA teams and a championship with the San Antonio Spurs in 1999.

There’s a lot to like about the younger Jackson, and plenty to project with a frame that will pack on plenty of muscle in the coming years.

As Jackson’s recruitment continues to heat up, he’s not sure what’s in store for him next. Whether he takes any visits this summer has not been decided. Meanwhile, he says he’s still fielding late interest from schools like Kansas and Texas.

“I’m just playing a lot better,” Jackson said. “And I’ve been getting rewarded for it.”