Duke’s backcourt was crowded during the 2016-2017 college hoops season. With the Blue Devils already sporting a host of shooting guards in Luke Kennard, Grayson Allen and Matt Jones, finding minutes was difficult for freshman Frank Jackson. Instead of moping or considering a transfer, Jackson simply went all-out when he had the opportunity, averaging 10.9 points while shooting 40 percent from deep and 47 percent from the field, all in just under 25 minutes per game.
After generating a fair amount of buzz in the second half of the season, Jackson opted to enter the NBA Draft instead of returning to Duke for his sophomore season, where he’d once again be fighting for minutes amongst a talented roster. It seems to have been a prudent decision.
Jackson registered the second-highest vertical jump at the NBA Draft Combine, hitting 42 inches, and his general athleticism has impressed GMs around the league. At P3, where Jackson has trained all offseason, director of performance Luke Storey says Jackson is one of the most eye-popping athletes they’ve ever had the pleasure of testing, from the force he creates when lifting to his ability to move laterally.
“Usually when we assess athletes coming through the doors, it’s a case of ‘OK, these things you’re good at, these things you’re OK at, mechanically you need to work on this, some of your power numbers here are not great,'” Storey said. “With Frank, it was a case of, ‘OK, you are a specimen. You are good at this, exceptional at this, very good at this, exceptional at this.’ So let’s keep him exceptional at everything.”
We caught up with Jackson post-workout to chat about his time at Duke, growing up in Utah and what teams can expect from him at the next level.
STACK: Take me through the process that ended up with you choosing to play at Duke
Frank Jackson: I committed to BYU my freshman year, then de-committed my junior year which allowed me to open up my recruitment and be recruited by other schools. My relationship with Coach K and the Duke staff really hit home for me when I went and visited. They were quick to build that relationship with me and it was cool to be there. At the end of the day, I wanted to be part of that Duke brand and play for the greatest coach of all time.
There was a bit of minutes logjam your freshman year. Did you ever get frustrated?
My year at Duke taught me a lot. There’s definitely a lot of ups and downs. I thought at the beginning of the year I played well and then through that middle part of the season I struggled like all freshmen do. It taught me to kind of push through and get through some adversity. That second half of the season is where I really took off and tried to do my best to prove to everyone that I belong there and that I could play at that level. I’m grateful for my time at Duke and I will always remember that.
How hard was making the decision to leave for the NBA?
The process to go to the NBA when the season was over…it was kind of crazy. I mean the year went by so fast. It was kind of a tough decision at first but at the end of the day, I realized that this is my goal. This has been my dream ever since I was little and it’s right in front of my face, so I want to go take it and I want to do everything I can to pursue that dream and hopefully end up on top.
You spent most of your formative years living and hooping in Utah. What was that like?
I love it out there. It’s a great place to live, but I think basketball-wise we don’t get the respect that I think we deserve. I think there’s a lot of talent out in Utah. That is where my basketball career took off. I really started to get serious about it in the 8th to 9th grade where I really just focused on that. I stopped playing other sports and really put in work. I was able to still be from Utah, but go play AAU tournaments, even in high school, and kind of showcase my skills and showcase that I could play with the best players in the country. I think it’s awesome for me to be able to come from Utah, to kind of bring the spotlight back there and allow other kids to have the opportunity to show that they can play basketball.
When did you realize that you were pretty good at basketball and it might be something you could do at the college and pro level?
I think when I kind of realized that I was pretty good at basketball at the end of my freshman year. Even before that, I think people weren’t expecting me to be that good. I was always decent and just kind of a role-playing kid, but I think the end of my freshman year I really kind of proved that if I work hard I could really get to the next level and maybe even further than that. But for me, the end of my freshman year kind of motivated me to work harder and to pursue my dreams. Now I’m here.
As you’ve trained ahead of the NBA Draft, what’s the biggest thing you’ve focused on with your game?
The thing that I want to improve the most since I’ve been here on the court is probably extending my range on the 3-point line. I’ve been working on my ball handling as well. I feel like even this past couple of weeks my handle has gotten a lot tighter than it has been throughout the past couple of years. Just being consistent at the 3-point line and getting those handles as tight as I can.
When you’ve met with NBA teams throughout the process, what’s the one thing you’ve wanted to really get across?
The one thing that I want teams to know about me is that I’m athletic and that I’m hungry. At the end of the day I’m ready to play in the NBA. I feel like my game really translates well to the next level in ball screen situations and in transition. I just want to keep emphasizing that and letting teams know that I’m ready to prepare and work to reach my ultimate goal.
Finally, I know you’ve thought about draft day. What goes through your mind when you do?
I’ve thought about draft day every single night. Like I said, this is just a dream, a goal of mine and it’s so close. For me, that feeling, I just think of my name being called, giving my mom a big old hug and walking up there with the biggest smile on my face knowing that I have accomplished something pretty big. At the end of the day, I definitely want to get into the NBA but my goal is to also stay there and have a good long career, and it’s going to be really good.
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