University of Kansas freshman guard Elmarko Jackson has moments on the court that leave onlookers in awe.
His first step is quicker than most college basketball guards, while his playmaking ability is well ahead of most freshmen. In fact, the former five-star recruit is a projected lottery pick in multiple NBA mock drafts.
Yet, he hasn’t quite put it all together — he’s a freshman, after all.
KU coach Bill Self was brutally honest about Jackson’s play after his team’s 73-55 win over Fort Hays State on Wednesday. Jackson was 0 for 2 with one rebound and three assists in 16 minutes.
“I do believe it would be nice if Elmarko was ready for that, but Elmarko is thinking so much — he can’t play,” Self said. “He’s paralyzed. So he’s thinking so much and you throw him to be the point guard and everything would make (him), in his mind, think more. So I’d rather try to remove as much of that as (I) can.”
On Friday, Self went into detail about what he told Jackson.
“I think he cares so much that he’s just wanting to please,” Self said. “You tell him, ‘This is what I want you to do — I just want you to play. Don’t worry about running plays, just go play. Don’t worry about screwing up; just go a 100 miles per hour.’ Those things are easy to say, but I don’t know if they always work.
“Very rarely does that type of philosophy ever prevail and work, so I think that time and in having some repeated confidence, I think will be the thing that helps him the most.”
Self even sent Jackson a confidence-inspiring text message.
“I text(ed) him and I said, ‘This is as hard as it’s going to get for you,’” Self said. “’It ain’t that bad. I mean. It’s going to come together; it just hasn’t come together yet. But, it will and it will soon, I know that.’”
Freshman guards Jackson and Johnny Furphy, along with sixth-year sharpshooter Nick Timberlake, are all competing for the last lineup spot.
KU opens the season against North Carolina Central on Monday at Allen Fieldhouse and Self has yet to name a fifth starter.
“We haven’t practiced since we played,” Self said. “So, I have no idea.”
As for what he wants production-wise from that spot?
“Hopefully, (the player) shoots 33-35% from 3 and gets close to double-figures a game. I mean, that’d be great,” Self said. “But that to me is also not as relevant as just as a guy that can defend, take care of the ball and make sure we get a shot every possession — then also understand what we’re doing to the point where it doesn’t take away from other guys’ games.
“But we’re not quite at that spot yet. But hopefully, we’ll get there soon. We will get there; we just didn’t get there yet.”