Raptors give Jackson honest day’s workout
The Raptors can make dreams come true for young men at this time every year. The money and prestige and opportunity they can afford basketball players around the NBA draft is significant and substantial.
But they are also dealing with the reality that very few would-be pros actually make it, and they can dash dreams or help turn them into reality.
Take, for example, Justin Jackson, a raw but promising University of Maryland freshman from East York who is toying with leaving his name in the hopper for the June 22 draft.
He is skilled, no question, but he’s also young and has to decide by the end of Wednesday whether he’ll go back to school and refine his game, or stay in the draft and forego college eligibility.
There are no sure things on either side of the equation: He could go undrafted and fall by the wayside, or he could return to college and see his skills stagnate or worse.
It could be a life-changing decision.
He seeks input and guidance from NBA teams he’s been working out for — the last of which was the Raptors on Tuesday morning — and he needs to hear honest assessments, which is where Toronto’s responsibility comes into sharp focus. The Raptors have to be brutally honest, and Jackson and his family have to trust them.
“They’re not looking for any sort of false indications of where they’re at. They would like to have as honest of feedback as they can because these are tough career choices, and a lot of times they’re not in a position where they need to leave (school) but they kind of want to know, is it in their best interest from a playing standpoint,” said Toronto’s director of player personnel, Dan Tolzman.
“A lot of times, unless there’s some personal issues or whatever going on . . . the honest feedback helps them take that back to school and really work on things this summer, and put them in a better position next summer.”
A report Tuesday morning said Jackson had decided to return to school. It surfaced at exactly the same time he told reporters in Toronto he would discuss the matter with his family later Tuesday night before deciding. Whichever way he goes, the six-foot-seven forward said having an option has made the pre-draft workout grind a bit more bearable.
“Truthfully, you can’t trust too many people: just my circle, my family. My coaches that have been with me since I started playing basketball, the new integrated family at the University of Maryland, I know they have my best interests at heart,” he said.
Regardless of what Jackson decides, the Raptors will watch his development with interest.
“He’s a player that’s very intriguing because he’s got so many things going for him in terms of size — and positional size — and athletic ability and God-given intangibles that you don’t find on a lot people . . . he’s got some work to do skill-wise, but that’s what we’re here to do, to evaluate to see how far along is he,” said Tolzman.
“If he ends up going back, the next time he’s going to be very highly scouted in college basketball, for sure. But if he stays in (the draft), too, he’s a guy that’s going to be discussed in our room.”