2023’s No. 1 player GG Jackson expected to decommit from North Carolina




 

The recruitment of GG Jackson, the No. 1 player in the 2023 class, has been a rollercoaster for the last 10 months and the final twist appears certain and expected to be made soon.

According to multiple sources, Jackson is expected to decommit from North Carolina and enroll early at hometown South Carolina — an announcement that is expected to come in the next two weeks.

He will conclude his EYBL season at the Peach Jam, July 17-24.

While decommitting from UNC to immediately enroll at South Carolina is a big step, maybe this is something we should have seen coming all along.

In theory, recruiting should be simple. You find a prospect that you believe can help your program and one that you can help reach their potential. You build a relationship, show them what you can offer and if they feel it’s the best decision for them, they end up at your school.

However, recruiting is complicated and many times even the “simple” recruitments are not ordinary.

The recruitment of GG Jackson in particular has fallen into the complicated mold.

Recruiting isn’t just about recruiting the player, it’s about recruiting the player and those around the player – in some instances it’s more important to recruit those around the player.

Going back to last September, North Carolina had all but locked up Jackson and just needed him to announce that he had committed to them.

North Carolina was Jackson’s personal dream school and following his first visit to Chapel Hill, sources were indicating a decision was in the works and expected to come early last winter.

However, as the weeks went on there was a stall in the making of a decision for multiple reasons.

First, other options including Duke, Georgetown and South Carolina were all involved and as we began learning, the Jackson family would leave no stone unturned and seek to gather any and all information regarding each option before making an ultimate decision.

Second – and what has proven to be the most crucial – was the fact that others behind the scenes have strongly wanted to see Jackson stay at home and play for South Carolina while others just wanted to see him enroll early – regardless of destination.

During that process of hearing options out and having the discussions to open the minds of others close to Jackson, information was cloudy that any of three of North Carolina, Duke and South Carolina had emerged as the leader.

Determining the leader during that time depended on the day – a saga that played out for several months leading into the spring.

Then came the first reports that Jackson would be making a decision in the month of March and it was a serious debate as to who led in the recruitment.

During that time, Jackson worked on earning enough credits to reclassify to 2022 and began the admissions process to South Carolina to ensure that was a viable option.

Behind the scenes Jackson himself had been consistent in saying that he wanted to attend North Carolina and stay in 2023 but again these things aren’t that simple.

As things got deeper into March, no decision came. Finally, after weeks of delays Jackson committed to what was thought to be his dream school but that decision didn’t come without resistance.

Jackson was happy to go to North Carolina and desired to stay in the 2023 class but the things that come with being the No. 1 prospect and with others still wanting to see him stay home, it got complicated.

Overtime Elite and the G League made their pitches to Jackson as he was in the search for a new high school and again, the Jacksons heard out the options but the possibility of going to the G League faded and Overtime Elite was rejected and the debate came back to stay in 2023 and go to North Carolina or enroll early and play at South Carolina – bringing us to where we are today.

Reclassifying has become a popular trend in recent years.

In theory, you get thrown into a higher level of basketball to ‘speed up the development process’ and get one step closer to the professional contracts.

However, as recent history teaches us, it’s risky business – very risky business.

Some of the most recent examples include:

Emoni Bates, the long-standing No. 1 prospect in 2022, enrolled early at Memphis.

Result: Transfer to Eastern Michigan

Jalen Duren, took the crown from Emoni Bates as No. 1 in 2022, enrolled early at Memphis.

Result: Stock fell and was Drafted No. 13 overall in the 2022 NBA Draft

Shaedon Sharpe, the No. 1 prospect in 2022 following Bates and Duren, enrolled early at Kentucky.

Result: Drafted No. 7 overall in the 2022 NBA Draft after not playing this season

Caleb Houstan, the No. 15 overall prospect in the 2021 class, enrolled early at Michigan.

Result: Drafted in the 2nd Round of the 2022 NBA Draft

Brandon Huntley, the No. 24 overall prospect in the 2021 class, enrolled early at Tennessee

Result: Transfer to Louisville

Jonathan Kuminga, the former No. 1 player in the 2021 class, went to the G League Ignite

Result: Drafted No. 7 overall in the 2021 NBA Draft

Khristian Lander, a former five-star prospect in the 2021 class, enrolled early at Indiana in 2020.

Result: Transfer to Western Kentucky

N’Faly Dante, a former five-star prospect in the 2020 class, enrolled early at Oregon.

Result: Has averaged 7.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 0.9 blocks in three seasons

Anthony Edwards, the former No. 1 prospect in the 2020 class, enrolled early at Georgia.

Result: Drafted No. 1 overall in a weak 2020 Draft Class

Read more on reclassifications here

The results, as we can see, have been wide-ranging for the best prospects in their respective classes and reclassifying isn’t for everyone.

The challenge of playing at a higher level earlier along with the pressures of being a highly touted prospect that were meant to ‘speed up the development’ can backfire and damage confidence, setting a player back.

In Jackson’s case, by reclassifying to 2022 and playing at South Carolina, he will be Draft eligible for the 2023 NBA Draft due to a December 2004 birthday, which barely qualifies him as one year removed from his graduating class and turns 19 during the calendar year of the 2023 Draft.

In theory, it makes sense but there is certainly risk that comes along with it.

Jackson’s looming reclassification could be riskier than others as he would join a South Carolina program that just underwent a coaching change and saw several of their top players exit the program via the portal.

Essentially, Jackson will be trying to figure out SEC basketball at the same time his team is trying to figure out SEC basketball all-the-while being relied on to lead the team.

It’s a tough task for any freshman to lead a team, let alone a reclassed freshman.

The most comparable situation we have seen is Anthony Edwards – the former No. 1 player who reclassified and went to a Georgia program that had won just 11 games the previous season.

In Edwards’ instance, he reclassified from a loaded 2020 recruiting class (which he was the reigning No. 1 prospect) which included Jalen Green, Cade Cunningham and Evan Mobley to a lackluster 2019 where he was still the top prospect in the class.

Edwards’ season was a roller coaster ride. There were some runs of brilliance and there were some ugly times and he couldn’t lead Georgia to the NCAA Tournament which posed some big risk factors to NBA executives and, honestly, had it been a stronger Draft class, it’s unlikely that he would have been the top pick.

Despite some bumps along the road it worked out for Edwards but that doesn’t mean it will work out for everyone else.

In Jackson’s instance, the top of the 2023 NBA Draft Class is stacked.

Victor Wembanyama is the clear-cut favorite to go No. 1 with Scoot Henderson the clear-cut favorite to go No. 2.

Both special prospects who are proven at the highest levels of basketball just shy of the NBA.

Jackson will also have to contend with Amen and Ausar Thompson, Dereck Lively, Nick Smith, Cam Whitmore and Cason Wallace amongst others at the top of the class.

Determining the Draft floor of Jackson entering the season won’t be easy.

Over the last few months he had firmly established himself as the top player in 2023 and upon reclassification will land somewhere in the top three or four of the 2022 class but he’s still figuring out who he is as a player.

At this stage of development, Jackson bounces back and forth between being a perimeter-oriented scorer who takes, and makes, a lot of difficult pull-up jump shots and being a highly efficient, rim-running, lob-catching, rim-protecting power forward who can use his skills to be a mismatch nightmare with his ability to play both high and low.

Being thrust into the SEC as he figures out his game and who he wants to be while also being relied on to carry South Carolina is going to be difficult at times.

How will he handle the adversity and the pressure? That is the big question that everyone will look to have answered.

At the same time, there is a big upside to this. Jackson is still a monster talent and a game changer for South Carolina. It’s certainly is an exciting development for the Gamecocks.

Making something like this happen so early in his tenure is a major win for Lamont Paris and the move will make his team better and it gets his fanbase energized early.

Even with some expected ups and downs, Jackson will be the most talented player that has hit the floor for South Carolina in some time and he’s got all the tools to be an impactful player from the second he arrives on campus. Additionally, Jackson is likely going to benefit financially thanks to NIL opportunities.

The wild recruitment of Jackson is finally nearing its end but the real test is only just beginning and it is going to be very interesting to see how it all plays out.

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