EAGAN, Minn. — Justin Jackson trots down the right side of the court in transition, carefully catching eyes with his Houston Hoops AAU teammate Justise Winslow during an afternoon game at the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League.
Suddenly, Jackson speeds up, makes a quick cut to the baseline, losing his defender in the process, then pops out deep on the right wing.
In a split-second he glances down to make sure he’s behind the three-point line as the ball sails toward him.
He sees two lines painted; one for the college three-point line and one for the high school three-point line.
In one fell swoop, Jackson catches the pass and launches the three a foot behind the college line.
“It’s a small adjustment having the college line,” said Jackson, a junior who is committed to North Carolina. “But EYBL uses college rules and that includes the three-point line. I’ve been used to the high school line for so long that I think it may hurt me if I keep shooting from there. So I definitely step back further during regular games. I think it will help me prepare for college.”
It’s a sentiment shared by most elite ballplayers who feel there’s no time like the present to make the transition and adjustment to launching deeper treys.
“I mean why not, ya know,” Expressions Elite (Boston) forward Abdul-Malik Abu said. “It’s the smarter thing to do. We’re all, for the most part, really dedicated to this game. This is just another example of that.”
Jackson is so dedicated to reprogramming his mind that he had a college three-point line painted on his court at home.
“It seems like a no-brainer, right?” Jackson said. “The thing is you have to make sure to adjust your mid-range game too. There are a lot of different things that you have to work on when you’re shooting a little deeper.”
ESPN recruiting director Paul Biancardi concurred.
He said the adjustment from shooting at the high school three-point line (19 feet, 9 inches) to the college three-point line (20 feet, 9 inches) is “bigger than most kids understand.”
“You’ve got to work on it and master it like you did the previous line,” Biancardi said. “I don’t know if this is the time to perfect it though. I think high school kids should be shooting from the high school line. It’s still three points. When you make the jump from your senior year of high school to your freshman year of college then you train to master the college line. It’s an easier transition if you’ve truly mastered the first line.”
Playground Elite (Minn.) shooting guard Rashad Vaughn said he’s “always” conscious about pulling up from the college three-point line because “it only gets further the higher you go up.”
“The pro line is even further,” Vaughn said of the NBA three-point line (23 feet, 9 inches). “I think it’s just smart to go ahead and get prepared for shooting deeper. That’s why, whether the college line is painted on the floor or not, I shoot it from at least that range. EYBL having this college line has been a big help.”
It’s also been a bit confusing to players like Winslow, who said he isn’t used to seeing two different lines painted on the floor.
“Sometimes I look down like ‘huh?’ ” Winslow said. “I’m used to shooting college threes, but the two lines make it a little weird.”
Be that as it may, E1T1 (Fla.) guard D’Angelo Russell chalks the weirdness up as a necessary evil.
“It just takes some getting used to, but it’s not too bad,” Russell said. “The biggest adjustment is in the legs. You’ve got to jump more. But, at the end of the day, I think it helps you reprogram your mechanics and your mind. It’s just another challenge that, as a ballplayer, you’ve gotta step up to.”
Even if that means stepping back.
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY