Jaren Jackson Jr. hopes the summer ahead is one of growth.
The 6-foot-9 Park Tudor forward wants to add some muscle to his 190-pound frame. He wouldn’t mind more upper-body strength, and he hopes to stretch out his leaping ability.
But Jackson, playing with Indiana Elite 2017 at this weekend’s adidas Uprising Gauntlet event in Fishers and Noblesville, says his top summer priority isn’t a physical one.
“I’m definitely working on being a better leader, to help me transition to high school better,” Jackson said. “I’m going to be a big-time player. I’m not going to have Bryce (Moore) and Trevon (Bluiett) anymore. I’m going to have to lead the freshmen by example.”
Purdue coach Matt Painter was at Noblesville High School watching Jackson on Friday night. Assistant coach Brandon Brantley did the same on Saturday. The Boilermakers have already offered Jackson, as have Xavier, Indiana, Butler and IUPUI.
“He’s a guy that makes everybody else around him better on the court, but makes everybody smile off the court,” Indiana Elite 2017 coach Ryan Owens said. “He’s a beautiful kid, and that’s a testimony to his parents.”
A 4.0 student, Jackson boasts an NBA pedigree. His father, Jaren Sr., played 13 seasons in the league and is currently an assistant with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants of the NBA’s Developmental League.
A year young for his grade, Jackson has already helped Park Tudor win a pair of IHSAA Class 2A state championships. He averaged 9.1 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.2 blocks as a sophomore. That included 11 points, nine rebounds and two blocks in a state championship victory over Frankton.
Jackson and 7-2 Bol Riek split post duties for Indiana Elite 2017, and Jackson made an impact rebounding and protecting the rim this weekend. But he also stepped out to hit a few 3s — a hint of the all-around skills college programs saw early on.
“In the last couple of years, when everybody sees Jaren Jackson, they’re like, ‘Oh man, he has a ton of potential,’ ” Owens said. “Now when you see him, that potential is turning into production. And he’s still light years from where he’s going to be in two or three years.”
Brantley also watched another young player with a Purdue offer — Lawrence North sophomore-to-be Kevin Easley, Jr. The 6-6 small forward totaled 39 points over his first two games for Indiana Elite G3 Rising Stars.
Easley, who also listed offers from Indiana and IUPUI, said he won’t start looking seriously at schools until after his sophomore year. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to show them something in the months ahead.
“I’m trying to show teams my versatility — that I can dribble the ball and shoot and do it all as a small forward, not just post and not just jump shots,” Easley said.
Purdue’s 2015 recruits — Carmel’s Ryan Cline and Hamilton Heights’ Grant Weatherford — were in attendance for their former Indiana Elite 2016 squad’s 74-70 victory over Dream Vision of California. Lawrence Central’s Kyle Guy, a Virginia recruit and a former Purdue target, hit a late 3 to seal the win.
Also on that squad is West Lafayette rising senior Nai Carlisle, who de-committed from San Jose State last month. Carlisle had 10 points, five rebounds and six assists in a tournament-opening win over Play Hard Play Smart.
McCutcheon rising sophomore guard Robert Phinisee competes with Indiana Elite’s 2018 squad.
Painter, associate head coach Jack Owens and assistant Greg Gary also spent time at events in Louisville and Lexington, Ky. This weekend is the last in-person evaluation period for coaches until July.