Gregory “GG” Jackson II signed with the South Carolina Gamecocks in 2022 as one of the highest high school recruits in history to land on campus. Jackson went to high school a stone’s throw away from the campus in Columbia at Ridge View High School just on the outskirts of the state capital. In 247 Sports’ final basketball recruit ranking, Jackson landed at 6th in the class, as well as finishing at the top of South Carolina’s all-time recruit listing.
Jackson arrived on campus as a 17-year-old after reclassifying and completing high school early, and as such he will enter the draft as one of the youngest players among all draft hopefuls. While he encountered some major struggles at the collegiate level, the upside potential may prove too much to pass up for a team looking to strike rich in the 2023 NBA Draft.
GG Jackson II is a uniquely gifted player with a point guard’s handle in a 6-foot-9 frame and the ability to make shots from all over the court. In his bag is a variety of on ball moves that can fool even accomplished upperclassmen defenders. His highlight package is one that ranks among any prospects’ this cycle not named Victor Wembanyama.
Still, his production in his freshman year at South Carolina was largely inconsistent and overall underwhelming, which is why he’s among the hardest evaluations in this class. On almost 32 minutes a game, Jackson averaged 15.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 0.8 assists per contest. Overall, he shot a poor 47.4% true shooting percentage (TS%) stemming from a 38.4% mark from the floor, 32.4% mark from three, and 67.7% mark from the free throw line.
‘Microwave scorer’ probably best describes Jackson’s archetype at this junction of his development. When he hits a few shots early in the game, his already abundant confidence grows immeasurably. And he has no problem taking over a game in these situations, especially with the South Carolina offense relying on his production at such an early age.
He excels in isolation, pulling up from wherever if the defender gives him an inch of space.
This move is just nasty: a fake spin and turn back to get space for his shot. He may have slid his pivot foot a tad, but it’s still an impressive display of balance and coordination.
Put plainly, Jackson’s shot selection leaves a lot to be desired. He took his fair share of contested mid-range shots and out of rhythm pull up jumpers early in the clock, nailing just 36.7 eFG% (effective field goal percentage) on these attempts. There were countless off-balance long twos in his freshman year tape, and he often dribbled himself into double teams or toward the out of bounds areas without much of a plan.
Jackson’s playmaking for others is not his forte. His assist-to-turnover ratio is very underwater (0.3:1), and generally has tunnel vision toward trying to create for himself first, second, and third. He’s not a natural distributor by any stretch, but he has enough vision and polish to read aggressive defenses and get others involved.
Every once in a while, he’ll show some craft as a pick-and-roll operator, like on this nice pocket pass here. He has the size and vision to make these kinds of reads, but they just weren’t there with any sort of regularity.
The offensive ceiling is remarkably high, possibly that of a 20+ point per game player on good to great efficiency at the next level. But can he do so without hijacking the flow of his team’s offense? Jackson will have to break his habit of looking to go one-on-five to strictly get buckets in order to truly reach his sky-high potential.
GG Jackson has good length (7-foot wingspan) and fluidity, but he lacks balance, awareness and motor on this end. He averaged just 7.4 rebounds per 40 minutes last season, a figure that should be higher for someone of his size and ability. Many scouts came away from watching his play this year questioning his engagement, as one scout told 247 Sports:
“The questions are still there as far as how easily does the game come to him? What is he? He’s had like five rebounds or so in the last three combined games. Some of that is instincts, some of that is toughness and some of that is willingness to be that guy. There hasn’t been a lot of clarity after three months of the season.”
It’s very clear upon watching the tape how checked out he can be at times, but occasionally he’ll mix in a chase down block or an extended sprint up the floor in transition defense.
Still, those moments are often few and far between. Despite those incredible physical assets, Jackson recorded just 1.9 steals and blocks combined per 40 minutes. He was often a bystander, ball-watching and reacting way too late to influence plays.
Jackson routinely fails to navigate around perimeter screens, fails to defend with physicality, and often flat out misses his correct rotation assignment. Some of these aspects can be attributed to youth and inexperience at a high level of basketball, but some of it rather worrying for teams looking to create a solid defensive foundation.
Here is Jackson in the near corner. While most defensive systems preach not to leave a shooter in this situation, he can surely give more of an effort on the dig here.
Jackson has to show more engagement, there’s no doubt about that. Both ends of the floor are equally as valuable, and yet it’s clear ‘GG’ tends to focus on getting his on one and not as much on preventing his opponents from doing the same.
Possible fit with the Hawks
The 2022-23 Gamecocks were no juggernaut at 11-21, so they needed Jackson to take over for long stretches of their season just to stay afloat. It’s understandable how such a young and talented player could run into different frustrations during the leap between a shortened high school career and leading an SEC basketball program.
With Atlanta sitting just outside of the lottery, I do think Jackson is a candidate to be selected due to his dynamic scoring potential and the uncertainty at the power forward position going forward. There are obvious risks and downsides given the patient development he will require. But in three or four years he could be lighting the league on fire and putting to bed the many warts in his game he has shown thus far.