Jake Layman. Robert Carter. Diamond Stone.
All three of those players from the 2015-2016 Maryland Terrapins left school in order to pursue careers in the NBA. Layman and Stone were both second round picks in the 2016 NBA Draft and Carter went undrafted.
But while they were still in college, the trio average a combined 39.4 points per game last season for Mark Turgeon’s squad and were the strength of a team that won 27 games.
Along with strong play down low from Stone and Carter, this group featured some versatility as well. As Carter could step out to hit the three-point shot (he hit at a 33% clip), and Layman was, perhaps, the team’s best play-maker, with the ability to create from both the inside and out.
That versatility was key in helping support leading scorer, Melo Trimble. But now that the Big Three of the Terps frontcourt is gone, Trimble is looking to acquire some more help from new faces.
Freshman forward Justin Jackson appears primed to provide a variety of skills to this Maryland squad.
Jackson, at 6-foot-7 and 225 pounds, has great size and a skill set that resembles Layman, who played that combo-forward role before him. The kid from East York, Ontario, Canada is the 12-1 Terps’ second-leading scorer and leading rebounder.
He has flashed some ability to handle the ball and score in multiple ways as a secondary option to Trimble, which is a role that this team needs to be filled very badly. And while he has shown tons of promise, the youngster needs to sharpen up some things within his game.
Jackson is averaging a very solid 10.8 points per game, but is shooting only 43%. That is not a terrible figure, but it could certainly be higher. Jackson is connecting on 46% of his three-point attempts (which is exceptional), showing that he needs to improve his quality of shots on the inside.
About 42% of his attempts have come from the outside, so that other 58% are closer attempts that can be improved on with time and work. Jackson needs to learn how to better use his big body in going strong at the rim, and finishing through the contact. He displays the ability to do this at times, but with consistency, he could be a dangerous scorer.
The freshman also needs to work on his passing.
For him to fill that Layman role, he must be able to find open shooters when a play for him is dead. This is not something that Layman was particularly great at, but it is a necessary skill for a play-making forward, and could lead to Jackson being even better than Layman was.
These are both very small offensive adjustments that are very fixable, especially for a player as young as Jackson is, which only help highlight his potential even more. Those two small adjustments, could lead to the Canadian being a very effective weapon for the Terps, and could make him the face of the program as his career carries on.
Justin Jackson came into College Park with big shoes to fill. But he has shown the ability to outgrow those shoes, and make a very impactful legacy of his own.