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Elmarko Jackson ready to live up to Kansas tradition
Kansas commit Elmarko Jackson committed to the program back in the fall. (Courtesy: @elmarkojackson/Instagram)

Elmarko Jackson ready to live up to Kansas tradition

SOUTH KENT, Conn. (BVM) – Senior guard Elmarko Jackson has found a perfect fit both on and off the basketball court in his first season at South Kent School. With the hope of finding a coaching staff and program that could help him prepare for the next level, Jackson has found just that during his opening year with the school. 

The No. 34 player in the Class of 2024, according to 247Sports, entered the Cardinals’ program fresh off a standout summer that came with some much deserved national attention. With South Kent head coach Raphael Chillious coming from the college ranks, Jackson has quickly adjusted to what has been a college-level atmosphere for his final prep season.

“The coaching style coming from past years has been completely different,” Jackson said. “I feel like this is run like a college program. Everything is very accurate and down to precise details where if you mess it up, you’re going to face the consequences of it until you get it right.”

The stylistic change comes at a perfect time for Jackson who committed to the University of Kansas this fall. As he preps for the future, honing in on his craft now has become the main focus during his final campaign as the new scenery has allowed him to build up to his upcoming collegiate career.

Jackson comes in as one of the elite athletes in his class and has shown an impressive ability to get downhill and make plays either as a scorer, or as a passer. While that has been something that comes more naturally, his work rounding out some of the other areas of his game have begun to take shape.

“I feel like I do a good job of getting downhill, getting a touch in the paint, and spraying it out to my teammates,” Jackson said. “Defensively, I feel like I’ve really stepped my game up since the summer. I feel like I’m a pretty good on-ball defender. I’m still working on being in the right position on the floor but I feel like I’m doing a really good job now at being a good defender, taking charges, and being a vocal leader.”

The summer playing with his AAU team, “WE R1,” has given Jackson some added confidence as he worked against some of the top players in the country. Although he says he’s not someone that looks at rankings or looks to earn individualized awards, the rankings boost that Jackson received, going from 88 to 35, gave the senior guard some added reassurance that his hard work was beginning to pay off.

“Personal accolades don’t really mean much to me,” Jackson said. “I’ve never been someone that focuses on rankings or MVP trophies or whatever. That’s just not the person that I am. I’m really focused on the team, and as long as the team’s doing good, I’m doing good. Of course everyone wants to play a good game, but for me, it’s just doing whatever I can that best impacts winning for the team.”

With Jackson set to join a collegiate program that knows all too well about what it takes to win, after securing a national title in 2022, the mindset will certainly help him fit right in. 

Back in June, Jayhawks head coach Bill Self offered Jackson a scholarship during the NBPA’s Top 100 High School Basketball Camp. The Cardinals guard continued to stay in touch with assistant coach Norm Roberts over the following months, helping to create a growing connection. When the time came for Jackson to make his official visits, it only seemed right to make the trip to Lawrence.

With an uncle that played football at Michigan, Jackson leaned on some personal experience when it came time to make a decision. 

“It’s kind of cliche, but when my uncle committed to Michigan, I asked him, “how did you know?’ and he said, ‘you just know,’” Jackson said. “After my Kansas visit, I just knew it was just the spot for me.”

“Just a great place to get better. Coach Self and the entire coaching staff and the players, everybody is going to push you to get better every single day and that’s exactly what I want. I feel like that for me was a no-brainer, just a spot to get better at, put my head down and work.”

Jackson will be joined by top 100-rated seniors Chris Johnson and Jamari McDowell in the Jayhawks’ 2023 incoming class, who he already has some experience going up against following their time at the UA Finals in Chicago. While Jackson remains focused on the end of his high school career, the South Kent guard will be more than ready for his college opening when the time comes.

“Not many people get that opportunity so I know when I get there, I just got to put a lot of work in and not squander the great opportunity that I have in front of myself,” Jackson said. “Just live up to the Jayhawk tradition. They have a really rich tradition of winning basketball and I feel like I’m going to learn a lot there from not only Coach Self and his staff, but the players.”