COLUMBIA, SC — Wednesday’s announcement was well worth the wait for Hubert Davis and the UNC staff.
More than 10 months after receiving a scholarship offer from North Carolina, consensus top-10 prospect GG Jackson announced his commitment to Carolina during an afternoon event at Columbia (SC) Ridge View High School. He’ll arrive in Chapel Hill and begin his Tar Heel career in the summer of 2023.
Rated the No. 8 player in the junior class by the 247Sports staff (with the expectation he’ll move even higher at the next rankings update), he is the highest-ranked commitment of the Davis era, and joins five-star New Jersey guard Simeon Wilcher on UNC’s 2023 commitment list. Jackson is North Carolina’s first top 10 commitment since Caleb Love in 2020.
Jackson chose the Tar Heels over finalists Auburn, Duke, Georgetown, and South Carolina, plus interest from the NBA’s G-League. Jackson also had offers from Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Georgetown, Kansas, LSU, Louisville, Maryland, Ole Miss, Oregon, Syracuse, Tennessee, Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Wake Forest.
“They have shown from the start that they want me the most,” Jackson said of the Tar Heels. “They have also shown that I am a top priority for their program. That is really big to me. Just about every coach recruits me from there. I talk with Sean May a lot, definitely Hubert Davis, and Jeff Lebo. They say they will put me in the right spot to get me to the NBA. Also, the family atmosphere sticks out.”
Jackson slots as a hybrid forward — a player capable of playing offensively and defensively in the post and on the perimeter — in Davis’ system. During his trips to Chapel Hill, including UNC’s regular-season loss to Duke, Jackson watched forwards Brady Manek and Leaky Black for a preview of his role at Carolina.
“I definitely like the playing style they run, a lot,” Jackson told Inside Carolina. “In my opinion, it’s a lot like what we do with (Nike EYBL) CP3, kind of a 4-out, 1-in with a lot of motion, a lot of swings, a lot of backdoor cuts. I feel like I would thrive there, especially a guy like me that can take guys off the dribble. I feel like I would shoot the ball more than what Leaky does, but I think I can come off down screens and take guys off the dribble, too.”
Four days before Carolina’s win over Duke in the national semifinals, Davis took a brief respite from all things NCAA tournament. Alongside assistant coach Jeff Lebo, Davis flew down to Columbia (SC) Ridge View to visit with Jackson and his family. College coaches get seven off-campus trips to see a specific recruit per scholastic year, and the visit was UNC’s final one to see Jackson.
“That was nuts,” Jackson said after the visit. “I’m thinking, ‘they have to get locked in for the game.’ That just goes to show you the confidence they have, and the trust they have in their players. I felt really special. It opened up my eyes to how much they want me, as a school.”
Jackson, who grew up a Tar Heels fan and has called UNC his “dream school,” has been a top priority of the North Carolina staff since Davis became head coach nearly 13 months ago. He picked up a UNC offer on the first day, June 15, sophomores could receive direct communication from coaches. Two weeks following the UNC offer, he and his family took an unofficial visit to UNC.
“Me and my dad and whole family were just amazed,” Jackson said following the visit last June. “…Walking onto the Smith Center floor and being in the arena, it was a crazy experience. Growing up you see the nice stuff on TV, but getting to see it in person is a totally different feeling. It was amazing…”
Communication between Jackson and UNC remained steady through the summer – the Tar Heel coaches watched him extensively during each grassroots and scholastic period and into the fall.
UNC sent three staff members — Davis, and assistant coaches Jeff Lebo (his lead recruiter) and Brad Frederick – to Ridge View on Sept. 9, the first morning of the fall evaluation period. The following month, Jackson took an official visit to Chapel Hill — his first — which gave him a courtside seat for the start of the Davis era at ‘Late Night.’
Jackson’s play on the travel circuit last year propelled him into elite status, which he validated during his junior season.
“GG Jackson has developed himself into becoming a mismatch nightmare at the ‘4’ position,” said Travis Branham of 247Sports. “He possesses good size for the position and has a frame that’ll continue to fill out, further increasing his effectiveness on the inside. Jackson built a strong foundation with his inside game and consistently expanded his skillset farther away from the rim over the past year.
“He is an outstanding athlete who runs the floor with ease, moves well laterally on the perimeter, and is quick and bouncy off his feet. He excels as a rim-runner, shot-blocker, rebounder and defender but he impacts the game in many other ways. He has great hands and touch, can bruise and score with a variety of moves in the low-post, and can now step out and knock down jumpers or attack his man off the bounce. He has impressive ball skills for a post player, he can pass and can make shots off the catch and pull. His versatility on both ends of the floor with his ability to play inside and out. All of that will make him a valuable weapon for Hubert Davis moving forward.
“Few bigs who can battle with Jackson physically have the athleticism to contain him on the perimeter when attacking off the dribble and few people athletic enough have the physicality to contain him on the low-block. Jackson is still learning the balance of his game on the offensive end as he has fallen in love with the perimeter, but he has a lot of potential as a high impact guy on both ends of the floor at North Carolina and beyond.
During his junior season, Jackson brought home accolade after accolade. Hey averaged 22.1 points and 10.9 rebounds, 2.5 blocks, 1.2 assists, and 1.0 steals per game, leading Ridge View to its first Class 5A state title, and was named the South Carolina Gatorade Player of the Year.
“(There’s a) realization that (my teammates) know I can stretch the floor now,” he said. “I’m more comfortable shooting the ball (this year). I feel like I’m more aggressive rebounding. My motor keeps rising every year, that’s the biggest thing.”
UNC has now received commitments from South Carolina’s top player four times in the last decade – Brice Johnson (2012), Seventh Woods (2016), Jalek Felton (2017), and Jackson. In that same span, UNC has signed the top player in North Carolina only twice (Isaiah Hicks in 2013 and Theo Pinson in 2014).
Since completing his junior high school season, Jackson’s been playing on the EYBL travel circuit with team CP3, averaging 12.5 points and 10.5 rebounds through the first two weekends of action, as CP3 has posted a 7-1 record. The 247Sports staff has repeatedly noted that he’s “in the conversation” for the No. 1 overall ranking in the class when the updated rankings are released in the coming weeks.