Justin Jackson is headed to UNLV, and it is all thanks to a former coach of Jackson, Todd Simon.
Simon spent some time as a video assistant on the UNLV staff from 2004-2006. Then he left to take an assistant coaching position at Findlay Prep in nearby Henderson, Nevada. After ascending to head coach at Findlay Prep for the 2012-13 season, Simon returned to UNLV as an assistant on Dave Rice’s staff. But Simon’s Findlay connections are paying dividends for the Runnin’ Rebels’ future.
"Me and coach Todd (Simon), we’ve been in contact for a while," Jackson told RunRebs.com on Tuesday. "He’s actually the person that brought me to Findlay Prep before he took a coaching job at UNLV. He did a little bit of recruiting to bring me here, so we had a good relationship, and once he got to UNLV he got coach Rice involved."
Jackson is from Toronto, but he is now playing at Findlay Prep, located outside of Las Vegas. Another current Rebel from Findlay Prep is freshman Rashad Vaughn who Jackson described as "a brother to me." The Simon and Vaughn combination at UNLV seem to be the biggest factors in Jackson – a 2016 four star – choosing to stay in Las Vegas.
Plus Jackson thinks his fit at UNLV goes beyond the Findlay Prep connection.
"They’re sort of like we do at Findlay, just up and down, up and down, transition play. And that’s what I am. I can grab the ball and go. I have good vision, and I’m not selfish. I’m a playmaker and I like to look for my teammates first."
UNLV has topped the conference in possessions per game every season since Rice took over. Last year the Runnin’ Rebels played at the fastest pace in the Mountain West, averaging 67.3 possessions per game. But that only ranked UNLV 181st in the country. However, with a shortage of big men, and a plethora of versatile wings, UNLV and will look to push the tempo more this season. In two seasons, Jackson will be able to help push the tempo as a small forward.
It is difficult to project the UNLV roster for when Jackson will arrive in the 2016-17 season, but with five players likely to use up their eligibility over the next two seasons, and a few potential early entrants to the NBA Draft, Jackson could be an immediate focal point for UNLV.