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Rebels basketball:

UNLV commit Justin Jackson still mulling options on 2015 vs. 2016

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Courtesy of Findlay Prep

Findlay Prep forward Justin Jackson brings the ball up the court at Bishop Gorman High during the 2013-14 season. Jackson, a top-30 player in the class of 2016, committed to UNLV.

UNLV freshman Jalen Poyser sent the tweet at 2:04 p.m. on Sunday, June 21, and deleted it by 2:05. The message could still come true, but according to its subject, fellow Canadian Justin Jackson, it was and remains premature.

“He said he was going to tweet it and I said, 'I dare you,' and he actually started doing it,” Jackson said Wednesday after a game at Bishop Gorman High. “I didn’t think he was going to do it.”

What Poyser did was further his recruiting efforts that persisted throughout the friends’ shared time on the Team Canada U19 squad that finished fifth this month at the FIBA World Championships in Greece. During the trip Poyser, a 6-foot-4 guard in UNLV’s incoming freshman class, pestered Jackson, a 6-9 forward committed to the class of 2016 who’s considering reclassifying to 2015, to the point that he wanted to announce it as a done deal.

So when Jackson called his bluff, that’s what Poyser did.

“Glad I get to play with my brother @J5T4L_ next year at UNLV,” read the swiftly deleted tweet.

That could still happen, Jackson said, but he doesn’t yet know what he wants to do.

A top-30 player from the Toronto area, UNLV assistant Todd Simon started recruiting Jackson to Findlay Prep when the former was still the Pilots’ coach. That relationship carried over to the college level, and Jackson committed to UNLV back in September, but with his high school eligibility used up the speculation for months has been whether Jackson would do a postgrad year or move to the class of 2015 and use UNLV’s last remaining scholarship.

Jackson said his grades are in order either way, and the decision ultimately comes down to whether he feels ready to not just play at the college level — he already does — but if he can come in and be ready to contribute at a high level.

“I don’t know how it’s going to play out,” Jackson said. “My parents have some opinions, I have opinions, my coaches have opinions, so I’m not sure.

“I want to be at a certain point before I step into the Thomas & Mack, so if by the end of the summer I feel like I’m 100 percent ready then I might reclassify.”

It’s clear that Jackson is still working through his decision. At the beginning of the conversation with reporters after Canada Elite’s loss to Team Loaded at the Fab 48 opening night, Jackson said the current roster is “so good I don’t feel like I need to come. I would just be an extra forward.”

But later Jackson said that he would also consider coming in and redshirting, which would make the team’s current talent level less important. What Jackson is sure about is that wherever he goes in the fall it won’t be another university, of which many are interested.

“I’m locked in at UNLV,” Jackson said. “I love the fans, I love the coaches, so that’s where my head is at.”

The summer’s last live period ends Sunday, after which Jackson will have more time away from the court to sit down with his parents and mull over his options. The UNLV coaching staff has stayed in constant contact, and Jackson said they’ve trusted and supported him through the process.

To reclassify to an earlier year, in accordance with NCAA Bylaw 14.3.1.2.1, a student has to have completed the NCAA’s 16 required core courses. Jackson’s Findlay Prep teammate Derryck Thornton in April decided to reclassify to 2015 and enroll at Duke, while Jackson’s Canada Elite teammate Thon Maker decided to stay in 2016 after announcing plans to graduate early.

There are positives and negatives to switching to 2015 for Jackson, with one of the latter being coach Dave Rice’s job security. No player wants to come in to a program and change coaches after one season.

Poyser, though, only sees the positives for Jackson, who appears physically ready for the college game. While both spent time at Findlay Prep they didn’t play together in the desert, so Poyser spent more than two weeks in Greece trying to persuade Jackson through voice, text and tweet to make it happen immediately.

“We talked about it all the time,” Jackson said. “We’ve known each other since we were young so this would be a great opportunity to play with each other.”

Taylor Bern can be reached at 948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Taylor on Twitter at twitter.com/taylorbern.

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