Chicago — Josh Jackson is at ease on the basketball court now, freed from the stress of deciding where he’ll play college basketball.
Very few people know which school that will be. Only his family and closest friends know who the No. 1 recruit in the nation will select — Michigan State, Kansas or Arizona.
“There was definitely a point in time I was so confused on where to go to school,” Jackson said on Wednesday. “I was thinking about it and it was tearing me apart and stressing me out and getting to me. I feel relieved now and I finally know in my heart which school I want to go to.”
That leaves everybody else wondering, but it was clear at the McDonald’s All-American Game at the United Center on Wednesday that Jackson is, indeed, playing without a decision weighing on his mind.
He scored 19 points on 9-for-11 shooting to help lead the West to a 114-107 victory over the East. Jackson was also named the game’s co-MVP along with Frank Jackson, who will play at Duke next season.
But the attention was all on Jackson. Everyone is waiting to hear from him.
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo is right at the top of that list, along with Kansas coach Bill Self and Arizona coach Sean Miller.
All three are pushing to land the 6-foot-7 native of Detroit. He displayed on Wednesday all the things that have made him the top player in the nation — a quick first step, good ball-handling, a smooth shot and a desire to play tough, in-your-face defense.
And not surprisingly, it didn’t take long for the questions to turn toward when he’ll make his decision. It was supposed to come last week, but that got delayed, and now Jackson says it will come in the next week or two, most likely back home in Detroit.
“It hasn’t been too hard,” Jackson said of the constant questions. “Sometimes I get asked the same question over and over and I feel like I’ve got a response for it so I’m not too stressed out about it. So it’s OK.”
His potential teammates are getting bombarded, as well.
Miles Bridges and Joshua Langford have already signed to play at Michigan State next season. Both played in the All-American game on Wednesday and both got the same questions. Bridges knows the answer, but he’s not giving any hints as to whether Jackson is set to join the class that includes U-D Jesuit guard Cassius Winston and Gahanna, Ohio, forward Nick Ward.
“I play with Cassius all the time and try to work out with him when I’m at home,” said Bridges, the Flint native ranked the No. 8 player in the country. “And Josh Jackson, too … just trying to get him to come to Michigan State.
“I don’t know. It’s his decision and he’ll make the best one for himself.”
Langford, a top-20 guard from Huntsville, Ala., doesn’t know, but is behind his friend.
“I know Josh and his mother will make a great decision,” Langford said. “Whatever decision they make I’m gonna support Josh 110 percent. Me and Josh are real close friends and I know he’ll make a great decision. He’s gonna be a great player at the next level and the level after that, so look forward to see where he’s going.”
As for the game on Wednesday, each had their moments.
Jackson stood out in the first half, leading all scorers with 11 points while grabbing four rebounds and handing out a pair of assists. During a break in the first half, Jackson talked about his choice with ESPN.
“What it’s coming down to now is pretty much just being somewhere that I can trust everybody that I’m around,” Jackson said.
He was as effective in the second half and was the benefit of some nice passes, especially from teammate Lonzo Ball, who is headed to UCLA, and his 13 assists.
Bridges, the Flint native who has played the last two seasons at Huntington (W. Va.) Prep, was at his best early in the game. He came off the bench for the East and immediately made an impact, getting the crowd to its feet after stealing a pass on one end and taking a lob off the backboard at the other, finishing with a windmill dunk for two of his six first-half points.
Langford made his first appearance for the West team midway through the first half and scored three points but finished the game strong with 12 points.
“It was fun,” Langford said. “It was great to be out there on an NBA floor and playing with the best players in the country. It’s a great feeling to be out there and it’s a great accomplishment. I’m just thanking God and feeling very blessed.”