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It was at this time a year ago when one by one the top high school basketball players in the state were departing to prep schools, including Rocket Watts, who went to SPIRE Academy in Ohio. Joining Watts at SPIRE was former Detroit Old Redford teammate, 6-foot-9 power forward Isaiah Jackson.

Now, Jackson has returned to play his senior year at Waterford Mott.

Jackson is the No. 3 power forward in the country for the 2020 class, according to 247Sports Composite. He'll also likely will be the No. 2 overall player in the state when The Detroit News preseason rankings come out in December, just behind Emoni Bates, who led Ypsilanti Lincoln to the Division 1 state championship as a freshman.

Waterford Mott will be Jackson’s fourth school in as many years. He attended Rochester Lutheran his freshman year, then played for Craig Covington at Detroit Old Redford as a sophomore before moving to SPIRE.

“He’s probably one of the best rim protectors we’ve seen in the state of Michigan in a long time,” Covington said. “He’s athletic, runs the floor well and rebounds. Offensively, he’s grown into a good 17-foot and out jump shooter. He’s just very athletic. He’s a great kid.”

All reasons why many national powers want the five-star Jackson to play for them in college.

So, why is Jackson headed back to Michigan?

“One of the big things was somebody constantly being on me on the basketball court and off the basketball court, and I think personally family has a lot to do with it too, like me being around my little cousins and stuff, mentoring them,” Jackson told The Detroit News. “(SPIRE) was a legit prep school. I didn’t live in a dorm, but we stayed in houses that were supervised by coaches and security. I only got to see them (family) a couple of times during the season, missed a couple of holidays.”

Jackson says his goal is to win a state championship with Waterford Mott.

“Basketball-wise, I think they made it to the regionals and had a young group of guys,” Jackson said. “I want to try and win a state championship, want to just get better with my team and me.”

Jackson said he traveled around the country with SPIRE and he feels stronger mentally and physically since his sophomore year, having confidence in his jumper.

“Our competition was tough, somebody wanted to kick your butt every game,” said Jackson of SPIRE’s opponents. “We traveled all over, it was crazy, moving every week, Phoenix, Baltimore, Virginia a couple of times, Atlanta, Florida.”

Jackson feels stronger and more confident. He played at 6-7, 170 at Old Redford and is now 6-9, 190 pounds.

“My shooting has gotten a lot better,” Jackson said. “I couldn’t shoot in 10th grade. I’m playing more calm now so my mental game is better. I’m playing free, with no pressure, just going out and hooping.”

Jackson knows he has to get stronger before moving on to college, another a reason he came back home.

“There was really no one to help me over there,” Jackson said. “I’ve got a strength coach now, in the gym every day working on my game, then in the weight room.”

When asked what his college plans were, Jackson replied: “I haven’t taken any officials or unofficial visits yet. I’m thinking about taking some officials after the AAU season, Kentucky, Kansas, North Carolina, Louisville and Syracuse, those are some of the schools I like, not necessarily my top five. I’m going to take my time before I make my decision.”

So, is Michigan State in the mix? Watts will play at MSU this year.

“Definitely,” Jackson said. “They have a good history. Tom Izzo is a good coach and develops players to make it to the league (NBA). They have a good history with Magic Johnson and when he comes back he gets a lot of love. I went to a Michigan State football game as a 10th grader and Magic was there and he got a lot of love. If I was to go there, I think I’d get that same type of love.”

But, for now Jackson’s focus is with The Family, getting ready to play in an AAU tournament, the Peach Jam in Augusta next month with Flint Beecher's Jalen Terry, Oak Park’s Maliq Carr and Ryan Rollins of Macomb Dakota as a few of his teammates.

“We have great chemistry,” Jackson said. “We won the national championship at the Peach Jam as 15-year-olds.”

Carr visits Georgia

While Carr is a standout basketball player, he made a name for himself during his junior year in football as a 6-6 receiver for Oak Park.

Carr took an official visit to Georgia this past weekend. It was his second official, taking his initial one to Texas A&M.

“I have one in September set up for Purdue and I’m trying to set one up for LSU,” Carr said. “I just went to Georgia this past weekend. It was a great school, great experience and I had a great time down there. I talked to the academic people, talked a little football when I hung out with the players and had a couple of lunches and dinners to get to know the coaches better. I had a great time.”

Carr wants to play basketball and football in college and would love to talk with new Michigan head basketball coach Juwan Howard. He already has an offer from Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh.

“I’d like to talk with Coach Howard as soon as possible,” Carr said. “I like the Michigan football coaches, very energetic guys. Coach (Offensive coordinator Josh) Gattis and Coach (Roy) Roundtree do drills with the players.”

dgoricki@detroitnews.com

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