Elite junior GG Jackson, one of the top players in the 2023 men’s basketball class, announced his commitment to the North Carolina Tar Heels on Wednesday.
Jackson chose the Tar Heels over South Carolina, UMass, Duke, Auburn, Georgetown and a couple of other programs that tried to jump into the mix in recent weeks. North Carolina was considered the heavy favorite entering Jackson’s announcement, particularly after last month’s coaching change at South Carolina. The Tar Heels had long been a factor in Jackson’s recruitment, but — after Duke’s string of 2023 commitments and the Gamecocks firing Frank Martin and hiring Lamont Paris — they had all the momentum over the last month.
“They’ve shown from the beginning that they want me the most,” Jackson told ESPN over the weekend. “I definitely see it. They’ve shown up to all my AAU games so far. And before the Final Four, they came down and visited me at the school, which was shocking. That definitely shows the dedication that they put into their recruiting .”
North Carolina is one of the hottest programs in the country right now, making a run to the national championship game as an 8-seed and then seeing four of its five starters announce their intentions to return to Chapel Hill next season. The Tar Heels could open up next season as the preseason No. 1 team in the country.
“People kind of slept on them. They kind of woke everyone back up,” Jackson said last weekend. “Carolina basketball is still Carolina basketball.”
A 6-foot-9 forward from Ridge View High School in Columbia, South Carolina, Jackson is ranked No. 6 in the ESPN 100 for 2023. He averaged 12.9 points and 9.8 rebounds on the Nike EYBL circuit last spring and summer, and he is putting up 13.3 points and 9.6 rebounds through eight games on the circuit this season. During his junior high school season, he averaged 22.1 points and 10.9 rebounds, earning Gatorade Player of the Year honors in South Carolina.
“Jackson is a developing athletic forward who utilizes his elite speed to sprint rim-to-rim and displays impressive lateral quickness at his size,” said Paul Biancardi, ESPN’s national recruiting director. “With his explosiveness, he is an active shot-blocker, both on his man and from a help-side position. His scoring comes from his natural talent, strong frame and soft touch inside. At this stage, he is outstanding in the low – and midpost, simply by making and maintaining contact with his defender. He uses a basic drop-step or jump-hook, and his hands are trustworthy as a lob-catcher or to finish drop-off passes.”
Throughout Jackson’s high school season, there was speculation he could reclassify into the 2022 class and enroll in college next fall. At this point, he said he plans to stay in 2023.
“We were looking at it at first,” Jackson said. “But weighing over my options and looking at the different people that reclassed up, seeing how it affected them. I feel like, physically I’m not there yet to play at that college level, so I wanted to stay in my class and just prepare the best that I can.”
Jackson is North Carolina’s second top-10 commitment in the 2023 class, joining New Jersey guard Simeon Wilcher. Wilcher, ranked No. 10 in the ESPN 100, picked the Tar Heels last fall.