KAUNAS (2012 FIBA U17 World Championship) – Justin Jackson doesn’t sound like an overwhelmed youngster when giving interviews at the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship. Some could be surprised given the fact that the Canadian shooting guard only turned 15 last February.
But Jackson presented himself with a strong level of self-confidence in the catacombs of Zalgiris Arena following Canada’s disappointing 66-53 loss to Croatia to drop to 1-1 in Group B.
“After two games, I think we can still get together more as a team. Right now we are a very strong team we just need to stay together more,” he said.
When asked how he felt about being the youngest player – and only one born in 1997 – in the tournament, the 1.98 swingman answered with some introspection not necessarily expected from someone his age.
“It’s a humbling experience to know that I can come here to a new place and do something that I love, which is to play basketball, at an older age level because I know that I have a future in this sport,” said Jackson.
“And I know that I have my teammates – aka my older brothers – who can help me and show me because I will be on this same team next season because it will be my age group again.”
Jackson also plays like he belongs at this tournament.
In 10 minutes of Canada’s victory over hosts Lithuania in a hostile environment, Jackson collected 5 points on 2 of 3 shooting while grabbing 5 rebounds. In 12 minutes against Croatia, Jackson made 3 of 4 shots for 7 points to go along with 2 rebounds, 2 steals and 1 blocked shot.
Two summers ago at the inaugural FIBA U17 World Championship in Hamburg, Germany, Canada’s roster also included a 15-year-old. And that youngster – Andrew Wiggins – turned into an absolute superstar.
Despite being a year younger than his competition, Wiggins averaged a team-high 15.2 points in guiding Canada to the bronze medal at the 2012 FIBA Americas U18 Championship – and therefore qualification for the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship.
When asked if knowing Wiggins took a similar path served as a motivation for him, Jackson answered: “Me and Wiggins aren’t that close but I watch him and he’s someone that I want to play like. He’s a good player and a possible role model for me.”
Consider the first step in his footsteps taken.