Jaren Jackson has been playing a ton of high-level hoops lately. After helping Indiana's La Lumiere to claim the title at the Dick's Sporting Goods High School Nationals, the 6-foot-11 McDonald's All-American forward shined at the Nike Hoop Summit and is now getting ready for the Jordan Brand Classic, scheduled for Friday.
"I am just trying to get stronger every day, work with my dad and my coaches and try to become a better all-around player." Jackson told ESPN.com after winning the Dick's Nationals.
A 17-year-old Indianapolis native who is headed to Michigan State in the fall, Jackson has seen his NBA draft stock rise before even playing a day of college basketball. At the Nike Hoop Summit, Jackson's 13-point, 10-rebound performance helped Team USA beat the World Select Team.
"He's a classic modern 4, with length, athleticism, an outstanding 3-point shot and the ability to rebound and protect the rim," noted ESPN NBA draft Insider Chad Ford, who currently ranks Jackson at No. 6 in the 2018 NBA draft class. "While he needs to add strength and a post game, his tools were evident. Scouts took notice and believe his combination of size and skill set will make him the next-most obvious candidate to be a one-and-done player in college."
You can't speak about Jackson's NBA potential without mentioning his father, Jaren Jackson Sr. A 12-year NBA veteran, the elder Jackson played for nine teams in the league. His most memorable moment: Winning the 1999 NBA title with the San Antonio Spurs (Jackson averaged 8.2 PPG and 20.3 MPG in the playoffs that season).
"He is a good kid," Jackson said of his son. "I am just a witness to a wonderful young man who is playing the game he loves.
"Of course, I've got to share with him my time in the NBA, in college and throughout my whole career. But he has developed at a high level much earlier than I did as a player."
Jackson Sr., who was wearing his NBA championship ring throughout the Dick's tournament, seems perfectly fine being an unsung hero in his son's growth.
"I don't have too much to say to him," he said. "Like any other dad, I am an adviser on not only basketball, but also life. He is progressing very well at the right pace."
But the younger Jackson would still give full credit to his father.
"He has been through it all," Jackson Jr. said. "He has played with the greatest big [Tim Duncan]. He knows what it takes to be good in the post and be good outside.
"NBA is my main goal, and I'm blessed enough. I have a long way [to go], but hopefully I can reach that level."
A lengthy athlete who runs the floor and shoots well, Jackson Jr. has become stronger -- mentally and physically -- over the last year while playing at La Lumiere. ESPN College Basketball Insider Jeff Borzello noticed that the added strength has also made Jackson tougher down low, a plus for him in Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo's system.
"The toughness factor will certainly help," Borzello said. "He is stronger and a better rebounder, which are two necessities when playing under Izzo. But he's also going to add a different dimension to Michigan State's roster.
"He has an unbelievable work ethic, and now he is putting together this mentality of playing hard every single possession," La Lumiere head coach Shane Heirman said. "When he is doing that, not many guys in this country can stop him."
Jackson, a listed power forward who can also play center, will be a dominant low-post option for the Spartans playing alongside big man Nick Ward after polishing his back-to-the-basket techniques, according to Borzello.
"He will be able to float inside and out and create mismatches with smaller or slower defenders," Borzello said. "The two will form a very solid partnership up front."