'He definitely believes in me': Iowa target Andre Jackson goes in-depth on Hawkeyes, relationship with Fran McCaffery
AUGUSTA, Ga. — Jim Hart still remembers Andre Jackson as a 4-foot-8 point guard leading the Albany City Rocks' 10-and-under team at age 9. He has coached Jackson at nearly every vital junction of his basketball development, watching the tiny floor general blossom into a 6-foot-6 basketball specimen.
Hart said people always ask: How would Jackson's athleticism compare in the NBA?
"He would be in the top 1%," the City Rocks program director told the Register last week at the Nike Peach Invitational. "He would be an elite athlete in the NBA. Off one foot, he jumps as high as anybody I’ve seen."
That athleticism is a big reason why Iowa wants Jackson. A product of Albany, New York, Jackson is the type of jaw-dropping high-flyer the Hawkeyes program could use in the Big Ten.
Iowa, UCLA, UConn and Syracuse are currently the main contenders for Jackson, who has taken official visits to all four. But the consensus four-star, top-70 wing has also left the door open if other schools want to enter the fray.
"He really liked Iowa — liked the system. I mean, Fran (McCaffery) lets them play. It has a lot of freedom," Hart said. "So, really, the other three are going to be pretty rigid on (Andre), and Fran’s going to let him go. So, maybe, that might be an advantage for them, if they’re selling it."
Jackson spent time with the Register at the Peach Invitational to go in-depth on his recruitment, his relationship with the Hawkeyes, what he's looking for in a program, McCaffery's presence and much more:
What about Iowa appeals to you?
"They play fast. Coach McCaffery has been around my high school coach forever. They're long-time friends," Jackson said. "Coach McCaffery used to coach at Siena, which is 10 minutes from my house. It’s real cool. We have a good bond, and he was one of the first people to really hop on me in the recruiting process. He’s definitely been there the whole way, and he definitely believes in me. He’s a very loyal guy. I know his sons and stuff like that, so I’m real close with him and I definitely appreciate him."
Jackson and Hart both said that, in Albany, McCaffery's reputation is golden. People there haven't forgotten Siena's three straight NCAA Tournament berths from 2007-10.
"Everyone loves him," Jackson laughed. "He came down for a workout one time, and everybody was all hyped about it seeing him in the gym and stuff."
Are there any other schools on the radar?
"I have a set four that I really, really like and I took officials to all of them," Jackson said. "But I'm still remaining in contact with schools like Louisville and other guys that still express interest in me — so I’m not completely shut down with other schools."
Andrew Francis, whom Hart called one of the "strongholds" in Iowa's recruitment of Jackson, is now recruiting Jackson at Cal. He was courtside for both of Jackson's games that the Register attended Saturday.
Jackson said there have been new teams to express interest, too, but he doesn't want to publicly name them because "it's not really set in stone."
Did Francis' departure affect anything with Iowa?
"No, because at the visit, I really got close with the coaches and their son, Patrick (McCaffery), and all of his guys," Jackson said.
Does the potential of early playing time in Iowa City intrigue you?
"Definitely. I definitely want to go somewhere I'm going to play my first year," Jackson said. "I feel like — UConn, Syracuse, Iowa, as well as UCLA — I feel like I have opportunity to play my first year. That’s why I love those schools so much. But If I wasn’t (going) to play decent minutes my first year, I wouldn’t really be too upset about it, because I already had that happen to me in high school, and I ended up playing. Just wait for the process and just trust the process and things will happen."
Have Iowa's coaches communicated the importance of the 2020 class?
"Yeah, they have a lot of scholarships to give because they have so many juniors, so, definitely, (McCaffery) is talking about that — that they’ve got to get a lot of recruits in that class," Jackson said.
Jackson added he'd be excited at the prospect of joining a large recruiting class.
"Because if you’re bringing in five freshmen, then they’re going to play," he said. "So it’s definitely exciting to know I’d have the opportunity to play my first year. It’s definitely exciting, so I continue to talk to Coach McCaffery and their staff."
Do you have a commitment time in mind?
"Right after this, I’ll probably start making adjustments and seeing which schools I like more than others," Jackson said. "I might re-visit a few schools, and then take a couple visits to schools that gain interest here.
"Depending how this goes, I’ll probably try to aim toward (committing at) the beginning of my high school season, so I can play my last high school year wanting to win another title and not worrying about where I’m going and stuff like that."
Matthew Bain covers recruiting, Iowa/Iowa State athletics and Drake basketball for the Des Moines Register and USA TODAY Network. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.