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Former Prolific Prep star Josh Jackson goes No. 4 to Suns

By ESPN, 06/28/17, 11:30PM PDT


The Phoenix Suns made Josh Jackson the fourth pick in Thursday night's NBA draft.

Jackson, a 6-foot-8 forward out of Kansas, averaged 16.3 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.7 steals en route to being named the Big 12 freshman of the year in his one season with the Jayhawks.

"I don't think the other guys in this draft really care as much as I do,'' Jackson said. "I don't think they play as hard as I do, period. I think that's what really makes me special. I refuse to fail, period.''

Jackson had been eyed by the Boston Celtics at the No. 3 pick, but sources told ESPN's Chad Ford on Tuesday that Jackson refused to work out for them without an assurance the team would hang on to the pick and that he was the top player on their draft board.

After his selection by the Suns, Jackson said he regretted "maybe a little bit" the decision to not work out for the Celtics, quickly adding he was "happy, glad to be a Phoenix Sun."

In Jackson, the Suns get versatility. During a post-draft interview on ESPN, Jackson said he can bring offensive and defensive flexibility, as well as the ability to play every position but center.

"As I watch today's NBA basketball, versatility is probably the most important thing in this league today," Jackson said.

Suns general manager Ryan McDonough said Jackson's versatility was indeed something that intrigued the team.

"People say he was the best two-way player," the GM said. "The last I checked, the game is played two ways."

An athletic wing, Jackson is regarded as one of the best defenders in this draft class, which is something in which he takes pride.

Jackson said that playing at Kansas forced him to hone his defensive acumen against bigger players at the power forward spot but that he thinks he can slide into the Suns' starting small forward spot.

"When I look at Phoenix and I see that they are so young and kind of need a 3, somebody to come in and play that 3 spot," Jackson said. "I feel like that's my favorite position to play. That's where I'm the most comfortable. I automatically get excited when I see stuff like that."

Though a superlative player on the court for the Jayhawks, Jackson has had issues off the court.

He was suspended for the team's quarterfinal game in the Big 12 tournament that Kansas lost to TCU as punishment for an accumulation of embarrassing incidents that included, most seriously, charges that he damaged a vehicle belonging to a Kansas women's basketball player.

On Thursday, in a post-draft news conference, Jackson called the incident a "mistake."

"I don't think it really represents who I am," Jackson said. "I made a mistake that day. I did. I admitted to it from day one when it was brought up. I think the whole situation was really blown out of proportion just because I am who I am. Reporters want to make a story and get themselves a name.

"But everyone who was close to the situation and everyone who I've talked to about it, they know exactly what happened that day. There was nothing that -- it wasn't what it was made out to be. It wasn't as bad as everybody made it out to be. But I have owned up to the mistake I made and I accept the responsibility for it from day one."

Jackson, who pleaded not guilty to the charge, signed a diversion agreement on April 26, and will now take it with him to Phoenix. As part of the agreement, Jackson must attend anger-management classes, write a letter of apology and refrain from using alcohol or recreational drugs for a year, according to the Associated Press.

In a separate incident while at Kansas, Jackson was ticketed in February after he struck a parked car and fled the scene.

Information from ESPN's Josh Weinfuss and The Associated Press contributed to this report.