When 2016 recruit Frank Jackson committed to BYU in September 2013, the news raised a few eyebrows but it didn't get many dancing with joy. After all, Jackson hadn't even begun his sophomore year at Lone Peak High School yet and wasn't highly rated by any of the prominent national recruiting services — so coach Dave Rose's decision to extend a scholarship to the (very) young guard seemed potentially premature.
Fast forward to today. One year later, Jackson has become a rising star on the national prep hoops scene. After teaming with TJ Haws to win yet another Utah state title for Lone Peak, Jackson spent the summer tearing up the AAU circuit — including dropping 50 points in a single game at one tournament in Dubai.
As a result, his stock skyrocketed with national analysts, and nearly every recruiting service now slots him among the top 40 recruits in the country for 2016. (ESPN ranked him 31st overall in their most recent update. For context, BYU's most highly touted recruit ever, Eric Mika, was ranked 28th in the Class of 2013 by ESPN — and Jackson still has two more years to further improve his ranking.)
That kind of performance will get you noticed — and it wasn't long before rumors started swirling online about other, bigger programs inquiring about potentially acquiring Jackson's services. A couple of Pac-12 schools were allegedly in the mix. Duke and North Carolina had supposedly both registered interest. Suddenly, a relatively unremarkable quote from a previous article began to carry a bit more weight in BYU fans' minds.
When asked if he would consider an offer from a prominent school like Duke, Jackson said, "If something big came up, I might be interested. I think I'd definitely look into that for sure."
Losing Jackson would be a significant blow to Rose's future plans. He's banking on Jackson serving a two-year mission for the LDS Church following high school graduation, then returning to fill an important role alongside Mika, Nick Emery, TJ Haws and Payton Dastrup on his 2018 squad — a team that has legitimate hopes for a Final Four run. Any panic in Provo over Jackson potentially looking to play his college ball elsewhere would be entirely justified.
With rumors swirling online, and with two sources reporting that Jackson had already decommitted from BYU to explore other options, The Salt Lake Tribune's Jay Drew decided to give the player's father a call to hear directly from the source. The resulting article will set some Cougar fans' hearts (temporarily) at ease — but may not fully cure any lingering anxiety about Frank's future.
"No, Franklin has not de-committed to BYU. We have never used those words with those guys. Right now, he is focusing on the high school season, but that doesn't mean I am not getting calls from other coaches who are sniffing around to see if they can entice Franklin," Alvin Jackson said. "But no, he has not de-committed to BYU, no."
Jackson said the family is new to the recruiting game, and the whole ordeal has been "an interesting experience," but Frank has not changed his mind, and doesn't plan to.
Jackson said even though Frank committed a year ago, BYU coaches continue to get to every summer all-star circuit game he plays in and haven't stopped recruiting him.
"He is still best friends with Dave Rose, Tim LaComb and Mark Pope. In fact, they are wearing us out. I told them I appreciate them recruiting Frank and making him feel like he is going through the recruiting process. And they are doing that. They are stepping up their game. I appreciate that, because I want him to be 100 percent confident in his decision to go to school there."
OK. There's a lot to digest here.
First, the good news: Jackson has not, in fact, rescinded his commitment. That, in and of itself, is excellent, amazing, fantastic, (insert other positive adjective here) news for any BYU fan. Rose and his staff — perhaps the best recruiters, pound for pound, in college hoops — have apparently kept the full court press on Frank, recruiting him just as hard as if he had never committed at all. This is an incredibly wise move on Rose's part, and should give Cougar Nation confidence that their coach is acutely aware of the risks and has taken preemptive action to head any poaching efforts off at the pass.
But there's unsettling news here, too: Jackson's father confirmed that other coaches (and likely quite a few very big-time coaches) are sniffing around. That doesn't necessarily mean anything right now — but it should make anyone invested in BYU's future basketball success just a little bit uneasy. Even though Alvin Jackson says his son does not plan to rescind his commitment to play in Provo, the longer guys like Mike Krzyzewski can hang around and share stories about coaching LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant in the Olympics and turning fellow Mormon Jabari Parker into the No. 2 overall pick in this year's NBA Draft, the more allure those offers could have for young Frank.
All of this begs the most obvious question: How worried should BYU fans be about losing Jackson?
At this point, I'd say the threat level feels fairly low. Rose is undoubtedly on the case, doing everything he can to build his relationship with Jackson and ensure that he knows he's wanted in Provo. And lest we forget, Rose doesn't lose out on kids like Frank very often — or, really, ever.
Let's run down the checklist: Active Mormon? Check. Family has BYU ties? Check. Planning to serve a mission? Check. Plays at Lone Peak, BYU's unofficial minor league feeder program? Check. Dreamed of attending BYU since childhood? Check.
Frank Jackson checks every box to be considered a "sure thing" in the Dave Rose era. Historically, he just doesn't miss on these kinds of kids — and we know he's already doing the work to make sure that doesn't change now.
But the fear is still there. As long as Krzyzewski and others of his ilk continue to hang around, BYU fans can be justifiably nervous about the prospect (however unlikely) of the unknown.
Remember, Rose initially lost out on Dastrup (another player everyone thought was a mortal lock to wear a navy blue jersey) to the more glamorous Ohio State, before Payton changed his mind at the last possible moment. And Parker has obviously already paved the way for high-profile Mormon athletes to succeed at Duke. So while BYU fans shouldn't be frantically mashing the panic button just yet, they should at least keep it nearby — you know, just in case.
As observers of collegiate recruiting know all too well, nothing is certain until the ink is dry on a player's National Letter of Intent — and Jackson can't officially sign his until November 2015. That reality is going to make for a busy and nerve-wracking 14 months for Dave Rose and his fans.