G.G. Jackson closes rookie season on high note

By Thomas Grant Jr.

The accolades have not appeared as often and prominent as it has for high-profile rookies like San Antonio center Victor Wembanyama.

When it comes to the Memphis Grizzlies, the first year for shooting forward G.G. Jackson was just as impactful and positive to the franchise. The Ridge View graduate and former University of South Carolina forward completed his pro apprenticeship Sunday with a historic performance against the world-champion Denver Nuggets.

Playing in his 48th game of the season, Jackson scored a career-high 44 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and hit four, 3-pointers in the 126-111 season-ending loss. It was reportedly the first time an NBA rookie posted these numbers in a game.

Despite his youth and questions entering the league, the NBA’s youngest player quickly earned the trust and belief of management.

GG Jackson with the shot over the Los Angles Lakers' Rui Hatchimura.
GG Jackson with the shot over the Los Angeles Lakers’ Rui Hatchimura

So confident were the Grizzlies in the future of the 45th overall draft pick that they offered Jackson a four-year contract with a club option of $2.4 million on Feb. 9. This after he began the season with the Memphis Hustle of the G-League on a 2-way contract.

Once Jackson began to get consistent playing time, he started to blossom as a major contributor. Jackson also made history in the process such as in January when he became the second-longest player in NBA history to score 20 or more points in back-to-back games as a reserve.

A month later, Jackson scored 27 points to break Kobe Bryant’s NBA record as the youngest player to score 25 or more points off the bench. Jackson scored 27 points a week later against Milwaukee, including becoming the youngest player to make six 3-pointers in a game.

Jackson surpasses that mark on March 25 against Golden State. In the process of hitting seven 3-pointers, he scored a career-high 35 points.

“What stands out to me is just his ability to play within himself and not trying to do too much,” Memphis head coach Taylor Jenkins said. “As you said it, every now and then we’ll run a play for him. A lot of times it’s him as a screener, roller and being a creator for us, but he’s playing on the second side a lot, he’s shooting with confidence.

The ball is finding him in good spots, the spacing has been really good. Then when it’s time to go and catch and get downhill, he’s got to figure out playing in crowds, teams swiping down, two guys collapse, creating some advantages, that’s all going to come in time. We want to continue to grow the playmaking for him but especially into that closeout situation.”
As the season drew to a close, Jackson played at a consistent level. Over a 16-game stretch, he averaged 18.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 32.8 minutes per game.

Jackson finished the season averaging 14.6 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game.

“The coaching staff put their time and trust in me, and I repay them with my work ethic and my performances on the court,” Jackson said. “If God has it in His plan, I love it here. It’s not too big of a city, not too small. So, I get to strictly focus on basketball. That’s a blessing in and of itself. I can stay out of trouble and different things like that. I feel like if I continue on this path, I can, that definitely can be long term for sure.”

Feature photo – Memphis Grizzlies forward GG Jackson guards Los Angeles Lakers’ forward Lebron James.

Photo Credit – Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images