Isaiah Jackson aiming to be UK’s next premier freshman big


Isaiah Jackson. Men’s basketball practice. Photo by Chet White | UK Athletics

Grant Grubbs

Isaiah Jackson is used to the spotlight. The standout big man averaged 19.7 points and an astounding 7.7 blocks per game his senior year at Waterford Mott High School. There were few on the court who could stand in his way. All of that changed when he arrived at Kentucky.

“Every day is a fight. It’s a battle,” Jackson said at a press conference on Tuesday. “[In] high school, you sort of could take breaks. But here, there’s no room for error or breaks.”

Jackson knows more than most recruits about what is expected of him at UK. In fact, he grew up a Kentucky fan and idolized many Wildcat front court stars. He hopes he can continue the long line of great big men coming out of the program and intends on using one of the latest national champions as inspiration.

“Growing up, to be honest, I was always a Kentucky fan. When Anthony Davis got here, I was always watching Kentucky,” Jackson said. “Seeing the stuff that he did is crazy, and I feel like I can sort of mirror my game after him.”

“The Brow” may not be here to teach the newcomer all his tips and tricks, but he has the next best thing. All-ACC transfer Olivier Sarr is showing Jackson everyday what’s necessary to become a prolific big in the NCAA. Whether it is a gritty rebound or high IQ play, he is constantly soaking in Sarr’s game.

“Playing against him, watching him, even doing drills and stuff, just mimicking what he’s doing,” Jackson said. “It helps me a lot.”

This humble mentality has not gone unnoticed. When teammates have been asked throughout the press conferences over the past few weeks about who is standing out in practice, Jackson’s name has been the consistent answer. Most of these teammates have zeroed in on his shot blocking ability. Jackson could not help but agree with their assessments.

“I don’t really know how to explain it,” he said. “Something that I guess I was just born to do. It just comes naturally.”

Jackson is excited to put this defensive strength to good use. He feels Kentucky is not only a great program, but a winning culture. Putting on that blue and white is not just the start of his college career, but the start of achieving a life-long dream.

“It’s still surreal,” Jackson said. “It was always a dream of mine. It’s crazy that it came true.”

Those dreams will become a reality in short order, as the Cats are just two weeks away from opening their 2020 season. It’s then that we’ll see if the 6-foot-10 Michigan native is able to start on a path similar to his idol and the other big-men who have graced the floor of Rupp Arena.