Once teammates, De’Aaron Fox and Justin Jackson ready to face each other again

Justin Jackson UNC

Chris Leach

The scouting reports will help the UK men’s basketball team,and the North Carolina Tar Heels become familiar with their opponents strengths and weaknesses. But for De’Aaron Fox, and Justin Jackson, two key players for both teams, they will have an added advantage when they take the court for Sunday’s Elite Eight matchup.

Before Fox and Jackson went to college, the two were teammates during their AAU careers. Jackson knew from early on that Fox was going to be a great player.

“I always knew even from the first time that he came in and tried out for our team — well, I guess not really tried out — but first practice that we had with him, that he was going to be good,” Jackson said.

What has surprised Jackson however, is how fast Fox has evolved.

“I didn’t know that he was going to have this type of impact right away,” Jackson said.

Fox made a big impact in UK’s Sweet 16 game against UCLA, as he scored a career-high 39 points, fourth most ever by a UK player in the NCAA tournament.

When the Cats played UNC on Dec. 17, Fox had another great game, scoring 24 points and dishing out 10 assists. Fox has been great for the Cats all season and Jackson has taken notice.

“He’s gotten better and better as the season has gone on, it’s great for him,” Jackson said

Jackson has played well all season for the Tar Heels, and his biggest game of the season might have been when he last played UK, when he scored 34 points.

In the NCAA Tournament, Jackson has averaged 20 points per game and is coming off a 24-point performance against Butler in the Sweet 16. Despite having to face Jackson in the Elite Eight, Fox is a big fan of his former teammates game.

“I love my man Justin (Jackson), so you know I support him and watch him,” Fox said.

This will be the second time the two have faced each other since they shared the court during the AAU days. None of that matters to them though, as both of them have one goal in mind for Sunday’s game — making the Final Four.

Whichever team wins Sunday’s Elite Eight game; it is likely that both Fox and Jackson will have a big games. The two have had lots of experience playing together and it should be fun to see them battle it out for a chance to go to one of sport’s biggest stages.