It was early in Justin Jackson's sophomore season when, sitting among a group of close friends in the second deck of Fifth Third Arena, I made a crazy accusation:
Justin Jackson is the most valuable player on this team.
Nevermind Cashmere Wright or Yancy Gates; at that point in time, I thought Justin Jackson had more value than anyone on that year's roster.
We'll go ahead and agree that was a pretty dumb thing to say; I'll own that. But ever since, I've held Mr. Mean Face in high regard. He's energetic. He's engaging. He's a goofball. And, this year, he produces.
Earlier this season, I wrote about the crazy improvement Jackson has made from his junior to senior year, and for most of the season, you could argue he was the MVP of this team. I say "most of the season" because the last few games haven't been JJ's best, but don't forget he carried this team, at times, when Sean Kilpatrick experienced an early season skid.
This year, Jackson is averaging 8 more minutes, 7 more points, twice as many blocks, and 2 more rebounds a game over last year. He's the posterboy for across-the-board improvement.
Not to mention his arsenal of Top 10 plays on Sportscenter:
The guy has his own Twitter hashtag: #JustinJacksonMeanFace. The administration created a t-shirt with his face on it. You think the students love this guy?
He makes fans and opposing coaches pull their hair out all at the same time. Coaches, because of his defensive versatility. Fans, because of his propensity for silly fouls.
He's one of those guys that elicits an immediate response from all Bearcat fans.
It's hard to list out all of my favorite moments from this guy, so I'll just keep embedding videos:
Go ahead and admit it: Justin Jackson has played better this year than you ever imagined. Now keep your fingers crossed he continues to elevate his game into the postseason.