Kansas' Josh Jackson (11) goes up for a shot over UC Davis' Garrison Goode (44), Brynton Lemar (0) and Mikey Henn (24) in the first half of a first-round game in the men's NCAA college basketball tournament in Tulsa, Okla., Friday March 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo had a simple recruiting pitch while trying to lure then-prep standout Josh Jackson to East Lansing.
“I just got on my hands and knees and begged him,” Izzo joked.
Izzo’s salesmanship wasn’t enough to bring Jackson back home to Michigan after a year at prep school in California, but the Spartans coach will get an up-close look at the 6-foot-8 Kansas freshman when the two schools meet on Sunday afternoon.
Jackson, who is from Detroit, strongly considered joining Michigan State rather than the Jayhawks _ especially since his childhood friend, Miles Bridges, was about to join the Spartans.
"I grew up a State fan, but I believed I had a better chance of winning a national championship at Kansas," Jackson said. "I love to win, so I am going to go out there and do my best to win."
Rather than facing each other as teammates, though, the close friends will face each other with a spot in the Sweet 16 on the line in Tulsa’s BOK Center.
"This is probably going to be one of the toughest games that we've played against each other," Bridges said.
Kansas coach Bill Self said he has spoken to Jackson about keeping his emotions in check while playing against Miles on Sunday, while admitting there’s a strong chance the two guard each other for a good portion of the game. Jackson scored 17 points on 8-of-12 shooting in the Jayhawks opening-round win over UC Davis.
— Kansas Basketball (@KUHoops) March 18, 2017
“I really believe what's best for both teams is that for them to guard somebody naturally they're supposed to guard, and that's each other,” Self said. “So, it'll be a fun matchup.”
When Jackson committed to Kansas, he took the time to call Izzo to let the coach know of his decision _ something the longtime Spartans coach hasn’t forgotten.
“I'll always be a Josh Jackson fan, except for (Sunday) for 40 minutes),” Izzo said.
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