A day before Georgia played its second game of the season against UNC-Asheville, sophomore guard Turtle Jackson was informed he’d be inserted into the starting lineup.
It was a different feeling, he noted. Even some nerves settled in. But Jackson didn’t rush to tell his parents or anyone the good news. He kept it to himself for the most part while preparing for the next opponent in practice.
"I wasn’t really that hyped about it," Jackson said. "I was really focused on winning the game. A lot of people thought I would flip out. That’s not really my personality."
That statement was backed up by head coach Mark Fox, who called Jackson one of the most unselfish players he’s ever been around. That unselfish mentality has been displayed on the basketball court through Georgia’s first six games.
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Jackson, a four-star high school prospect who originally committed to Connecticut before flipping to Georgia, was a scoring point guard at Athens Christian, where he averaged at least 21 points in each of his final three seasons.
Jackson, set to start his sixth consecutive game against Morehouse Wednesday, hasn’t put up those scoring numbers so far as a sophomore. His season-high was seven points against Kansas in the CBE Hall of Fame Classic championship game.
While he’s not logging many assists either, he’s been an acting facilitator of the offense, making sure everything runs smooth and efficient. That’s at least what Fox has seen since placing him in the starting lineup.
Fox believes the more experience Jackson gets, the easier it will be for him to get into a scorer’s mentality.
"I think he’s a little bit less aggressive as he’s trying to make sure he keeps us organized," Fox said. "I think he’ll get more aggressive once he gets more minutes under his belt and realizes we can stay organized and we can stay aggressive at the same time."
Jackson said he learned to play with an unselfish attitude at Athens Christian under the late head coach Ron Link, who died after battling ALS in 2015. Fox said that when he’d watch Jackson play against other high school teams that he could go off for 50 points if he wanted.
But Link always stressed for Jackson to get his teammates involved on offense. As Jackson eases into becoming a college scorer, ensuring the offense is running efficiently is something he’s been able to carry over.
"He was very well-coached by the late Ron Link," Fox said. "He’s going to be a scoring point guard in college. He’s off to a solid start this year. I think he’s finally getting comfortable and he’ll get better the more comfortable he gets."
While Jackson’s averaging 4.3 points and 0.7 assists per game, his teammates say there’s an added value with him on the court that goes beyond the box score. Senior J.J. Frazier previously said he prefers to play alongside Jackson in the backcourt because the two are interchangeable at both the one- and two-guard spots.
"I’ve seen a lot of leadership," sophomore forward Mike Edwards said. "He’s been playing a lot better. I’m proud of him for that. He’s stepping into a bigger role. It’s important for us."
Like his head coach, Jackson doesn’t seem concerned about the stat sheet either. As long as he’s contributing and his team is winning, that’s all that matters.
"I realized from my parents it’s not all about your name in the paper or you being a star," Jackson said. "It’s about winning, having fun and being better people on and off the court."