LEXINGTON — Isaiah Jackson is starting to make an impact and it’s starting to show on the court.
“I think just getting used to just playing to be honest,” he said. “I’ve started to get like a feel for the game, the college game. I’m just going out there and just hooping.”
The freshman forward has averaged 16.3 points and nine rebounds during Kentucky’s current three-game winning streak. Jackson scored 16 points and grabbed nine boards in a 70-55 win over Tennessee last Saturday in Knoxville.
Jackson began his recent tear by scoring 18 points in an 82-80 win over Auburn on Feb. 13 and followed that up with 15 against Vanderbilt last Wednesday.
He also has added two blocks in each of the past three games.
“(I’m) just letting the game come to me,” he said. “(I) don’t force, try not to force anything. If you have an easy basket, take it. The thing I like doing is playing defense so I’m going to always do that. I just let the offensive game come to me.”
Jackson admitted it wasn’t easy making the jump from high school to college.
“It’s a big adjustment,” he said. “Not many people thought that I could do it. I just come out every night and show that I can.”
While his scoring contributions are giving the Wildcats a boost, his ability to block shots has been a consistent attribute for the freshman forward.
“It’s just something natural,” he said. “I’m just starting to get a better feel every day. It’s just getting more comfortable.”
Kentucky coach John Calipari said blocking shots is “more of a knack.”
“It’s a twitch — that, again, you are not blocking it in his hand,” he said. “It takes skill. A twitch, that you let him release it and then you go get the ball. I’ve had some of the best and I’ll tell you, he’s (Jackson) doing some good stuff.”
Coming out of high school, Jackson never envisioned making such an impact in his first season, especially in the defensive end of the court.
“When I was in high school, I didn’t really think I was going to be able to do the stuff that I’m doing,” he said. “It’s crazy how I just came in, impacting the game, especially on defense.”
Because of his improvement, the Wildcats have made a late run after a pair of four-game losing streaks this season. Despite the issues, Jackson said the Wildcats have been a “good team” and added it took time for Kentucky to make the necessary adjustments.
“We are a good team,” he said. “A lot of people try to doubt us and say that we are not that good. But we know deep down how much work we put into this and it’s all starting to pay off, so we are going to keep doing it.”
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at email@example.com or twitter @keithtaylor21.