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For a brief moment in an otherwise meticulously organized summer, Frank Jackson decided to cut loose.
"Why not?" he thought to himself.
So, energized by a raucous crowd at an outdoor court near the Brooklyn Bridge one night last month, the Lone Peak guard caught a pass near the hoop and took off in to the air, spinning 360 degrees and slamming down a dunk.
The moment, part of an MVP performance at a showcase for the country's most elite prep stars, was a rare bit of whimsical whirling in what has been a dizzying year for the state's top basketball recruit a time when he's asked himself another question over and over.
Where is the best place to take the next step in his journey? Where will he feel at home? Where will he grow? Where will he excel? Where will he make that next leap?
Now it seems Jackson has his answer, and the No. 14-ranked prospect in the country is set to end his recruiting and announce his choice from among a list of four finalists Duke, Stanford, BYU and Utah Tuesday afternoon.
Even late last week, the boy's mind was not made up. One afternoon, he sat in his favorite chair in the corner of an immaculate living room of a home high on the benches of Highland. Behind him, propped up on an easel, was an oversized calendar that outlined each member of the family's week. The next three days for Jackson would be maybe his most important of the summer; they were all blocked out for a visit to Duke University, home of legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski and the defending champion Blue Devils.
Few places in college basketball hold such allure. Still, Jackson insisted he had not made his final decision.
He just knew it would be a relief once he had.
"The four schools I have right now, I love each and every one of them," he said. "I think they've been really good to me. I like to hear what they have to say. But when I know where I'm going to go it will be nice."
On that afternoon, Jackson wore a T-shirt and blue jeans a seemingly rare moment outside of a basketball uniform and a pair of stylish Adidas sneakers, one of the many perks he has enjoyed during a summer that has felt like a nonstop road trip. There have been tournaments in Las Vegas. There was the nationally televised game in New York. There was the week in Italy to play against some of the best up-and-coming players in the world.
"I was traveling nonstop," he said. "But some of the greatest experiences of my life have happened this summer. Without me going to these events, I wouldn't get the exposure I wanted. It's tough. Sometimes I'll complain about not being able to hang out with my friends. I don't get a summer. Blah, blah, blah. But that comes with my decision to play basketball. It's a little sacrifice."
Rising up the rankings • Jackson's sacrifice is paying gains now. ESPN ranks him as the 14th best prospect in the Class of 2016. Scout.com lists him at No. 17. Rivals.com pegs him at No. 10.
By the time he finishes high school, he may very well be the most highly touted recruit to ever come out of Utah. But Jackson's ascent to such rarefied status has been somewhat surprising to those who have known him the longest.
"He's grown leaps and bounds," Tim Davis, coach of Jackson's AAU squad Utah Prospects, said. "In the seventh grade, I don't think he was a top-20 kid in Utah."
There were indeed some skeptical looks from the upperclassmen at Lehi High School when Jackson made the team as a freshman and soon took over a spot in the starting lineup.
But Jackson's hard work quickly become evident to those who watched.
Former Lehi star Blake Cleveringa, who went on to play two years of junior college ball, remembers how the freshman didn't have a phone and frequently messaged him over Facebook to talk about practice and games.
"I remember playing him one-on-one after practice," Cleveringa said. "I really couldn't tell you who won. But I think that was the first time I really knew how good he was."
Said former Lehi coach Bob Barnes, "He had a natural feel for the game. You could tell that as a ninth grader. He definitely had some athletic ability, but obviously we didn't know at that point he'd blossom into the type of player he is right now."
It was a 30-point performance against a Lone Peak squad that spent 2013 near the top of the national rankings that put Jackson on the map.
And his star has grown exponentially since.
After transferring to Lone Peak, Jackson set the school record by scoring 54 points in a game last year against Nevada's Clark County High School. In one season, he put up four of the school's top six scoring games ever.
I always want to push myself to be the best," Jackson said. "I think every time I play I want to make the point that I'm one of the best in the country. I definitely want to make that statement that I can play with anyone."
"Praying about it" • Jackson's first scholarship offer came from BYU and he accepted it on the spot.
He was 14 years old.
And after surprising even himself with his play at the camps and tournaments that followed, Jackson knew he had to explore the new options that were opening up. Soon Jackson would have his pick of schools, but first he had to let the Cougars down.
"It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do, especially right in front of Coach [Dave] Rose and his staff," Jackson said. "They were so cool about it. … They just said if you really want to come here, we want to make sure you want to be here. So look at your options and see what's out there and make sure this is the right place for you."
Making it harder on him were Jackson's connections to the area and its predominant faith. He spent his early years with his family in Washington, D.C., but came to Utah every summer and attended camps at BYU. He's also a member of the LDS Church, which means he has another decision looming another choice he hasn't totally settled on yet.
"For me, I think missions are great," he said. "From a young age, my parents have taught me that missionary work is very, very good. My sister is actually on a mission right now. I have several good friends that are great examples that are on missions right now."
Jackson said he's spoken to former BYU star Tyler Haws, who served an LDS mission, and former Duke star and Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker, who did not.
"He was really helpful and kind of told me some basic things I needed to know," Jackson said of Parker. "… Right now, I'm praying about it. It's something that's between me and the Lord, right now. When the time comes, I'll make the right decision."
Hoop dreams • Jackson's ultimate goal is the NBA.
And it is a very real dream.
Coaches tell him he could be a one-and-done college player and NBA draft experts are starting to take notice.
"He's obviously extremely talented," said Jonathan Givony, who runs the website DraftExpress.com. "He's obviously got good size. He's a good athlete. He's got a good looking stroke. … Just sitting down, getting to talk to him, he seems like he's got a great head on his shoulders. I can see why people are so high on him."
He's 6-foot-4 and growing and can play both guard spots.
As an All-State selection for Lone Peak last year, Jackson averaged 26.9 points as a junior. On the AAU circuit, he continued to put up big numbers, averaging 24 points and four rebounds per contest.
"His greatest attribute is he's a playmaker and he can break down the defense whenever he wants," Davis said. "His greatest asset is he scores with ease so you want to incorporate that to be a facilitator as well."
The AAU coach, who called Jackson "more skilled at this age than Russell Westbrook was," believes his star guard has what it takes to eventually make it to the game's highest level.
Jackson believes it, too.
"It's definitely weird to me," he said. "I never thought I would be in the situation I'm in right now. "To think maybe in a couple years I could be in the league is crazy to me, but it just motivates me even more."
Senator's son • Jackson is just a teenager, but he is polished in the way you might expect the son of a Utah State senator and prepared on the court the way you might expect the son of a former player to be.
For years Sen. Al Jackson, R-Highland, woke his son up early and trained him on the basketball court inside their church.
"Sometimes I hated him," the son said.
But now the father knows it's time to get out of the way.
"My parents support me 100 percent," Frank Jackson said. "I definitely take guidance and counsel from them. They'll be the two that help me the most. But at the end of the day, they know I'm a big boy and I can make big boy decisions."
In recent years, Jackson's game has grown so much that his father has stepped out of the way, hired a trainer, sat back and enjoyed watching that hard work pay off.
Al Jackson thought at various points his son was talented, and perhaps exceptionally so. He had played well when was the youngest player at Chris Paul's camp for some of the best guards in the country. But it wasn't until Frank's play during an elite tournament in Dallas this spring that Al Jackson was totally sold.
"The best thing my wife and I have seen is seeing how he's handled the whole situation," he said. "He hasn't gotten a big head. He still wants to be a kid. We've been more enamored with the coaches and the situation than he has. Even with Coach K at Duke, he's an icon and Frank has just been pretty matter of fact about the whole thing."
And that's how the younger Jackson plans to approach the big announcement he plans to make Tuesday.
Unlike that 360-dunk there won't be much flash.
No live TV production.
No table lined with hats from which to choose.
"I'm not going to be like that," he said.
"He's got four really good choices," Al Jackson added. "In our mind, he's not going to go wrong with any of them."
Twitter: @tribjazz Frank Jackson file
School • Lone Peak High School. Year • Senior. Position • Guard. Height • 6-4.
2014-15 averages • 26.9 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.0 steals
Colleges • Duke, Stanford, Utah and BYU