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He's Utah's best high school prospect. No question.
For his son to be challenged in college, Al Jackson wanted a place where Frank Jackson wouldn't be the best player on the floor.
The place? Duke.
"Frank will be pushed to go to a different level," Al Jackson said. "Being around the best players and playing in the best conference will force him to do that. He wants to get to the NBA, and in order to do that, he has to be playing at the highest level."
The 6-foot-4 guard out of Lone Peak, rated five stars by nearly every recruiter in the country, committed to the Blue Devils on Tuesday at a news conference in the Highland school.
Jackson stood at a podium, where he reached down to reveal a Duke baseball cap. He wore it with a megawatt smile.
Jackson committed once before: As a freshman, he pledged to play at BYU. But after reopening his recruitment in the winter, it seems this one will stick.
"It's a dream come true," he said. "Ever since I was a little kid, I've looked at Duke and the program they've built. To be a Duke Blue Devil means the world to me."
The Blue Devils swaggered into Jackson's recruitment earlier this year, fresh off winning the national championship. Among Jackson's other finalists of BYU, Utah and Stanford, Duke loomed with a winning tradition, a head coach that has the most wins of any in college basketball, and a clear pathway to Jackson's goal of playing in the NBA.
Jackson described his trips to Duke, where he met coach Mike Krzyzewski and had dinner at his house. He said he got a "gut feeling" Duke was right for him walking around the campus.
"They're a winning program," Jackson said. "They win championships. That's what it's about. That's a factor, in a way, but I know he's going to do what he can to get the best out of me."
Jackson's quest for tapping his potential has been a long one. As a youth player, few of his coaches thought he would reach the level he's now at: one of the most in-demand basketball prospects ever from Utah.
A sweet-shooting, fleet-footed scorer, Jackson is ranked No. 14 nationally in his class by ESPN, No. 10 by Rivals and No. 17 by Scout. Last year, he scored 26.9 points per game while shooting 47 percent from the floor and 41 percent from 3-point range.
His summer helped boost his stock. With his Utah Prospects team and as an individual, Jackson wowed at tournaments and showcases all over the country and abroad.
Utah Prospects coach Lynn Lloyd thinks for all of Jackson's star power, he'll benefit from having other stars around to push him to be better.
"He's going to be playing with at least three first-round draft picks, and I'm not sure that will be the experience anywhere else he was on the short list with," Lloyd said. "I'm sure it will help Frank to grow as a player and a person to lean on other players and expand his game."
Jackson said he's anticipating joining Duke right away. He had previously considered going on an LDS Church mission before college.
The in-state schools made strong late pushes to land Jackson, potentially a program-altering recruit for both Utah and BYU. The Utes had several meetings with the Jacksons, which included tours through over $30 million worth of basketball facilities renovations and upgrades. The Cougars offered familiarity with a roster that includes his high school coach Quincy Lewis and some other Lone Peak greats a high-scoring system and a place for his LDS faith.
But truthfully, Jackson seemed to lean toward Duke for some time. His parents were sold in June, Al Jackson said, but Frank took a little longer to make up his mind. The final call was Frank's.
Al Jackson, who is a state senator, R-Highland, said he's glad the decision is made. His constituency, which is made up of many BYU fans, spent a lot of time grilling him.
"We love BYU, they've been nothing but great to us," he said. "But in order for Frank to grow, he's gotta leave the nest. He's gotta get away from Utah, away from his comfort zone so he can just focus on being a student athlete."