Jaren Jackson Jr.
Born: September 15, 1999
Jaren Walter Jackson Jr. was born September 15, 1999 in Plainfield. His father, Jaren Sr. had been a college star at Georgetown and played his first NBA season with the New Jersey Nets. He married Terri Carmichael, an attorney he had met at Georgetown, and who became Director of Operations for the WNBA. Three months prior to his son’s birth, Jaren Sr. won an NBA championship as a member of the San Antonio Spurs.
The Jacksons moved several times during Jaren’s childhood. They finally settled in Indianapolis when he was in eight grade. Wherever they landed, Jaren would use his basketball skills to earn acceptance and make new friends. By the time he entered Park Tudor High, it was clear that he would eclipse his father’s 6’4” height. Eventually, he grew to 6’11”. Jaren played AAU ball in the summers and began establishing himself as a blue chip prospect. As a senior, he transferred to La Lumiere School, a boarding school in LaPorte, IN, and earned All-America recognition as one of the nation’s most agile big men. Among LaPorte’s alumni are Jim Gaffigan and Supreme Court justice John Roberts.
Jaren was projected as a one-and-done first-round NBA draft project. He decided to play for Tom Izzo and accepted a scholarship to Michigan State. In his second collegiate game, Jaren dropped 19 points in #1-ranked Duke. His top scoring night was a 27-point performance over conference rival Minnesota. At season’s end, Jaren was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year. The Spartans went 30–5 and won the Big Ten title. Jaren’s final game was a two-point loss to Syracuse in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Jaren declared for the NBA Draft after the tournament and was selected by the Memphis Grizzlies with the fourth overall pick. He played 58 games as the team’s power forward and averaged 13.8 points and 4.7 rebounds. An injury at the end of February ended his season early. The Grizzlies went 33–49 and missed the playoffs, but scored the #2 pick in the 2019 draft lottery.
Jaren was named to the NBA All-Rookie team in 2018–19. He had 11 20-point games and reached double-figures in rebounds twice. His best game was a 36-point outburst against the Nets in an overtime win on the road in Brooklyn. It was an historic season for an NBA 19-year-old, in an historic season for players Jaren’s age. Other teenagers to enjoy solid rookie seasons in 2018–19 were Luka Doncic, Kevin Knox and Marvin Bagley III.