LAWRENCE (KSNT) – Kansas men’s basketball Coach Bill Self had high praise for true freshman guard Elmarko Jackson at the team’s 2023 media day.

When asked about Jackson’s ability to be an immediate contributor this season, Self said the freshman is the most athletic player on the team.

“He can be full speed in two steps,” Self said. “He’s got a unique gear he can get to quicker than anybody else. He should be a great defender in time.”

Self adds Jackson’s ability to put pressure on opponents with his athleticism will eventually put him in position to be as skilled of a defender as his teammate, Kevin McCullar. McCullar has been a Naismith Defensive Player of the Year semifinalist in each of the past two seasons.

Jackson says practicing with veterans like McCullar for the past few months has helped improve his game. Coach Self is having the impact Jayhawk fans would expect, too.

“I knew it was going to be difficult,” Jackson said. “After the recruiting process, when he [Self] stops telling you all the nice stuff and gets on you a couple times, it’s like, ‘Oh wow, he’s coaching me.’ And then it’s like, ‘Well, this is what I came here for.’ I came here to be coached by a hall of fame coach.”

Self said either the true freshman or transfer guard Nick Timberlake will likely land in the fifth starting spot in Sunday’s exhibition game at Illinois.

“If you’re going to have a crystal ball and say who needs to play well to give us the best chance to max out, I’d say Elmarko would be at the top of that list,” Self said. “I think he can add an element that this team will desperately need moving forward.”

A 6-foot-3 guard out of Marlton, New Jersey, Jackson was a four-star prospect and a top five point guard in America out of the 2023 class. KU has exhibition matches against Illinois and Fort Hays State coming up before opening the season at home on Nov. 6 against North Carolina Central.