SALT LAKE CITY — While Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell and Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma have certainly represented the Beehive State well in the early portion of their rookie campaigns, former Lone Peak High star Frank Jackson has had a much tougher road in his first season in the NBA.
After starring at the NBA Draft Combine in May following one season at Duke, the 2016 McDonald’s All-American’s stock was high, and many pundits predicted he’d get selected in the first round of June’s draft.
Less than two weeks after the Combine, however, he underwent surgery for a stress reaction in his right foot he had dealt with at Duke, and was taken by the New Orleans Pelicans with the first pick of the second round, 31st overall.
The 6-foot-3 Jackson signed a guaranteed rookie deal soon after and the goal was for him to be ready for training camp, but disaster struck two months later when he broke the same foot again, and he underwent a second surgery on Sept. 1.
As such, Jackson hasn’t yet appeared for the Pelicans.
“It was definitely tough, something you don’t want to happen,” he said of the rebreak on Friday morning at Vivint Arena as New Orleans prepared for its Friday night game against the Jazz. “That’s basketball. Injuries happen, but you’ve just got to live and learn from it. It definitely was hard on me at first, especially my second time, but I’ve been able to grow a lot and learn. To be around the guys on the team, it’s still been an awesome experience.”
While Jackson hasn’t been able to play, he said he’s tried to attack the rehab process and is hopeful he can hit the court in a month or so. He acknowledged he’ll have to overcome the mental hurdle of not being afraid of reinjuring his foot, but is looking forward to bringing energy and scoring to a Pelicans team that is in the playoff hunt early.
New Orleans head coach Alvin Gentry is confident the 19-year-old Jackson (he won’t turn 20 until next May) will be able to contribute once healthy.
“Obviously it’s going to be a learning experience for him, but I think he’ll have an opportunity to become a good player,” Gentry said.
Despite the early setback, Jackson is excited to keep going down a path that has seen him enter elite basketball circles over the last 18 months.
“To be around people who know the game of basketball, I’m very fortunate and lucky to do this,” he said. “Hopefully this foot heals up properly the right way so I can continue this journey.”