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2018 NBA Draft

Jaren Jackson Jr. says he’s ready for some barbecue and the Grizzlies’ ‘grit and grind’

Selected fourth in the draft, he says he’ll play at the 5, 4 or even the 3

Jaren Jackson Jr. is a big rib eater. When he gets to Memphis, Tennessee, he says, he’s “coming and smacking all the ribs.”

“The barbecue is crazy,” Jackson said. “I’ve been there before because my uncle used to live there. I just know that and the rap culture.”

Mostly, he knows about the Grizzlies and he wants to become a piece of the puzzle that will extend the Grit and Grind culture.

The Michigan State product spoke with local Memphis media by phone about two hours after he was selected No. 4 overall in the NBA draft on Thursday.

It was rumored that Jackson had some reservations about the Grizzlies, who finished the season at 22-60 after firing head coach David Fizdale after 19 games. But he swiftly dispelled that idea.

“You know I think that was taken a tad out of context,” he said. “I think it was a scheduling conflict in terms of working out and all that other stuff, but you know I’m excited. I’m excited to get going. The team they’ve got in place right now is spectacular. … I’m just really excited.”

The 6-foot-11-inch, 242-pounder says he’ll play at whatever position he’s needed and that his strengths are his conditioning and playing hard.

“It doesn’t matter,” Jackson said. “It could be the 5, the 4, the 3, the 2 or the 1. I’m all for it. I think with the team they got, then I see, you know, I could play alongside Marc [Gasol] or potentially be the 5 or potentially be the 4 — even help at the 3 if the size allows it. I think all things are possible, but that just comes with talking to coach more and figuring out.”

Jackson learned shortly before the draft that head coach J. B. Bickerstaff and the front office had a “very strong” interest in him. “Honestly, it was great to hear because you want to be wanted. That’s the biggest thing … I was happy to go anywhere. But definitely when you sit down and think about the team, take a deep breath and exhale, I’m actually glad it was Memphis.”

Jackson said he feels Bickerstaff looks at him as “coachable.”

“I’m just trying to go do anything it takes to win,” Jackson said. “I think they have a really established culture there already ready, so I’m just trying to come and do whatever I can to just continue that and enhance it. They’ve got a lot of young players and a lot of vets. And you know he told me that it’s a family environment. There’s a coaching staff there that will treat me like family and help me develop as well as teach me the game.”

Jackson said his father, former NBA player Jaren Jackson Sr., allowed him to find his own love for basketball.

“He gave me the room to grow. I’m definitely going to listen to all the advice he has to give about the league,” he said. “I feel like in that way I have an advantage. He knows all the inside and out, so I can definitely learn more off the court than most because he’s just been through it already.”

The hardest part of preparing for the draft was the training, he said. “Understanding the different levels of conditioning was definitely something I had to get used to. After I did it more and more and more, it definitely got a lot easier. And I was happy I did it because it prepared me a lot more for the workouts and let me have good workouts just knowing it’s a different level of motor you’ve got to have.”

Jackson wants to continue to work on his conditioning.

“This is a different job from high school to college, as is from college to the NBA. So I’ll work on that. I think that’s my strength is being able to shoot the ball, continue to extend my range. Being a team player and being somebody who is coachable and doing whatever it takes to win.”

Kelley Evans is a general editor at The Undefeated. She is a food passionista, helicopter mom and an unapologetic southerner who spends every night with the cast of The Young and the Restless by way of her couch.