KU’s Josh Jackson looking forward to exhibition debut against Washburn on Tuesday

Freshman sensation Josh Jackson is ready to play someone for real. Tuesday night (albeit in an exhibition game), KU plays host to western neighbor Washburn. | Rich Sugg | rsugg@kcstar.com

By Gary Bedore gbedore@kcstar.com

After competing against his own teammates in dozens of pick-up games and practices since arriving on Kansas’ campus in June, Josh Jackson is ready to guard — and be guarded by — players not wearing Crimson and Blue.

“I’m excited for the first game, for us to finally all be on the same team,” said Jackson, KU’s 6-foot-8 freshman guard from Detroit. Like his Jayhawks teammates, he’s eagerly awaiting Tuesday’s 7 p.m. exhibition opener against Washburn in Allen Fieldhouse.

“In practice we are always going at each other playing as hard as we can,” Jackson said. “When we are going up and down scrimmaging against each other, we get real competitive. It gets kind of hard to remember we are all on the same team. I’m really excited to see what it’s going to be like for us all finally to get a chance to play together.”

The Jayhawks aim to play hard-nosed basketball basically every time they take the court.

“There have been a couple times we’ll be playing pick-up or something, a couple guys will get in a heated argument on the court,” Jackson said. “We’ll get to pushing and shoving. Here (at KU) you’re playing against tough players all the time. They foul you really hard sometimes. It’s not soft basketball. You’ve got to be tough.”

Jackson, the No. 1-rated player in the recruiting Class of 2016, would have it no other way.

“What’s that saying, ‘Use steel to sharpen steel?’” Jackson said with a smile. “Playing against great competition is only going to make you better. The better the competition, the better it is for everybody.”

Jackson said the hardest player for him to guard has been sophomore Lagerald Vick.

“He’s really fast. He can shoot the ball well, has really long arms,” Jackson said. Trying to stay in front of him is almost impossible for me.

“If he blows by me and dunks, I’m just waiting to get yelled at by coach (Bill) Self,” Jackson added, grinning. “Each day, playing against guys like Lagerald and Svi (Mykhailiuk) … it makes you better.”

The most fun, Jackson said, will come when he takes what he’s absorbed at practice and use it against actual opponents — like Washburn.

“I am a little nervous,” Jackson said of his upcoming debut. “I think playing in front of that many people (16,300) … I’ve never done that before. I’m interested to see how I’ll handle it.”

Jackson said, “I haven’t,” when asked if he’s played out a scenario for the opener in his mind. “I am not sure what to expect.”

Preston says he’s waiting

Billy Preston, a 6-9, 220-pound senior forward from Oak Hill Academy who is ranked No. 8 in the recruiting class of 2017 by Rivals.com, made an official visit to USC over the weekend.

He has also visited KU, Syracuse and Indiana and made two unofficial visits to Maryland.

He told phenomhoopreport.com that he “is in no rush. I plan on making my decision in the spring sometime.”

Of the schools he’s visited, he said: “Every school is great. I feel I fit in at every single program. At all four schools I feel I could contribute to the team and help them win a national championship.”

Henry to Oklahoma City

The Santa Cruz (Calif.) Warriors of the NBA Development League have traded former KU guard Xavier Henry to the Oklahoma City Blue for Alex Hamilton, the Warriors reported Sunday. H

enry, 25, is a native of Oklahoma City who has been plagued by injuries during his pro career, which has included stints with Memphis, New Orleans and the Los Angeles Lakers. He was waived by the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks on Sept. 23 before the start of training camp.

Gary Bedore: 816-234-4068, @garybedore

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