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Suns first-round draft pick Josh Jackson: ‘I refuse to fail, period’

Kansas' Josh Jackson, right, poses for a photo with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver after being selected by the Phoenix Suns as the fourth pick overall during the NBA basketball draft, Thursday, June 22, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

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PHOENIX — Among the many areas the Phoenix Suns targeted for improvement this offseason, defense topped the list, specifically perimeter defense.

No team was worse defending the 3-point line than the Suns in ’16-’17.

They were also last in opponents’ points allowed, while ranking 26th in opponents’ field goal percentage and 29th in opponents’ fast-break points.

In other words, their list of defensive deficiencies is long.

Josh Jackson is not the cure-all but his addition certainly helps in the areas the Suns lack.

Considered the best two-way player in the 2017 NBA Draft, Jackson, a 6-foot-8 small forward out of Kansas, was the choice of the Suns with the No. 4 overall pick.

“I think I bring toughness, versatility, being able to guard 1-through-4 on the defensive end and also being able to play 1-through-4 on the offensive end,” he said from New York. “And as I watch today’s NBA basketball, versatility is probably the most important thing in this league today. I think it’ll be really special.”

The Suns were not able to secure a pre-draft visit from Jackson, but they did see him work out in Sacramento last week.

While his shooting needs work, his aggressiveness, toughness and ability to guard multiple positions set him apart from the other top prospects.

“I don’t think the other guys in this draft really care as much as I do. I don’t think they play as hard as I do, period. I think that’s what really makes me special. I refuse to fail, period,” he said.

Jackson, 20, averaged 16.3 points, 7.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists playing just over 30 minutes per game. He led Kansas with 59 steals and 37 blocked shots on his way to winning Big 12 Freshman of the Year honors.

A former McDonald’s High School All-American, Jackson owns three gold medals with the USA Basketball program.

The kid can ball.

The kid also carries baggage.

Twice in his one season at Kansas Jackson ran afoul of the law. In May, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor traffic violation for backing into a car and leaving the scene.

Earlier, he reached a diversion agreement that required him to attend anger management classes, write a letter of apology and refrain from using alcohol or recreational drugs for a year for his confrontation with a Jayhawks women’s basketball player.

“I don’t think it really represents who I am. You know, I made a mistake that day. I did. I admitted to it from day one when it was brought up. I think the whole situation was really blown out of proportion, just because I am who I am,” Jackson said, referring to character concerns.

“Everyone who I’ve talked to about it, they know exactly what happened that day. There was nothing that—it wasn’t what it was made out to be. It wasn’t as bad as everybody made it out to be. But I have owned up to the mistake I made and I accept the responsibility for it from day one.”

Jackson plays with an edge, which falls right in line with head coach Earl Watson’s vision for the Suns. Much like fellow youngsters Devin Booker, Marquese Chriss and Tyler Ulis, Jackson does not back down, from anyone, or anything.

“I love competition, and I love proving people wrong,” he said. “I’ve been drafted to Phoenix, and I’m going to go there and I’m going to make the best of it. I’m going to be the best player I can be. And those teams who didn’t draft me, one day they will be sorry.”

Follow Craig Grialou on Twitter

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