Simply making it to the NBA is no easy task. Earning and keeping a contract is just as difficult, if not more. While the NBA has essentially added three extra roster spots in the form of two-way contracts, there's no shortage of players vying for a spot in the league. The Chicago Bulls brought in a group of roster hopefuls this past week that included second-year wing Quenton Jackson.
Quenton Jackson's journey to the NBA hasn't been the traditional one. After finishing his senior year of high school at Mira Costa in Southern California, a season during which he suffered a wrist injury, Jackson began his college career at the College of Central Florida, a junior college.
He played two seasons of junior college basketball before transferring to Texas A&M over offers from other Division 1 schools. Jackson was eligible for an extra COVID year of NCAA eligibility which he chose to use following the 2020-21 season. He led the Aggies to the championship game of the NIT during his final year of college basketball, averaging 14.8 points per game, 3.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.8 steals.
Despite solid numbers, Quenton Jackson went undrafted in the 2022 NBA Draft and found himself trying to earn a spot in training camp by playing for the Washington Wizards during NBA Summer League in Las Vegas. While he was successful at that, the Wizards cut him during preseason and would not bring him back until midway through the season by way of a two-way contract.
Towards the end of the 2022-23 season, Jackson finally saw regular rotation minutes and for him, the biggest adjustment he had to make as an NBA rookie was finding out what exactly the team wanted from him.
“Really it was just trying to figure out what my role was,” Jackson told ClutchPoints. “It was trying to figure out how I fit within the system. That was the hardest part, trying to figure out how a team could use you within a game. I think figuring out my role was probably the biggest part of everything. Once I figured it out, I was smooth.”
When the Wizards signed Jackson back in February, he saw playing time in a couple of games and then spent most of his time in the G League with the Wizards affiliate, the Capital City Go-Go. Jackson suited up in 29 games for the Go-Go in 26.4 minutes per game. He averaged 15.5 points per game, 3.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists with splits of 53.5 percent shooting from the field, 39.5 percent shooting from three-point range and 77.5 percent shooting from the free-throw line.
Once the G League season was over, Jackson returned to the Wizards and he got meaningful minutes in the final few games of the regular season. He scored in double figures in three of the Wizards final five games including a career-high 19 points on 9-13 shooting in the season finale.
Shuffling back and forth between the NBA and the G League is a new reality many players face with the addition of the two-way contract. For Jackson though, it didn't matter how much back and forth his rookie season included. Just being in the NBA was a dream come true.
“It was smooth and it was fun, my whole dream, my whole plan was to play in the NBA,” Jackson said. “Whether it was a two-way or a full contract, I was blessed to be in the position I was in, so it was cool.”
During the offseason, Quenton Jackson could be found sharpening his skills in the famed Drew League in Los Angeles. The pro-am league has grown in popularity over the years and has become a proving ground of sorts for young players from the area. The past two summers, Jackson has played for Blacc Pearl Elite, making it to the league's championship game in consecutive seasons.
He played alongside Golden State Warriors signee Jayce Johnson and former Chicago Bull Rawle Alkins. While Jackson became known for his high-flying acrobatics at the rim as a rookie, at the Drew League this summer, he showed off a strong playmaking game. Jackson showed off his passing game during his time in the G League when he averaged 4.2 assists. He also averaged 3.8 assists during this past NBA Summer League.
It's that part of his game that he knows he has to continue to develop to solidify an NBA roster spot.
“It's developed a lot, that's all I've really been working on,” Jackson said. “That's all I've been focusing on. I know I can score the ball, but I just try to get my teammates involved and continue to do all the little things.”
After this mini-interview took place, the Wizards opted to cut Jackson. He was a free agent for a couple of months before the Bulls signed him to an Exhibit 10 deal. On an Exhibit 10 deal, the Bulls have the option to keeping Jackson on their G League affiliate should he not make the final roster.
The Bulls also have the option of converting Quenton Jackson's deal to a two-way contract. As of publication, all three of the Bulls two-way contract slots are filled. The Bulls also have 13 of their 15 standard contract roster spots filled with two non-guaranteed deals in Carlik Jones and Terry Taylor.
It'll be an uphill battle to make the Bulls final roster, but it's not like Quenton Jackson hasn't beaten the odds before. Wherever he ends up this season, he just wants to play his game.
“I don't know, everything is always so up in the air,” Jackson said. “I'm just going to play it how it goes and whatever comes to me, I'm going to handle it like that.”