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NBA PM: How Homeschooling Led to Chapel Hill

McDonald’s All-American Co-MVP Justin Jackson is headed to North Carolina next year, despite having been homeschooled… Chicago curiously cuts Erik Murphy; Ronnie Brewer and Mike James to take his place?

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Justin Jackson Shows What Homeschooled Kids Can Do

It’s not always easy for high school kids to find a stage big enough to attract scouts from the most prestigious universities in the country, but North Carolina recruit and McDonald’s All-American Co-MVP Justin Jackson is a particularly interesting case because he hasn’t actually taken a class at a brick-and-mortar public school or academy since middle school. Jackson, unlike any McDonald’s All-American before him, has been homeschooled since sixth grade.

Luckily for Jackson, there are leagues for homeschooled kids that want to play sports, and since he’s extremely tall, extremely talented and extremely intelligent, he drew the attention of one of college basketball’s most storied programs. It’s not the standard route for becoming a Tar Heel, but for Jackson, it worked.

“I was blessed these past two years to be able to go to some high-level tournaments, which get some recognition,” Jackson told Basketball Insiders. “Before homeschool basketball, you played in your area, and then you went to the homeschool state nationals. But I was blessed to be able to be invited to some of the high level tournaments with my team. That was definitely a blessing.”

It was on that stage that Jackson really got noticed, but he is adamant that homeschooled kids aren’t antisocial uber-religious weirdos, like some envision. Socially, you’d never know he spent most of his school days in his pajamas at home with his mom.

“I think that’s the biggest stereotype for homeschoolers,” Jackson said. “Obviously you have some that are a little less social, but homeschoolers are just like anyone else. They just don’t go to school for seven hours a day. So I think, especially for me, being in AAU and all this basketball stuff, I’m perfectly fine being social.”

As far as competition goes, the ACC is going to be a lot tougher than the Houston-area homeschool hoops league, and Jackson expects there to be an adjustment period on the court once he gets to Chapel Hill. However, if his performance in the McDonald’s All-American game is any indication, he should be able to make a seamless transition. He received Co-MVP honors after recording 23 points, five rebounds and two assists in the game.

“Obviously, being here [at the McDonald’s All-American game], you’re playing against some of the best,” Jackson said. “And with AAU you’re playing some of the best as well. Obviously, anybody in high school, they’re not going to play a team that has five All-Americans on it, but homeschool doesn’t have as good of competition.

“We did play in some big, high-level tournaments and then we played other public schools and private schools. So I don’t think it’s going to be a problem at all.”

The University of North Carolina, after all, isn’t in the business of handing out full-ride athletic scholarships to young men and women who can’t handle the stiff competition.

“I think there’s a reason why Coach Williams offered me a scholarship,” Jackson said. “I’m just ready to get in there.

He’ll be there before he knows it, but first he has to graduate high school, even if he does so in a robe and slippers rather than a cap and gown.

Bulls Could Add Ronnie Brewer and Another Veteran?

It’s the time of year when NBA teams start making cuts and adding veterans so that they can present the best possible lineup in time for the postseason. Granted, there’s very little of significance that teams can do at this point in the year because the free agent pool is pretty shallow by April, but the Chicago Bulls are one team making some changes with just a little under two weeks left to go in the regular season, and those changes started with the waiving of forward Erik Murphy.

Despite the fact that Murphy had barely played this season—just 2.6 minutes per game in a scant 24 appearances during his rookie season—the Bulls initially drafted him in the second round with hopes that he would develop into a respectable rotation player, particularly if he were able to knock down threes as the kind of “stretch four” that has become so popular in today’s NBA.

Throw in the fact that his $490,180 contract had already been guaranteed, and that the Bulls only had 13 players under contract even with Murphy on the roster, and the move is definitely a little curious.

There have been rumblings (both from the Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson and CSN’s Aggrey Sam) that Chicago is close to bringing back Ronnie Brewer and possibly veteran point guard Mike James, but the prorated amount of the veteran’s minimum would have allowed them to add both guys and remain under the cap. They currently sit about $387,000 south of the luxury tax threshold, and those combined salaries wouldn’t jeopardize that space.

However, if Joakim Noah makes the All-NBA first team, he receives a $500,000 bonus, while Taj Gibson making an All-Defensive team would give him a $250,000-$500,000 bonus, as well. Neither is likely to happen, but if they did the Bulls would be paying the repeater tax this season, which they do not want to do.

Requesting waivers on Murphy means another team can claim him and his salary, freeing up more space for the Bulls, just in case.

As for Brewer and James, both make sense for a playoff run as the team does need depth at both point guard and small forward. Those guys fit well at those positions and have enough familiarity with the organization and the coaching staff to step right in and get to work. As far as late-season free agent additions go, they’d be intelligent ones for Chicago.

As for Murphy, Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski seems to believe someone will, in fact, claim Murphy before he clears waivers. It’s a cost-cutting move for the Bulls, despite the fact that his contract was already guaranteed. Chicago is brilliant at pulling off little money moves like these, and as long as Murphy doesn’t come back to bite them, this looks like another smart way to put themselves in wise financial positioning without compromising the quality of play on the court.

Joel Brigham is a senior writer for Basketball Insiders, covering the Central Division and fantasy basketball.

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