Rob Conover was at Sunday dinner at his sister’s house when his niece told him his phone was ringing.
It was August 12, and the head boys’ basketball coach at Toledo Maumee Valley Country Day School was reacting in real time to the hot news that his star player, Zeb Jackson, was in the process of announcing a college decision the following day. Phone calls were made, messages were exchanged and ultimately the four-star prospect in the class of 2020 opted to not make any commitment after a weekend that had seen him take unofficial visits to Purdue and Butler.
The dust has now settled, Jackson remains uncommitted, and Conover told The Dispatch today that nothing is imminent for the 6-foot-3, 160-pound point guard.
“He really liked Butler, and he really liked Purdue,” Conover said. “His dad’s kind of instituted a 48-hour rule because you get the emotions going and when you go to these schools they’re recruiting you and they’re going to try to push you, so it’s good to just hit pause and think about it, discuss it with his dad. I think that process got a little blurry, but they talked it out, talked to Butler and the people they needed to talk to and said we’re going to continue on the fact-finding, developing relationships process that they’ve been on for a while.”
Jackson visited Purdue on August 11 and landed a scholarship, then followed that with a trip to Butler the following day. His junior year gets underway Tuesday, and under new NCAA rules Jackson will be allowed five official visits as a junior and five more as a senior.
Up next will likely be some official visits.
“I think he wants to be done with it by the time he starts his senior year,” Conover said. “I think he wants the process to be complete so that he can focus on getting ready. It’s a goal of his to not just play right away but to make an impact, so just getting him to a point where he can be done with the recruiting and have the peace of mind knowing he’s picked a school.”
To this point, Jackson has visited nearly a dozen schools on unofficial visits. He took part in Ohio State's team camp earlier this summer. Jackson is also receiving interest from schools that have not yet offered him nor hosted him on any visits, a list that Conover said includes Michigan State, Michigan and Texas.
Ohio State, which offered him long ago, remains firmly in the mix. Assistant coach Ryan Pedon has been Ohio State’s primary recruiter with head coach Chris Holtmann also active.
“They’re definitely in the running,” Conover said of the Buckeyes. “He really enjoys the relationship he’s built with coach Pedon and coach Holtmann has been calling him lately. I think if anything came out of the pump-fake that happened a couple weeks ago it may have shifted that timetable up a little bit. Zeb, he’s not big into the attention so I think a part of it is appealing that he’d like it to be done. But he’s also young. That’s where they’re at right now. He’s definitely close to narrowing it down.”
The Buckeyes have also offered Dom Penn, a 6-foot, 155-pound point guard from Dublin Coffman, in the class of 2020. Penn is the son of program legend Scoonie Penn, who is a member of Holtmann’s staff. The younger Penn is unranked in the 247Sports composite rankings.
Jackson is listed as a shooting guard on 247Sports, where he is the No. 2 recruit from Ohio, the No. 21 shooting guard in the country and the No. 89 overall prospect. Conover has described him as a true point guard at the college level.
The Butler and Purdue visits left strong impressions, Conover said, but, “He said the same thing when he left Ohio State, when he left Virginia: all those schools are great schools. You can’t go wrong. The challenge for him right now is to just make sure that he gets into the right place, and there’s a wide variety of things that will go into that conversation. I think his dad feels that he’s just not there yet, he hasn’t done enough homework, which is good from dad. That’s a big decision.”