The Daily Hoosier spent the week down in The Bahamas in connection with IU basketball’s foreign tour and had several opportunities to see the team in action. Since nothing was televised and not everything was public, we are going to go player-by-player in jersey number order to share our thoughts on what we saw and what to expect from Indiana’s 2021-22 roster.
You can throw out all of that talk about Trayce Jackson-Davis playing less minutes in 2021-22. At least you could for a few days in The Bahamas.
Much has been written and discussed about the junior big man running out of gas in games last season. Jackson-Davis himself acknowledged recently that he wasn’t in optimal shape for the 2020-21 campaign despite posting 19 points and 9 rebounds per game while securing third-team All-American honors.
With Michael Durr and Logan Duncomb on the roster this year as backup centers, the thought was Jackson-Davis might deliver more in less minutes by playing with a higher energy level for his time on the court. But neither Durr nor Duncomb suited up for either game against BC Mega as they contend with injuries, meaning Jackson-Davis’ minutes remained relatively high. He played 32 minutes in both games while no one else averaged more than 25.5 minutes per contest.
But Jackson-Davis looked like he could have played 40 minutes.
The top positive headline from Jackson-Davis’ week in The Bahamas was his conditioning and how well he ran the floor. Just before the trip to The Bahamas, he told us he was in a much better place physically this summer. It was a real point of emphasis for the 6-foot-9 forward.
“I think the biggest thing I worked on this summer from last summer is definitely my conditioning,” he said. “I felt like last summer I wasn’t in the best shape I could be like my freshman year. I thought my freshman year I was in shape for the most part. But this year I’ve gotten a lot better.”
We didn’t track where his points came from but there were several times where he beat his man down the court in transition, or beat everyone to the offensive glass for a put back. BC Mega always seemed to be a step slow trying to find Jackson-Davis and stay with him in the first game.
It was hard to know for sure, but Jackson-Davis’ moves in the paint looked quicker too. Maybe that was the opposition, time will tell. He seemed to seek out contact at the rim a bit more than he has in the past too.
All that athleticism and stamina allowed Jackson-Davis to play 64 minutes without committing a foul. And as his 21 rebounds and four steals can attest, he was very active despite not fouling. The steals came via Jackson-Davis using his quick feet to get his hands on post-entry passes. Because IU was switching a lot on defense, he ended up guarding the perimeter a fair amount as well where he looked comfortable.
While he will likely spend most of his time as IU’s center this year, Jackson-Davis is moving like a modern power forward. If he remains healthy, Indiana fans will see the most athletic, in-shape and nimble version of Jackson-Davis yet.
Jackson-Davis is going to work well with an attacking point guard like Xavier Johnson. He had several reads off of drives to the paint by the guards. When the defense collapsed on Johnson or Rob Phinisee, he dove to the rim for a dunk. Indiana ran a lot of dribble hand-off actions with Jackson-Davis looking to slip to the basket or even size-up his own dribble-drive opportunities out of it when he kept the ball. As a ball handler, Jackson-Davis did look improved.
Of course the two questions on everyone’s mind when it comes to Jackson-Davis are — did he show he could score with his right hand, and can he make jump shots? He has acknowledged both as developmental needs going back to the coaching change. It is still just August, but based on where things stand now, I wouldn’t expect a sea change in either area. He went right a few times, but when push comes to shove, Jackson-Davis is going to try make things happen with his left hand. And if he continues to play the five, there likely won’t be a ton of looks for him from the perimeter. Watching him in warm-ups, Jackson-Davis’ mechanics look the same on his perimeter shot.
Jackson-Davis’ efficiency was down in The Bahamas. He made just 48 percent of his shots. And he only converted on 4-of-10 attempts from the free throw line. The latter was probably more concerning than the former, although everything at the Atlantis is based off of small sample sizes. The drop-off from the field came in the second game after BC Mega realized they couldn’t get in a track meet with IU, and they had to do a better job locating and bothering Jackson-Davis in the paint. Those are obviously realizations Big Ten coaches will reach too, but Indiana is still very primitive with its offensive install, and it will have to do better than shooting 30 percent from three like it did in the second game to free things up for Jackson-Davis when it turns into a half-court game.
Will Jackson-Davis do more with less minutes this year? I actually think he might do less with less minutes, and in the end that could be better for both him and the team.
If stopping Jackson-Davis means you stop IU, we will probably see more games like Sunday rather than Friday from IU and their All-American big man. But if players like Tamar Bates, Parker Stewart, Miller Kopp and others step up and space the floor, and if Johnson breaks down the defense while exercising a bit better shot selection, that might all mean less of a scoring burden on Jackson-Davis and more space for him to operate efficiently when his opportunities arise.
TRAYCE JACKSON DAVIS’ STATS IN THE BAHAMAS
- Game one: 32 minutes, 21 points, 9-16 FG, NA 3FG, 3-5 FT, 9 rebounds, 1 assists, 3 turnovers, 1 blocks, 2 steal
- Game two: 32 minutes, 11 points, 5-13 FG, NA 3FG, 1-5 FT, 11 rebounds, 0 assists, 1 turnovers, 1 blocks, 2 steals
- Averages: 32 minutes, 16 points, 48.3% FG, NA 3 FG, 40% FT, 10 rebounds, .5 assists, 2 turnovers, 1 blocks, 2 steals
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