It is something that folks in and around Marion, Indiana already know — Jalen Blackmon is a name to watch in the college basketball recruiting class of 2021.
Of course, Indiana University basketball fans already know the Blackmon name quite well.
Some remember James Blackmon, Sr., who was a thorn in IU’s side for four seasons at Kentucky in the mid-80s. As a freshman in 1983, he led the Wildcats with 14 points in a 59-54 win over the Hoosiers.
Fortunately, at least so far, his sons have had more refined taste when it comes to choosing a college basketball program.
James Blackmon, Jr. needs no introduction to Hoosier fans young and old. After a recruitment with a few twists and turns, he ultimately chose IU over Kentucky and others. While he struggled at times with injuries, Blackmon, Jr. had a highly productive three seasons with Indiana.
For his career he averaged 16.3 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 1.7 assists, while shooting 49.3% overall and 41.5% from 3-point range. Blackmon, Jr. had many memorable moments with the Hoosiers, including this walk-off buzzer beater at Penn State in 2017:
More casual Hoosier fans may not realize that middle sibling Vijay Blackmon is currently on the IU roster as a preferred walk-on. According to IU’s website, Vijay sat out the 2017-18 season to fulfill NCAA transfer requirements. He had played the first half of the 2016-17 season at Saint Francis before leaving the program in January of 2017. While there he averaged 9.2 points and 1.1 assists in 22 games.
Vijay was rated as a three-star shooting guard coming out of Marion in 2016. With Marion he averaged 17.4 points and 2.9 assists for his senior season and helped lead the Giants to the 2016 Class 3A state championship.
On a 2018-19 Indiana roster that lacks a great deal of guard depth, some are wondering if Vijay is a sneaky pick to contribute.
Finally, there is Jalen, the youngest of the three Blackmon brothers.
Over the course of the 2017-18 high school basketball season we maintained a “Romeo Watch” as Romeo Langford inched closer to the Indiana boys high school all-time career scoring record held by Damon Bailey.
Don’t worry, we are not starting a “Jalen Watch” any time soon — but it is worth noting that Jalen scored 601 points during his freshman year playing for James Sr. and the Marion Giants. For comparison, Langford scored 458 points during his freshman year.
The freshman season was probably the difference maker in Langford’s inability to ultimately catch Bailey, who scored 637 points himself in his first season at Bedford North Lawrence. Young Jalen has a long way to go, and a lot can change over the course of a high school career — but anyone that can average 22.3 points per game as a freshman is worth keeping an eye on.
It should come as no surprise then that college coaches are doing just that. Jalen has already visited Indiana and Michigan State and has been watched by Purdue’s Matt Painter among others. He has been talked about long before that, with YouTube videos that go back two, even three years.
This more recent vintage video is from April. Hoosier fans will quickly recognize the jump shot, already with seemingly unlimited range. Jalen is clearly a natural scorer that will only get more dangerous as his body and game develop further.
At Marion, a legendary Indiana high school program that has featured James, Sr., James, Jr., Vijay, Jay Edwards, Lyndon Jones, Zach Randolph and countless others, Jalen just might top them all. In year one he proceeded to set Marion freshman school records for the most points (601), the highest scoring average (22.3 points), and the single season mark for most 3-pointers (103).
Opposing coaches were designing their defensive game plan around stopping the freshman sensation, and for the most part, it was a futile effort. The scoring point guard helped lead Marion to a 20-win season as they advanced to the regional finals in the state tournament.
There is still a long way to go in this story. Jalen is just an incoming sophomore, but this is hoops crazed Indiana. The buzz is growing, and a basketball buzz can turn into a hysteria around here. Just ask Langford.
More and more eyes will be watching Jalen. They will watch to see how his game progresses. They will watch to see how his body fills out. They will watch to see how he evolves from a freshman to a leader.
They will also watch to see what he is thinking about when it comes to playing in college. Of course some will hope that he will have the same good judgment as his older brothers before him.
What does Dad know anyway.
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