You might have first heard the name Trayce Jackson-Davis when he was a freshman at Center Grove High School.
Somewhere in that initial introduction to the name, you almost certainly also heard that he was the son of former Indiana Pacer Dale Davis.
Of course having an NBA pedigree is an interesting story, but for an awkward freshman out of Greenwood, Indiana, that was the story.
Jackson-Davis was a kid that wasn’t good enough to make the “A” team in middle school, and wasn’t even sure if he would continue to play basketball coming into high school.
Now, less than four years later, the name Trayce Jackson-Davis is permanently etched in the annals of Indiana basketball history.
It’s a story few could have predicted, including Jackson-Davis himself.
“Growing up I wasn’t even a big basketball player,” Jackson-Davis said this morning on Indiana Sports Beat. “I was playing just to play and to have fun.”
In middle school, Jackson-Davis was just another kid playing basketball in the state of Indiana. The type of kid that had better have hopes and dreams beyond the hardwood, because despite the pedigree, this didn’t appear to be on track for anything special. B-team middle school kids just don’t go on to play high school varsity basketball.
In fact, things nearly fell off the rails, as Jackson-Davis questioned whether basketball was for him.
“Coming from my eighth grade year playing on the B team and then going into high school not knowing what to expect, not knowing if you are even going to even play basketball,” Jackson-Davis said.
In the eighth grade Jackson-Davis’ skills didn’t stand out — and neither did he. He was tall, but not especially tall.
But then the growth spurt happened. The genetic gifts went into high gear before his freshman year at Center Grove, as Jackson-Davis grew half a foot.
He now stood out above the crowd. Literally anyway. Enough that people started to notice. “Dale Davis’ son” is what they would say.
At the time, that’s really all you could say.
Jackson-Davis was tall, but he hadn’t earned his own reputation yet.
First he was going to have to buy in to the game. To the work. To the dedication. Somehow things were going to have to transition from just “playing to have fun” to a passion.
There are a lot of tall kids. Most of them really aren’t that good at basketball — including the freshman version of “Dale’s son.”
Trayce Jackson-Davis was going to have to become an every day eat, drink and sleep basketball kid if he ever wanted to even sniff Mr. Basketball — and truly make a name for himself.
“Coming into my freshman year I grew like five or six inches,” Jackson-Davis said. “My coach sat down with me and said you are unknown right now but by the end we are going to try to turn you into one of the top players in the state and a Mr. Basketball candidate, and I’d say we succeeded.”
Indeed they did.
As a freshman he used his newfound size to primarily be a presence with rebounding and defense.
Since then his game has evolved with offensive skills on the block, handling the ball both to bring it up the floor and attack the basket, and an emerging mid-range shot.
Rivals analyst Corey Evans referred to Jackson-Davis’ year-over-year development as “staggering” last summer as he became a five-star recruit nationally.
Jackson-Davis bought in, put in the work, and became a force on the court.
As a senior at Center Grove, the 6-foot-9 forward averaged 22 points, 9.4 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game. He shot 62% from the field for the season
And now in his final weeks of high school he has truly made a name for himself.
There is no longer a need to mention the pedigree, or wonder if that awkward kid will come into his own.
You know who he is now — and the name stands alone. He’s Trayce Jackson-Davis, or simply TJD if you prefer.
And now four years later he is no longer wondering if he will play basketball. He is basketball in Indiana high school circles.
Mr. Basketball that is.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR JACKSON-DAVIS
After high school graduation and the Indiana All-Star games it is on to Bloomington.
And it’s on to the next challenge.
Jackson-Davis now has his own name. He’s just the 27th Indiana Mr. Basketball to play for the Hoosiers. But IU is a place where mere names can become legends.
IU is just a short 30 minute drive from his hometown, but it’s also a whole new world down there full of uncertainty, pressure and new experiences. In some respects it is not unlike the suddenly tall Jackson-Davis’ freshman season of high school.
But this time Jackson-Davis is more mature and he is embarking on a new level much more sure of himself. In fact, he is fully embracing everything that is Indiana basketball.
“I chose Indiana because of the culture and the fans,” Jackson-Davis said. “Just being in-state, being so close already, and just wearing Indiana across your chest, playing for the greatest fans in college basketball, it’s just a blessing honestly.”
Jackson-Davis will arrive in Bloomington next month and room with his friend and fellow class of 2019 signee Armaan Franklin.
He’s been preparing himself for the rigors of the Big Ten by working out with bigger and older incoming teammate Joey Brunk.
He’s going to be ready this time, and it will all begin in November when he runs out onto the McCracken Court wearing those iconic Indiana warmups.
And at least in that moment, he will have an experience more like that awkward and unsure kid. Actually, he’ll experience it like we all probably would.
“It’s giving me goosebumps right now just thinking about,” Jackson-Davis said.
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