With Indiana’s offseason roster changes behind us, we bring back our annual tradition of taking a closer look at the players expected to return to the program.
Next up is Trayce Jackson-Davis, who is training for his fourth year with IU basketball.
THE 2021-22 NUMBERS
Jackson-Davis started all 35 games for Indiana in 2021-22. He led the team in scoring (18.3), rebounding (8.1), field goal percentage (58.9%), free throws made (147), free throws attempted (218) and blocked shots (81), was second on the team with 66 assists and added 22 steals.
The Greenwood, Ind. product was voted Second Team All-Big Ten (Coaches, Media, AP) and selected to the Big Ten All-Defensive Team.
The 6-foot-9 Jackson-Davis became the second player in IU history with 1,500 points, 750 rebounds and 150 blocks (Alan Henderson).
WHAT WENT WELL
After pushing through some midseason bumps and bruises, Jackson-Davis had a late season revival. And in the process he showed he could be not just be really good — he could be dominant.
Jackson-Davis was named to the All-Big Ten Tournament team after averaging 25.3 points and 8.3 rebounds, while shooting 66.7% from the field (34-of-51) in the three games IU played. His play led the Hoosiers to their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2016. And in their first NCAA contest he had 29 points, nine boards and a block against Wyoming to lead IU to the win.
While he remained heavily left hand dominant, Jackson-Davis also showed improvement with his off hand — a point of emphasis coming into the season. That helped him improve his field goal rate by more than seven percentage points. He also improved at both reading double-teams and passing out of the post, producing a career-high assist rate in the process.
But Jackson-Davis’ real progress came on the defensive end. Turned loose in Mike Woodson’s system as a shot blocker, Jackson-Davis boosted his block rate from 4.8 percent to 8.4 percent year-over-year. His per-40 minute blocks per game went from 1.6 to 2.9, and he did that despite committing less fouls per-40 minutes.
Jackson-Davis also improved as a lateral defender, and in a system with very little hedging, he was effective at switching onto just about anyone and holding his own on the perimeter.
OFFSEASON DEVELOPMENTAL NEEDS
1. Sustain the edge. The good news for Jackson-Davis was that he led his team to the NCAA Tournament. The bad news, if you want to call it that, is we found out there is another gear — and Indiana fans will expect that latter more dominant TJD from now on. It’s a long five month season, and there will be ups and downs of course. But Jackson-Davis is widely viewed as a first team All-Big Ten, maybe first team All-American caliber player.
Wins and losses, NBA Draft prospects and postseason honors will all hinge on whether he can bring the hair-on-fire approach we saw in March, and especially against what should be 24 regular season high-major foes.
2. Yes, he needs to make jump shots. No, we don’t expect Jackson-Davis to suddenly make 40 percent from beyond the arc on high volume. But his ability to make jumpers at a respectable rate within the flow of the offense would add another dimension to what already projects to be a good team. Beyond Jackson-Davis, the strength of Indiana’s offense is going to be the dribble drive. Every foot he is able to pull his man out of the lane, the more room talented point guards Xavier Johnson and Jalen Hood-Schifino, and talented wings like Tamar Bates and Trey Galloway will have to probe.
Indiana’s seven nonconference games against mid-to-low-majors will be the time to test this. There is no need for Jackson-Davis to score 40 against Kennesaw State. Emphasize the pick-and-pop and let if fly. His shot looks much better when he puts it up without hesitation from the perimeter. It’s time.
On the topic of shooting, Jackson-Davis needs to improve his career 67 percent rate at the free throw line. His 76 percent effort over IU’s last seven games showed promise. The difference in those two figures would have meant 54 more points over Jackson-Davis’ career to this point.
3. Vocal leadership. Yes it is difficult to measure, and much of it hidden behind the scenes, but Indiana needs a clear vocal, alpha leader to take reins on and off the court. There is no one more obvious for that role than Jackson-Davis, and he has to embrace it all year long. Already there have been promising signs, with the senior big man advocating for more strict rules and voicing his views from a player’s perspective on how to run the program to Woodson. But leadership is about more than words to the media. He’ll need to back it up for IU to meet their lofty expectations.
WHAT SUCCESS LOOK LIKE IN 2022-23
There are several angles when it comes to how success will be defined during Jackson-Davis’ senior season.
He’s leading a team with Big Ten title expectations, so if Indiana stays healthy, the Hoosiers absolutely must earn a double-bye at the Big Ten Tournament next March. And anything short of that and a Sweet 16 appearance will lead to frustration inside and out of the program.
Individually, Jackson-Davis is good enough to be first team All-American, and that would put him in the conversation for just about every other individual award. Beyond team success, his offensive efficiency, rebounding and assist rates, and sustained high-level defensive play will all play a role in his postseason honors.
And of course he needs to improve his NBA Draft profile. IU still needs Jackson-Davis to control the paint on both ends. But he must produce enough film that shows he has a projectable skillset on the perimeter.
If all goes well, Jackson-Davis could end the season as IU’s all-time leader in both rebounds and blocks. And if all goes really well, he will be viewed as an IU all-time great.
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