McDonald’s All-American, Indiana Mr. Basketball, Team USA, top 30 recruit.
There was no shortage of accolades for Indiana freshman Trayce Jackson-Davis as he arrived on campus in Bloomington over the summer.
Eleven games into his college career, there is no shortage of eye opening stats on the Greenwood, Ind. product’s early resume.
At No. 8 in the Big Ten in scoring (15.1 ppg), No. 7 in rebounding (9.1 rpg), No. 1 in field goal percentage (64.4 percent), and No. 7 in blocks (2.0 bpg), Jackson-Davis is more than living up to the hype thus far.
According to a Tweet sent out by the IU basketball program, Jackson-Davis is first nationally among freshmen in free throw attempts, second in rebounds, and third in blocked shots.
If advanced stats are your thing, Jackson-Davis has the 24th best offensive rating in the country according to KenPom.
Equally impressive, the 6-foot-9 Jackson-Davis is compiling those numbers in a relatively limited role. Through eleven games he is only averaging 27.9 minutes per contest, meaning that when Jackson-Davis is in the game, he has been a stat-stuffing machine.
“It’s hard to process it through the course of the game on what he actually was doing,” IU head coach Archie Miller said after Indiana’s win over Nebraska on Friday night.
Jackson-Davis put up career highs in both points and rebounds against the Cornhuskers on Friday night with 25 and 15, respectively.
Going into halftime, Jackson-Davis appeared to be on his way to a relatively quiet night, but he realized at the break that he could be doing more.
“In the first half I didn’t really try to put an emphasis on running the floor very hard, and I thought I could beat my man down the floor,” Jackson-Davis said.
Bigger, stronger and faster than everyone else in high school, Jackson-Davis no doubt grew accustomed to things coming a bit easier without truly testing the limits of what he is capable of.
With a renewed focus coming out of the break, Jackson-Davis found a new level in the second half — and the results were staggering.
“In the second half, I tried to run past him and get as deep as I could and try to leg whip over him. And I got a few easy buckets on that, and when you see a shot go in, you just want to — it gives you the confidence to knock down other ones,” Jackson-Davis said.
Quickly earning a reputation as a double-double man, Jackson-Davis did that once again on Friday night. But interestingly enough, upon deeper examination of the stats you realize that he reached double figures in points and rebounds in the second half alone against Nebraska. Jackson-Davis produced 17 points, 10 rebounds and 2 blocks while playing 17 minutes in the second half as he helped will IU past a feisty Cornhusker squad.
His head coach saw Jackson-Davis take things to another level in the second half.
“I thought in the second half he was more wheeling and spinning. He was trying to get himself going, and he was also on the offensive glass. He was big. He had good touches around the basket on a couple of tough shots, too, that he made. But he played big in the second half,” Miller said.
What has allowed Jackson-Davis to have such a substantial immediate impact in college?
While he is no doubt a very good athlete, there are a lot of good athletes at the high major level of college basketball.
There is something unique about the way that Jackson-Davis seems to get over and around the opposition.
His teammate Joey Brunk sees it every day in practice.
“He has an ability where if you think he’s going left, you know, you think you beat him to the spot or whatever, seems like he just kind of keeps going up, keeps elevating, his arms keep stretching out, Brunk said.
“Sometimes you’re thinking that was a pretty good effort on defense. He just kind of beat me out. His knack, you know, when he gets going he rebounds the ball really well and he plays hard. He’s just kind of got that ability.”
Combined with great length, that ability Brunk referenced is a uniquely quick first step, and an explosiveness off the floor that puts Jackson-Davis on another level — literally.
A step ahead and above just about everyone else, folks are left fouling as they try to keep up. Jackson-Davis is No. 7 in the country with 74 free throw attempts, making a respectable 73 percent at the stripe.
But with four of his five double-doubles coming in IU’s first seven games against low to mid-major level competition, there were still skeptics.
After a 15 point, 8 rebound, 2 block and 2 steal performance against Florida State — the biggest team in college basketball, Jackson-Davis had a message for anyone questioning whether his early performances might translate against bigger and better competition.
“Yeah, I mean a lot of people have been saying, like, we have been facing littler teams. How are they going to do against the big dogs? Well, you witnessed it,” Jackson-Davis said after the win over the Seminoles.
Facing high major competition over the last four games, there has been no meaningful drop-off in Jackson-Davis’ production. He has averaged 14.3 points and 8.3 rebounds in those contests.
Still, Jackson-Davis realizes that things are going to only get more challenging from here.
The Big Ten coaches will no doubt attempt to expose the limitations in his game.
Can he score with his right hand? Can he make shots outside of the paint?
Jackson-Davis likes to use his left hand almost exclusively, and he is fully aware of what is to come.
“Teams are probably going to scout that here in the future, so I’m going to have to use the right hand more, shooting out to 15 feet. I don’t think I need to shoot threes that much right now. But I’m just going to keep working on it,” Jackson-Davis said.
The story of Jackson-Davis’ freshman season is still only a third of the way written, with the most challenging part ahead.
The now three-time Big Ten freshman of the week will no doubt have his fair share of rough patches as Indiana gets into the throes of what appears to be an absolute meat-grinder of a Big Ten slate.
“I feel like college basketball is harder for young bigs than it is guards because they’re not used to the pounding and the size, and in some cases in the Big 10 the age difference,” Miller said.
But through eleven games, and despite all of the accolades, few expected such a dramatic impact right from the jump from Jackson-Davis.
And none of it seems to be going to his head.
When asked about his early success, Jackson-Davis is a reluctant star, deferring instead to his teammates.
“Give all the credit to them (his teammates). They keep me level headed. They keep me moving on to the next play when I make a mistake,” Jackson-Davis said.
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