No one has spent more time over the last couple days analyzing the game of Indiana forward Trayce Jackson-Davis than Maryland head coach Kevin Willard.
And no one has come away more impressed.
“Trayce Jackson-Davis is the best player in the country right now,” Willard said during a media availability on Monday. “They just post him up on the left block and you’ve got to try to stop him. Nobody’s figured it out, and I’ve got to be honest with you, I haven’t figured it out yet.
“I think he’s more dominant than (Purdue’s) Zach Edey, and that’s saying something. Because he gets everyone shots, he’s a willing passer, he’s an unbelievable rebounder. He pushes the ball up in transition. He’s really tough in the mid-post area. He’s almost impossible when he posts up in the middle of the lane. He’s an unbelievable shot blocker, he’s a very good defender. I think over the last five games he’s scoring at almost an 82 percent clip on the right block. That’s against the best defenses and the best coaches in college basketball.
“They have very good players from top to bottom, but he’s the best college basketball player right now.”
Willard is in his first season at Maryland but he isn’t new to high major college basketball. This is his 13th season at that level after 12 seasons at Seton Hall, and 16th overall as a head coach.
So Willard certainly knows an elite player when he sees one. And Jackson-Davis’ numbers over his last five games, corresponding to IU’s five game winning streak, back up his statement.
The 6-foot-9 senior is averaging 25.4 points, 13.4 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 4.2 blocked shots per contest over that span.
In Jackson-Davis, Willard sees a dynamic big man who can beat you in a numbers of ways while making his teammates better.
“I think what makes him tough, you have to give credit to the kid, he’s not just scoring on the block,” Willard said. “He’ll get a rebound and push it, and he’ll score in transition. If he’s not getting the ball and you’re double teaming him, he’ll just go get offensive rebounds.
“So I think really what you have to understand is, with a player like him, he’s probably going to get what he gets. And you’ve just got to make sure that he doesn’t distribute. What he’s been doing over the last five games is making everybody on that roster really, really good. I mean they’re good players, but he is making them almost unstoppable with his play.”
Maryland hosts IU at 9 p.m. Eastern on Tuesday evening.
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