Preseason All-American Trayce Jackson-Davis hasn’t just unlocked a new level on the offensive end of the floor with career bests of 24.4 points per 40-minutes and 61.2 percent from the field, but also on the defensive end.
Offense has always been the focal point for the big man. As a freshman, Jackson-Davis led the team with 13.5 points per game and has taken a major leap since his first season. The now junior forward is averaging a career-high in points with 19.3 and assists with 1.6. He even managed to break the Assembly Hall scoring record with 43 points against Marshall. He followed it up with a 31 point effort in the loss to Syracuse.
On the defensive end, the Greenwood, Ind. native has been equally impressive. Jackson-Davis has seen his block numbers jump from 1.4 to 3.4 per game as a rim protector. His best showing was against NIU. His seven blocks tied the record for the fourth-most blocks in a game. The record is 10, which was set by Steve Downing in 1971 against Michigan.
“Coach Woodson wants me to go and block the ball, he wants me to leave my man to go help on the other side. While in the other defense, I was more of an anchor and I needed to block out my guys,” said Jackson-Davis.
“So, we call it launching pad. So basically if I’m in the middle or a guy drives from the other wing, he wants me to go get it every time.”
Although, as noted by Jackson-Davis, Xavier Johnson and other guards have done a good job of fighting through screens, he still has been asked to switch on guards when necessary as opposed to hedging screens like last year.
Against Merrimack, the six-foot-nine-inch forward was matched up on the top of the key. As his man drove, Jackson-Davis slid his feet, stayed in front of the defender, and used his athleticism and his near seven-foot wingspan to block the defender, not once but twice.
“There’s a lot of things coach Woodson wants me to do,” he said. “If I get switched onto a guard, just keeping them in front of me, moving my feet when I play defense.”
“If I do have to switch I think I’m more than capable of keeping the guard in front.”
Against Notre Dame on Saturday, Jackson-Davis will have his hands full on the perimeter. The Irish have a bevy of guards that stretch the floor. They are led by Dane Goodwin, who is averaging 14.3 points per game. Their guards are quick and will attack the rim with pace to force big men into foul trouble.
Both standing 6-foot-10, Paul Atkinson and Nate Laszewski anchor the frontcourt for the Irish. However, Laszewski stretches the floor with his 4.3 three-point attempts per game.
Jackson-Davis, along with the other IU big men, will be asked to switch on these shooters when needed. However, head coach Mike Woodson does not think it will be an issue.
“I think they’ve done a good job in that regard. We don’t switch a whole lot, and when they do switch, there’s some times they get caught in a bad way, and they have to switch out on a smaller guy. That’s just basketball.” said Woodson of his defensive philosophy.
“I think, for the most part, they’ve done a pretty good job in that area. I have no complaints there.”
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