BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — My admiration for Trayce Jackson-Davis is no secret. He's been a very good basketball player for Indiana the past three years, and the young man is a wonderful representative of this university. He's also a pleasure to deal with in media settings.
He has a lot of basketball skills, which is why he's led the Hoosiers in both scoring and rebounding each of the past three years. And the flaws in his game aren't really flaws. It's more of untapped potential, really.
The 6-foot-9 center from Greenwood, Ind., announced on social media on Friday that he was coming back to Bloomington for his senior year, passing up a chance to turn pro after testing the NBA waters for a month or so of information gathering. The last chance to impress people at the NBA Combine in Chicago this week got waylaid by a positive COVID test.
That wasn't the sole reason for his decision to come back, though. He had gathered enough information from a variety of NBA sources to know that he wasn't going to be a first-round pick. That's huge, because of the bigger dollars and guaranteed contract that comes along with it.
"The opportunity I had to work on my game for the professional level was something that was invaluable as I continue my growth as a basketball player," Jackson-Davis said in a release from Indiana's media relations department. "However, I am looking forward to returning to Indiana to be with my coaches and teammates and building off of what we accomplished at the end of the season.
"There are goals I have for our team and for myself individually on the court, but at the end of next year more importantly, I will be proud to say I am a graduate of IU."
He's going to be an NBA player some day, and I have absolutely no doubt about that. He just needs to add a few more pieces to his game — a mid-range jumper for sure, and maybe even stretching out beyond the three-point line — for all of that to happen
What he does have now, though, is still good enough to dominate at the college level. He did many wonderful things this season as a junior, helping Indiana win 21 games, including two in the Big Ten Tournament where he was the best player on the floor three nights in a row, and in the NCAA Tournament win against Wyoming, the Hoosiers' first NCAA win in six years.
He will be a preseason All-American again this year. Let's remember that he was a preseason first-team All-American last year, but was NOT on that same team at the end of the year. Jackson-Davis averaged 18.3 points, 8.1 rebounds and shot 58.9 percent from the field, but there were also some down times, too, including a February slump that was part of a five-game IU losing streak, though his teammates had a lot — if not mostly all — to do with that.
Indiana's roster is complete now, with all 13 scholarship spots accounted for. Jackson-Davis will be joined in the frontcourt by teammate, roommate and best friend Race Thompson, who announced last month that he would return for a sixth and final season.
He'll be joined by point guard Xavier Johnson — legal issues permitting — and the pair made a terrific one-two punch the last three weeks or so of the season. Juniors Jordan Geronimo, Trey Galloway and Anthony Leal and sophomore Tamar Bates should all be better.
And there's a ton of excitement over this incoming recruiting class, which includes two five-stars in Montverde Academy teammates Jalen Hood-Schifino and Malik Reneau, plus smooth Georgia forward Kaleb Banks and Indianapolis guard C.J. Gunn.
This is a roster that is fully capable of winning a Big Ten title. There, I said it. Provided their perimeter shooting improves, they are capable of beating anyone and everyone in the league. They will also be tested by a high-profile national nonconference schedule that already includes defending national champion Kansas and Arizona of the Pac-12, which might have been the most talented team in the country most of this past season. There's more to come, too.
Woodson's return last year re-ignited the fire in the Indiana fan base, and for many of us — myself and HoosiersNow.com colleagues included — November can't get here soon enough. We got a small taste of what can be last year, beating Purdue finally and winning a couple of Big Ten Tournaments and getting back in the NCAA Tournament.
That, my friends, is just a start. This team worked crazy hard last summer to get better defensively, and it showed. Jackson-Davis worked very hard on blocking more shots, adding more post moves, going to both directions on rips and spin moves in attacking the basket, and several of the others did the same, improving their individual skills.
Jackson-Davis' return gives him a chance to rewrite a lot of the Indiana record book. He currently rank 15th all-time at Indiana in scoring (1,565), is 19th in scoring average (16.9), ninth in rebounds (797), seventh in blocked shots (178), and seventh in field goal percentage (55.8).
He was named a third-team All-American as a sophomore, has earned All-District honors each of the last two seasons, and has been a third-team, first-team and second-team All-Big ten choice in his first three campaigns with the Hoosiers.
He will be the third-leading returning scorer in college basketball next season behind Antoine Davis from Detroit — the son of former Indiana coach Mike Davis — and Max Abmas from Oral Roberts.
That's all high-water stuff.
That is the challenge now, and with Jackson-Davis' return, the gauntlet is being thrown down. Indiana made big improvements last year, but they just went from below average under Archie Miller to being pretty good in Woodson's first year.
Now it's a matter of being great.
It's been seven years since Indiana won a Big Ten title. It's also been seven years since they played in the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament.
Those HAVE to be goals now for this team, and falling short, to be honest, will be somewhat disappointing.
So welcome back, Trayce. You made a lot of people very happy today. Best of all, you're happy, too.
And all of that is just wonderful.
Related stories on Indiana basketball
- JACKSON-DAVIS RETURNS: Trayce Jackson-Davis has withdrawn from the 2022 NBA Draft and will return to Indiana for his fourth season. With this news, Indiana now has a full roster that includes four returning starters and a top-10 recruiting class. CLICK HERE
- FINAL GRADES 2022: Here's is Tom Brew's ''Final Grades'' report card on Trayce Jackson-Davis' 2021-22 season. It's not surprise that he got the highest grade of anyone. CLICK HERE
- 1,000-POINT SCORERS: Trayce Jackson-Davis became the 54th player in Indiana basketball history to score at least 1,000 points in a career, and by the end of the season, he was No. 15. Here's the complete list, and who's next for Trayce to pass next year. Greg Graham, you're on the clock. CLICK HERE