When Trayce Jackson-Davis called Mike Woodson to schedule a meeting last Thursday, the Indiana head coach was surprised at first. But that surprise quickly turned into excitement when Jackson-Davis told Woodson he was returning to Indiana for his fourth season.
“He's probably still smiling right now,” Jackson-Davis said.
Jackson-Davis entered the offseason with a difficult decision to make as his NBA Draft stock hung in the balance. His original plan was to work out and improve his skills, perform to the best of his abilities at the NBA Draft Combine and take it from there. Even with schools offering major NIL money this offseason, Jackson-Davis always thought he’d either stay in the draft or return to Indiana.
But after testing positive for COVID-19 right before his chance to play in front of NBA teams, Jackson-Davis felt it was a sign for him to stay in college. He was receiving texts every day about his decision, and it was a huge relief once it became public.
After a season that concluded with Indiana’s first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 2016, there were many questions surrounding Indiana’s roster for the 2022-2023 season. Jackson-Davis believes Woodson’s ability to create a family-like culture drew players back to Bloomington. Jackson-Davis even talked with Carmelo Anthony, who said Woodson was his favorite coach.
“The head of the snake is the guy that you want, and that's Coach Woodson,” Jackson-Davis said. “He's an all-around great guy, and he has great character.”
Jackson-Davis hasn’t seen his teammates in two months, and he can’t wait to get back to work in Bloomington. Indiana’s star big man was the final piece to a puzzle that is now complete with four returning starters and a top-10 incoming freshman class. In his fourth season as a Hoosier, Jackson-Davis is setting his standards high.
“I think this is the best team that I've been on since I've been here,” Jackson-Davis said. “I think the ceiling for our team is anywhere from Big Ten Championship to National Championship.”
The forward from Greenwood, Ind. is also looking to expand his game after receiving feedback from trainers preparing him for the NBA Draft. While in California, Jackson-Davis said he was trained like a guard. He went through ball-handling drills, reading movements off the dribble, catch-and-shoot drills and two-on-two and three-on-three competitions, all in an effort to add new components to his game.
Woodson told Jackson-Davis that because of his dominance on the low block, he didn’t really need to step outside last season for jump shots. But for the upcoming season, Jackson-Davis expects to take four or five jumpers per game in pick-and-pop scenarios, while still sticking to his strengths and getting double-digit looks around the basket.
Jackson-Davis said the trainers he worked with in California told him to always look to shoot first when he catches the ball. In the past, Jackson-Davis would wait an assess the defense instead of having the confidence to let it fly right away.
"I feel like when I'm in rhythm and I'm shooting the ball without any hesitation, it's a totally different looking shot," Jackson-Davis said. "Especially when I'm shooting with confidence.
As Jackson-Davis returns to a loaded Indiana squad with an expanded game, he has a chance to leave a legacy among the all-time Indiana greats. If he replicates last year’s statistics, Jackson-Davis will finish third in points, third in rebounds and first in blocks on the all-time Indiana leaderboard.
“Just being mentioned in that category with how good those players are, you mention names like Calbert [Cheaney], Steve Alford, Alan Henderson, it's crazy,” Jackson-Davis said.
But for Jackson-Davis, next season is about far more than individual stats. Indiana is 53-41 overall with a 25-34 record in the Big Ten in Jackson-Davis' three seasons. This year, he’s more focused on winning than setting individual records, and it’s okay if that means scoring less points but winning games.
As Jackson-Davis prepares for a season with expectations higher than his first three, he’s embracing it all.
“I love having expectations and having pressure because we've never had it in the past,” Jackson-Davis said. “Right now I'm focused on a championship.”
Stories related to Indiana basketball:
- MY TWO CENTS: Now that Trayce Jackson-Davis has decided to return to Indiana for the 2022-23 season, that should set the bar high for the Hoosiers. Goals like winning the Big Ten and advancing deep into the NCAA Tournament should be realistic now that their best player is back in the fold. CLICK HERE
- 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