Indiana Daily Student

Blackmon to return for sophomore season

Freshman James Blackmon, Jr. drives the lane against Savannah State on Dec. 6, 2014, at Assembly Hall. IU won 95-49.
Freshman James Blackmon, Jr. drives the lane against Savannah State on Dec. 6, 2014, at Assembly Hall. IU won 95-49.

Oversigned by one player, the IU men’s basketball team will see someone leave.

It won’t be James Blackmon Jr.

The Marion, Ind., native announced Thursday he will pass on the NBA draft to return for his ?sophomore season.

Among other things, Blackmon said feedback he received from people working in the NBA and a desire to improve his game led to his ?decision to return.

“I just felt like the best situation for me is to come back for next year and play my sophomore year here and continue to be a student athlete at Indiana University,” ?Blackmon said.

The former McDonalds All-American was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman Team and was named all-conference honorable mention after averaging 15.7 points and 5.3 rebounds per game last ?season.

Lauded by coaches and teammates for his jumper, Blackmon was described as a “sniper” by NBA personnel, IU Coach Tom Crean said.

“Put that on a T-shirt,” ?Crean said.

Blackmon was projected as a second-round NBA draft pick at best by some NBA analysts in an ?already guard-heavy class.

Crean and Blackmon both said they weren’t listening to those types of projections, instead opting to use resources like the evaluations given from the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee and other people Crean called “NBA decision-makers.”

The committee, which is made up of NBA player personnel experts, is operated by the NBA to provide potential early-draft entrees with information regarding their ?professional prospects.

But after discussing this and other factors regarding the draft with Crean, his family and his teammates, Blackmon decided his NBA draft potential wasn’t strong enough to sway him out of Bloomington.

“Every day you look forward to being (in the NBA), but right here, I love it at Indiana,” Blackmon said. “This is a place where I can get better every day. For the long run, I’ll be better for it.”

Blackmon, who turns 20 Saturday, said rising junior Troy Williams’ decision to return and the addition of five-star center Thomas Bryant “definitely played a huge part” in deciding to return.

Blackmon said, among other things, he wants to improve in his leadership traits and strength, and he wants to show the traits of a point guard. Part of that means becoming a better defender in order to defend NBA-caliber point guards in the future.

“He’s got to become even more of an initiator,” Crean said. “An initiator doesn’t mean facilitator. Initiator means initiating what’s there offensively.”

Blackmon couldn’t recall many of the positive things scouts were telling him because he was more focused on improving the negatives like becoming a stronger ?defender at a high level.

Blackmon will be back at IU joining fellow rising sophomore guard Rob Johnson and senior guard Nick Zeisloft as the only three guards on the roster for certain.

Senior Yogi Ferrell, will be making his decision Saturday night to either return to IU or enter the NBA draft.

Ferrell will make his ?decision at 7:30 p.m. in Ruth’s Chris Steak House on the north side of Indianapolis.

Blackmon said he and Ferrell discussed their decisions to stay or go together.

Ultimately, Blackmon said his own best decision was to stay in college. He added that he’s already ?excited for the possibilities of next season and the growth he foresees.

“We have a huge chance to do something great this year,” Blackmon said.

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