Sophomore forward Damezi Anderson knew all he had to do was get the ball in the air and freshman forward Trayce Jackson-Davis would be there to catch it.
With IU men’s basketball up by 23 points in the second half against the University of North Alabama, Anderson drove past the free throw line, attracting four defenders while Jackson-Davis was all alone gaining momentum for a leap.
Anderson quickly threw the ball up, high above Jackson-Davis’ head. The freshman reached up with both his arms, stretching as far as he could, grabbed it with two hands and slammed it home. It was only two of 20 points for Jackson-Davis on the night, but the play showed one of the many ways he’s already solidified a prominent role on the offensive end.
“Coach Miller just wants me to be more aggressive on the floor, and I thought my teammates put me in my positions to score and I took advantage of those,” Jackson-Davis said
Jackson-Davis has started each of IU’s first three games and is averaging 13.7 points and eight rebounds while shooting 81% from the free throw line. He’s been the most consistent post presence so far this season for the Hoosiers.
Jackson-Davis will likely be in the starting lineup at the power forward position once again come Saturday against Troy University. The 4-star forward might not make 14 free throws in a game again, but he’ll continue to get plenty of touches in the paint.
Despite the positive offensive performances, Jackson-Davis hasn’t performed at the same level on the defensive end. He’s been a solid shot blocker for the Hoosiers, averaging three per game, but he hasn’t shown the ability to cover the perimeter when he’s drawn out of the paint.
Against Troy, Jackson-Davis will be matched up against sophomore forward Zay Williams at times. In Troy’s last game, he fouled out after 23 minutes but scored 18 points and had eight rebounds. He’s the second tallest player on the roster at 6-foot-8-inches and leads the team with 6.4 rebounds per game.
“He's (Jackson-Davis) very versatile in that his athleticism and his size and length, you know, is an advantage for him,” IU head coach Archie Miller said. “He's young. Eventually those drivers will become shooters, so guarding on the perimeter is something we're stressing.”
There likely won’t be much that IU will need to worry about against winless Troy. This is still the weaker part of the nonconference schedule, but there are only four games remaining until Florida State University comes to Bloomington.
The front court depth is one of IU’s strengths and that’s played a large part in how Jackson-Davis has performed thus far. His on-ball defense is still a work in progress but there’s still time for it to improve before December comes. He’s only one of two true freshmen on the roster and hasn’t looked like one at least on the offensive end.
But for Miller and IU, the role Jackson-Davis plays going forward will continue to be crucial for team success.
“I mean, trying to get him the ball down low continues to be important for our team just in general,” Miller said. “Being a team that can find ways to get the ball inside is going to be important. But he's a unique player.”
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