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Tuesday, May 21
The Indiana Daily Student

sports men's basketball

Trayce Jackson-Davis is already becoming a leader, no matter what position he’s playing

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He didn’t have the expectations of his predecessor. He wasn’t asked to stay for hours after high school games signing autographs for fans. There were no lines trailing for blocks just to get into a high school gym, no throngs of media and fans just waiting to see what hat he’d put on. 

IU freshman forward Trayce Jackson-Davis, the 2019 Indiana Mr. Basketball, didn’t have the same hype that surrounded Romeo Langford, the 2018 Mr. Basketball winner and former IU guard. He didn’t have the weight of an entire fanbase placed on his shoulders, hoping he would be the player to carry the program back to its former glory. 

Ten games into the season and it’s quite clear that like Langford before him, Jackson-Davis is a freshman already stepping in as a leader and a player critical to IU’s success. 

At Madison Square Garden, IU found itself down early. Again. Against Wisconsin a few days before, the team fell behind and never recovered. 

“It’s not easy to take the medicine we had on Saturday,” IU head coach Archie Miller said Tuesday after IU’s win over the University of Connecticut. 

Jackson-Davis had the worst performance of his season at the Kohl Center, his first true road game as a collegiate player. He only had nine points, only got to the free throw line for three attempts and only got three rebounds. 

But in New York it was the voice of the freshman forward that stuck out during timeouts. In just the 10th game of his college basketball career, he commanded the attention of his teammates in the huddle. 

His play on the court backed it up. His numbers weren’t staggering; none of his teammates' were either against the University of Connecticut. 

At times Jackson-Davis found himself triple-teamed against a UConn interior that gave IU all sorts of trouble. Once, he was even quadruple-teamed pulling down a rebound, and he got it. 

Jackson-Davis has allowed Miller to be versatile. He’s played the emerging freshman at both the four and five positions. 

And he’s been a rock at whatever position he’s played. He’s been the common denominator in IU’s lineups while a rotation of forwards turn around him. 

Against UConn, playing Jackson-Davis in different lineups allowed IU to find combinations that worked and allowed for a comeback. He only had eight points, which wound up second-most on the team due to the balanced scoring in the win over UConn, but his seven rebounds were all critical. He added three assists. 

And while the stat line doesn’t jump off the page — none of IU’s players from Tuesday’s game do — Jackson-Davis' ability to contribute in multiple areas of the stat sheet, and multiple areas off of it, were key in the win over UConn. 

Jackson-Davis gave IU a spark with his versatility. He took on the UConn bigs that the rest of IU couldn’t handle. He allows IU to play small, and he allows IU to play big. His inexperience wasn’t evident on a stage with the lauded history of Madison Square Garden.

“I thought our defense got amped up again in that stretch when Trayce was out there at the center position,” Miller said. “He held his own.”

His performance against UConn reflected what he’s done all year. He’s immediately gone from a highly touted high school player to a freshman quickly finding national attention for what he’s done so early on. 

Jackson-Davis leads IU in total points and points per game. He leads the team in blocks by 13. He leads it in total rebounds, by 38, and in rebounds per game with 8.5. He nearly averages a double-double, of which he already has four. His rebounding ability propelled IU to a top-five rebounding margin in the nation before it began to tail Wisconsin. 

Against Florida State University, Jackson-Davis grabbed eight rebounds in a game where he was again asked to play as an undersized five.

Nothing thrown Jackson-Davis’ way has been any hindrance so far. He had to bounce back against Wisconsin just like the rest of the team, and he did. 

Just like Langford before him, Jackson-Davis hasn’t been just another freshman.

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