When senior Joey Brunk and sophomore Trayce Jackson-Davis arrived on campus last year, they were players at two very different stages in their college careers.
Brunk came to IU after transferring from Butler University, expected to bring experience and physicality while anchoring the team’s frontcourt. Jackson-Davis showed up as a highly-touted four-star recruit, ranked No. 30 in the 2019 class after being named Indiana Mr. Basketball.
Brunk is an old-school center at 6-feet, 11-inches, 255 pounds, and plays with high energy on defense while grabbing rebounds. Jackson-Davis, on the other hand, is a hybrid of the modern game of basketball. He’s only 6-foot 9-inches and is slim 245 pounds. He can run the floor with grace and is a great athlete.
While the two are very different types of forwards, Brunk and Jackson-Davis bring a brotherly bond to the IU men’s basketball team.
“When they were home over the pandemic time, they would get together,” head coach Archie Miller said during IU men's basketball's media day Tuesday. “Social injustice happens in downtown Indianapolis, Trayce and Joey go together. I think they’re more than just basketball teammates, I think they genuinely really respect each other and like one another.”
Before even arriving on campus last year, Brunk and Jackson-Davis had built a rapport with one another while working out together with NBA skills coach Jason Smeathers. Since being in Bloomington, that bond between the two grew even stronger.
Brunk and Jackson-Davis continued to workout together and formed a big brother, little brother bond. Miller said with both of them being new to IU last season, the two just gravitated toward each other. Both were fierce competitors who Miller said were at IU for the right reasons: to win. It was a perfect environment for the two of them.
For Jackson-Davis, Brunk served as a role model while he transitioned to college, learning what it takes to succeed. And for Brunk, Jackson-Davis provided him someone who had an equal work ethic and drive in workouts and practices.
“Both of them really embrace the everyday process,” Miller said. “They don’t blink. They care about winning. That’s the best attribute I can give both guys.”
While Brunk and Jackson-Davis bring a level of competition to each other on the court, what they provide the Hoosiers off the court is just as important. Miller described both Brunk and Jackson-Davis as “locker room guys” that helped maintain balance for IU in a season with many peaks and valleys.
“One of the big reasons our team was able to breakthrough at certain stages last year, not fold at times or find ways at the end of the year to be playing the best is because you had those two guys that were added to our locker,” Miller said. “Guys that everyone around the team respects and likes, and I think when you have that type of relationship with two guys who play a lot of minutes it speaks volumes.”
As IU prepares for a season still with many more questions than answers, the team will need that calming presence from Brunk and Jackson-Davis if they are to make to succeed and make the NCAA tournament for the first time in Miller’s tenure.
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