Trayce Jackson-Davis Brings Another Local Boost as Indiana Looks to Rebound
In the one-and-done era, college basketball fans have grown accustomed to having to get to know a slew of new, highly-touted names and faces each season, many of whom will spend just one year on campus before moving on to the NBA. In 2019, six of the top 10 NBA draft picks were one-and-done, and eight of the 14 lottery picks overall. Not all elite freshmen will pan out, but history dictates that many of them will help headline the sport for the next year—and, for some, maybe even beyond. Just look at last year’s group of rookies we profiled: Tre Jones, Ashton Hagans, Jalen Smith and Devon Dotson lead a whopping 12 former 2018 five-stars back for a sophomore season.
With all of that in mind, SI.com will be introducing you to the top incoming freshmen in college basketball for 2019–20 and breaking down the impact those players could have. The rankings are according to RSCI Hoops, a composite that averages from 25 different expert top-100 lists. First up is the No. 26 overall recruit, Indiana’s Trayce Jackson-Davis. You can view all of the profiles to date here.
What He Means for Indiana’s Recruiting Class
Jackson-Davis is one of just two incoming recruits for the Hoosiers this season, joining three-star shooting guard and fellow Indiana native Armaan Franklin in Bloomington, along with graduate transfer Joey Brunk. The 6’9” center was a big get (in both senses of the word) for third-year head coach Archie Miller, who has now secured one of the state’s best homegrown recruits in two consecutive classes. For a myriad of reasons, Miller wasn’t able to bring the results many anticipated with last season’s Romeo Langford-led class, but this year’s additions bring plenty of potential and add depth to a team that might finally have the right combination of veteran players and young talent to begin to bring the program back to prominence. A 2019 McDonald’s All-American and the son of former Indiana Pacer Dale Davis, Jackson-Davis not only helps Miller’s current class, but also could give IU a lift—like Langford did—when it comes to recruiting in future years. The 27th Indiana Mr. Basketball to play for the Hoosiers, Jackson-Davis can contribute up front off the bat while helping lay the foundation for future success.
How He Fits
Big man Juwan Morgan exhausted his eligibility and left a 6’8”-sized void in the Hoosiers’ frontcourt. Junior forward Justin Smith will step into that space, but he’ll need help from both Jackson-Davis and Brunk under the basket to do so, especially with the graduation of 6’10” Evan Fitzner, who was a helpful presence in the paint last season. Smith started 32 games for Indiana in 2018–19 alongside Morgan, so his experience will be essential to helping Jackson-Davis adapt to the college game. De'Ron Davis is also back, and two players from last year’s top-10 recruiting class—Jerome Hunter and Damezi Anderson—are also expected to step up and are likely to see more minutes up front (Hunter’s timeline for return is still uncertain as he rehabilitates from injury) without Morgan on the floor for the Hoosiers.
Jackson-Davis should still be an early candidate for starter’s minutes, despite the depth that Miller has in his frontcourt. After averaging 21.6 points, 9.4 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game as a senior at Center Grove High School while shooting 62% from the field, expectations are high for the Hoosiers’ new home-state hero, who developed steadily year-over-year during his high school career, but there’s still room for all-around improvement. Jackson-Davis has above-average athleticism and can play inside but needs to continue to hone that skill set and develop as an outside shooter. He still provides tremendous upside as a rim runner and shot blocker. He can readily get to and defend to the basket but certain elements of his game, like his jump shot and his range, could use some work. The 230-pound freshman has the physicality to body his way to the basket and add points at the line as well. He’s versatile enough to bring two-way benefits to the floor, which Indiana needs, but don’t expect the Hoosiers to run offense through him often. His combination of size and athleticism will fit well with the modern game once he makes some progress.
Miller’s other new arrival, Franklin, will slot in alongside sophomore Rob Phinisee, junior Aljami Durham and last season’s leading facilitator, Devonte Green, as Miller reworks his backcourt without Langford in the lineup. The four form a solid guard rotation, but Franklin will have to fight for minutes given that the three other upperclassmen averaged at least 27.3 minutes per game in 2018–19. Franklin again adds an element of depth that helps Miller build for the future. There’s plenty of talent to be developed all across the floor, which bodes well for the program’s trajectory.
Importance to Indiana's Success/Team Outlook
Indiana underwhelmed last season, even with Morgan’s return and Langford’s arrival. Arguments about how Langford’s lingering thumb injury limited his impact aside, Miller will look to Jackson-Davis to make up for some of what was lost in terms of both scoring, size and immediate effect. Although he's not likely to stay for a full four years, the incoming big man brings reason for cautious optimism for Hoosier fans. Playing alongside the rest of Miller’s likely starters—all of whom have had time to develop at Indiana already—should mean a positive upswing for the Hoosiers. Should Jackson-Davis be given the right opportunities offensively, there’s plenty of potential for success this season, or at least more success than last. Indiana picked up 19 wins last season—three more than in 2017–18—and finished conference contests at 8–12, but a 20-win showing could be in store if all the pieces come together correctly.