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10/25/2022
<p>Trayce Jackson-Davis shooting a free throw at Purdue. (HN photo/Max Wood)</p>
Trayce Jackson-Davis shooting a free throw at Purdue. (HN photo/Max Wood)

Indiana Basketball Player Analysis: Is there another level for Trayce Jackson-Davis to reach?

This season might be the last chance for the senior to make his mark in Bloomington

In 2021-22, the Indiana men’s basketball team often only went as far as Trayce Jackson-Davis went. When he was great (which was most games), the team competed. Jackson-Davis was recently named a preseason AP All-American, so the expectations are high going into his fourth year.

Jackson-Davis averaged 18.3 points per game on 61.3% true shooting last year. Let’s break down what makes Jackson-Davis so effective.

WHAT JACKSON-DAVIS DOES WELL

Rim running and finishing

Finishing at the hoop has been Jackson-Davis’ most valuable skill from the moment he stepped on campus. He’s shown that he can do this in multiple ways as well.

The easiest buckets for Jackson-Davis always come in transition. He’s one of the top fastbreak big men in the nation. He gets up the court well and is difficult to contain with a full head of steam.

In half-court offense, Jackson-Davis has excelled as a roll man. He’s a large target when heading downhill. Indiana played its best offense late in the year when the team crafted more empty-corner opportunities for Jackson-Davis in the pick-and-roll.

Another way that Jackson-Davis got easy half-court shots was by playing from the blocks and in the dunker spot. Jackson-Davis has developed unbelievable chemistry with Race Thompson in “high/low” actions. Jackson-Davis has become a savant at cutting from the short corner, dunker spot area once the ball is thrown into Thompson around the foul line.

Jackson-Davis is one of the most dangerous players in the country within five feet of the hoop. Whether he has the ball or not, he is tough to stop that close to the rim. This will likely remain the best part of his game heading into his senior season.

Rim protection

Jackson-Davis was the best rim protector in the Big Ten last season. Jackson-Davis’ ability to shield the basket was why IU’s defense ranked atop the conference in most advanced metrics last season.

The improved discipline Jackson-Davis showed defensively yielded outstanding results for the Hoosiers. Mike Woodson also played a large role in what Jackson-Davis did defensively. Woodson gave him much more leeway to roam away from his man and go after attacking ball handlers. Jackson-Davis got to drivers quicker and affected a plethora of shots at the rim.

This activity and defensive disruptiveness are all a team can ask of its center. Jackson-Davis plays the most vital defensive position, and he anchored a strong defense last season.

Post scoring

Jackson-Davis has shown continuous growth as a post player. This will be the third year the Hoosiers will run a half-court offense centered around him posting on the block. He is superb at making quick moves to get his shot off.

In 2020-21, Jackson-Davis made 51.7% of his field goals. Last year, he rose to be a 59.3% shooter. The way that Jackson-Davis got his shots didn’t change all that much between his sophomore and junior year, but his efficiency took a large jump. Much of that increased effectiveness can be explained by his willingness and readiness to pass the ball more. 

Jackson-Davis made tremendous strides as a playmaker, even when it didn’t always show up in the stat sheet. He is much better at anticipating extra defenders than he was early in his college career. This anticipation allows Indiana’s offense to get open shots or maintain a flow even when he’s stopped on his initial post touches.

In reality, it’s unlikely that a great half-court offense comes from Jackson-Davis post-ups. It was good to see Jackson-Davis not force shots last year, but defenses were usually alright with the result of him giving it up. Indiana’s role players didn’t capitalize off Jackson-Davis’ gravity nearly enough. 

Feeding Jackson-Davis in the post can only take Indiana so far. For the Hoosiers’ offense to be as effective as it can be this year, IU must be able to run sets comfortably through other players. You can still expect a heavy dose of post-ups for Indiana early in the year until the Hoosiers figure out better options.

WHAT JACKSON-DAVIS CAN IMPROVE

Defensive versatility

Jackson-Davis has NBA aspirations, so his improvement areas will include some nitpicking. As a 6-foot-9 big man, most teams will ask Jackson-Davis to show some switchability at the next level. Thus far in his college career, Jackson-Davis hasn’t consistently shown that he can move his feet with wings.

This is not just a trait that will help Jackson-Davis get to the next level. If Jackson-Davis shows he can defend smaller players, it will allow Woodson and the Hoosiers to lean into a switch-heavy defense that the team deployed at times last year. 

Watch this first-half possession from Woodson’s first game as head coach last year, where everyone but Jackson-Davis switched on screens.

If Jackson-Davis can also show the ability to switch often, it will open a lot for Indiana defensively while increasing his NBA stock. Jackson-Davis isn’t incredibly large, so he can certainly improve his agility going into this season. 

Shooting

Jackson-Davis rarely scores outside of 10 feet. He is still an incredible scorer, but a lack of range limits his offensive game. 

You probably knew this is an area Jackson-Davis has to improve at. There’s not much supplementary video to show for it because Jackson-Davis hardly ever even attempts these shots, never mind making them. 

Jackson-Davis and Woodson are going into another season saying that they expect to see him let it fly more.

“The biggest thing for me really is when I was out there, it was just shooting," Jackson-Davis said of his training in L.A. this summer. "That's all I was doing was shooting, from everywhere, whether it be 3s, 2s, free throws. That's what the scouts said they wanted to see, so that's what I was doing.”

“Everybody looks at this thing where he's got to be a 3-point shooter. I think if he makes a 15 to 17-foot shot, it's just as effective,” Woodson said at Indiana’s media day. 

This sentiment from Woodson is accurate. It doesn’t matter if Jackson-Davis becomes a 3-point marksman. It’s more important that he displays some ability to stretch the floor, whether it’s a 3-pointer or not.

“I think this summer, the work that he's put in, he's shown that he can make that shot, and he has made them in our little pickup games and things of that nature. He's just got to carry it over to the real game when it counts,” Woodson added.

At this point, Jackson-Davis stretching the floor is more of an “actions speak louder than words” matter. We’ll probably see him attempt these jumpers early in the year, but time will tell if this continues and if Jackson-Davis hits the shots at an adequate level.

WHAT TO EXPECT FROM JACKSON-DAVIS IN 2022-23

At worst, Jackson-Davis is slated to be one of the 10 best players in men’s college hoops. His two-way impact is the top reason the Hoosiers are ranked 13th in the preseason AP poll. Jackson-Davis will certainly be excellent. The question is if he takes it to another level in his senior year.

This is the fourth preseason player analysis. Check out all of the deep dives here.


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