That’s A Wrap: James Blackmon Jr.

  • 03/30/2015 8:11 am in

Welcome to “That’s A Wrap,” our player-by-player recap of the 2014-2015 Indiana Hoosiers. Today: James Blackmon Jr.

Blackmon Jr. (33 games): 15.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, 51.2 eFG%, 38.7 3P% in 30.0 minutes per game.

If there was anything clear about James Blackmon Jr.’s game from Day 1, it’s the freshman could score the basketball.

The McDonald’s All-American stormed out of the gate in the non-conference schedule by posting 25 points (7-of-10 from the field, 3-of-4 from 3-point range and 8-of-9 from the line) in IU’s season opener against Mississippi Valley State. Two games later in the Hoosiers’ win over SMU, Blackmon Jr. went for 26 — which included a 5-of-10 mark from distance and a perfect performance from the line (7-of-7).  It ended up being his season-high.

He looked smooth, confident and possessed a wide-range of offensive ability.

But as the season went along, Blackmon Jr. also posted some forgettable lines. In a neutral court win against Butler on Dec. 20 and the conference opener against Nebraska on New Year’s Eve, Blackmon Jr. finished 2-of-9 respectively in both games. In a matchup where Michigan State’s D knocked the Hoosiers on their heels in East Lansing, the freshman finished only 2-of-14. There were similar lines littered throughout the conference schedule: 4-of-13 in Indiana’s loss at Purdue, 2-of-14 at Maryland, 1-of-10 at Northwestern, 2-of-12 vs. Maryland in the Big Ten Tournament.

So what happened?

The cliched answer here is the “freshman wall”, but it was more complicated than that — if that was even it at all. With better talent and scouting, the Big Ten’s defenses were more of a challenge for Blackmon Jr. He was no longer going against high schoolers or the dregs of the non-conference schedule. The freshman also doesn’t have a ton of size or strength (for now) and lacks elite-level athleticism. So his drives to the rim often looked like a seasoned bowler: Same path over and over again down the right side of the lane. If he was met by any sort of size at the rim on these drives, his shot was often swatted.

It’s a good thing for a scorer to keep firing — as Blackmon Jr. did in games he struggled — especially in Tom Crean’s system this year. But he seemed to also compound his shooting woes by maybe forcing the issue on some shot attempts in those games instead of letting it come in the flow of the offense. As such, his efficiency suffered.

By season’s end, Blackmon Jr.’s 3-point shooting percentage of 37.5, though respectable, trailed of several of his teammates. Collin Hartman (47.5%), Nick Zeisloft (45%), Yogi Ferrell (41.6%) and Robert Johnson (38.8%) all bested him, as did Troy Williams (46.2%) in limited attempts.

And his effective field goal percentage of 51.2 percent — an efficiency metric that factors in the value of a 3-point shot  — also trailed many of the regulars. Zeisloft (67.4%),  Emmitt Holt (65%) Hartman (64.2%), Hanner Mosquera-Perea (59.4%), Williams (55%), Ferrell (53.8%), Johnson (52.8%) and Max Hoetzel (51.7%) finished ahead of Blackmon Jr.

jbjanalytics

That said, neither mark would be considered poor. And Blackmon Jr. did play alongside teammates on the ninth most efficient offense in the country this year that shot the ball extremely well from distance. He also finished the year with the third most freshman points (518) in Indiana history behind Eric Gordon (669) and Cody Zeller (563). That’s not bad company.

Blackmon Jr.’s defense could stand some improvement and we highlighted some of his issues in this Northwestern Film Session. It was a team wide issue this season, but Blackmon Jr. stood out. The freshman often lacked basic defensive awareness. It’s been said Indiana’s perimeter defense was the main culprit this season as far as letting opponents bust a move to the rim, and Blackmon Jr. was part of the problem.

Bottom Line: For all his defensive issues and nights he struggled on offense, it’s important to remember Blackmon Jr. was just a freshman this season. And there’s no doubt he’s a special talent and a possible NBA draftee in the future. Tom Crean has proven to develop players that come to his program with promise and a work ethic. Blackmon Jr. possesses both of those things. If he puts in the work this summer, expect more efficiency on the offensive end and better defense in his sophomore campaign.

Quotable: “I think it went real well. Me myself, I had bigger expectations for myself. But as a team we fought together and we were doubted from the beginning — so I think that we had a great year.” — Blackmon Jr. on the season after Indiana’s final game.

Previously: Robert Johnson, Max Hoetzel, Emmitt Holt

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  • WhatsUpKnight2.0

    from my simple observation, i got the impression the source of his shooting woes was 90% between the ears, 5% mechanics, and 5% better defenses. lots of upside with this kid, will be very surprised if he isn’t significantly improved next year. as was stated in the article, he just seemed to force things in the lane a bit too much, especially when the jumpers weren’t falling. nothing an off-season of hard work can’t cure, imho.

  • BC Hoosier

    He is night and day on each side of the court. I think he is a better athlete and longer than people give him credit for. On offense, working on his left hand at the rim and a floater/ jumper in the lane would go a long way in polishing off his game.
    On defense, where do I start; stance, awareness, laternal quickest, and rotational/help positioning. I think the positive is that he knows he must improve and put in the work. I also thought that as the year went along he tried to be more aggressive as an on the ball defender and playing passing lanes, but the results as a whole didn’t change. Lastly, I though he did a very good job of rebounding the ball. As a team, they improved on the glass as the year went along, and as an individual I think JB did as well.

  • WhatsUpKnight2.0

    he did show flashes of remarkable athleticism! hope we see more of that next year.

  • BobbyBeGoodKnight

    When his confidence boosts, his ball handling and defense improve, James will be a force.

  • Hoosier Hall

    It seemed to me that he was just so worried about making shots instead of winning. He’d let a few misses get to him and then his whole game suffered.

  • Hoosier Hall

    Interesting to hear him say he thought we had a great season. Maybe his expectations were too low… James ended up being a much better rebounder than I thought he was. He needs to add some strength and attend some world class defensive camps this summer, his confidence will improve and this kid will probably be in the 2016 NBA draft.

  • WhatsUpKnight2.0

    exactly! if he made his first couple shots, you knew he was going to have a big night. if he missed the first couple, it was difficult for him to recover.

  • CreamandCrimson

    “So I think that we had a great year”…the only player that publicly said he was disappointed with the season was Collin Hartman. If the players were pleased with the season and thought it was “great”, that tells me they are probably (I don’t know for sure but I think it’s a reasonable conclusion) being told by the coaches that the season went really well and that finishing 20-14 is pretty good. I guess it doesn’t really matter and I could be way off with this but to me, it’s concerning that a high-impact IU player would be really pleased with the way this season went.

    Anyway, here’s to Blackmon Jr. getting better across the board, increasing his play on both ends and continuing to work towards his goal of making the NBA. He was mostly a pleasure to watch this season and I’m glad he’s a Hoosier.

  • SCHoosier

    Thank u for the very candid and extremely accurate assessmentof JBjr’s freshman year.There’s a lot to like about James ‘ potential..but eve more work to do on both sides of the ball to become the player he wants to and can be.

  • SCHoosier

    The speed & ability required to execute against quality teams was obviously much more challenging than scoring in the pre-conference schedule. When u only go one way and place with your dribble drive..u really help the defenders to stop you. Getting your outside shot off one second earlier becomes the difference between a good stroke and a hurried one Those things help define the “freshman wall.”?.

  • And One

    Something that deserves mentioning: he was, at times, a fearless rebounder.

  • inLinE6

    What impressed me the most this year, was his rebounding, not shooting. The kid can rebound and fought hard on the glass. But the shooting was far from what I have expected. His ball handling was loose, and too slow on the defensive end. Part of it was his lack of athleticism, but he also lacked the strong desire to stop his opponent. When he’s frustrated, he forgot that he had to guard people. His shot selection was questionable from time to time, and failed to respond to some diversities on the court. Court vision is another big item on his offseason list. There were numerous opportunities that he could’ve easily got some assists, but he just didn’t see the open teammates. Sorry for being too harsh, but have a high expectation on JBJ and hopefully he can prove he’s an elite guard in his second season.

  • Gregory Spera

    By the end of his time here at Indiana, hopefully he will have expanded his concept of what a “great” year is for Indiana Basketball.

  • WhatsUpKnight2.0

    great points, no doubt the scouting reports caught up to him. i think there’s plenty of talent there to expandimprove his arsenal.

  • deebo

    Hopefully this kid has a work ethic because he could be really really good, if not next year could be another long year depending what yogi and troy decide(I’m not expecting either to leave early for pros you just never know anymore).

  • ForeverIU

    JBJr is being positive because he is by nature an optimist. He said once that you have to have a short memory as a player and just forget a bad performance and move on. I am okay with this kind of optimism coming from JBJr, knowing how hard he works and what a great work ethic he has. CTC has said this is one of the hardest working teams he’s had, which means CTC has to answer to himself on the coaching part. And I mean teach these kids some DEFENSE, lol!

  • hoosier93

    He wasn’t bad. I think we all knew he wasn’t going to be Eric Gordon or anything. Next year should be much better for him… maybe… but he certainly shouldn’t be put in the defensive situations he was put in this past season. Hopefully we go to a more traditional lineup next year. As it was blatantly obvious that Troy at PF just isn’t built for success.

  • fourputtsforsnowman

    Overall, I enjoyed cheering for James. His D was poor, but he has a high schooler’s body in a man’s league. That will change and I’m hoping this year fuels that change.

    NOT MENTIONED BUT IMPORTANT: James does have pride and athletic potential. As evidence, recall the dunk at the end of the game on Louisville’s Harrell, if I recall correctly.

  • TomJameson

    “I think it went real well. Me myself, I had bigger expectations for myself. But as a team we fought together and we were doubted from the beginning — so I think that we had a great year”

    I think you’re reading too much into his response, and not using his entire quote. He was just being safe about the year IU had. I might have said pretty good instead of great.

    But I’m positive he wasn’t happy about his own performance. He definitely thought he would have a better year. Here’s to the motivation for next year!

  • TomJameson

    He has that pride for sure, but he also has determination, a clear goal of playing in the NBA, and the work ethic to get there.

    I think we are going to see a very good sophomore jump in JBJ next year. (As well as RJ)

  • hoosier93

    True. There are a few games where he was nearing 10 boards.

  • marcusgresham

    1.) Bulk up. (Damn I miss Coach Jackson already.)
    2.) Develop a mid-range/floater so you aren’t getting stuffed at the rim.
    3.) Work on defense. Guard Yogi every day this summer.
    4.) If James Blackmon is, statistically, your 6th best returning three-point shooter things look promising.

  • dwdkc

    Astute analysis. The rebounding and overall offensive ability show that he has a nose for the ball and good instincts, but never really had to learn how to defend. No idea why such a polished scorer didn’t take more midrange shots but I think he was schooled to draw contact and get to the line, which college officials are way too reluctant to allow. The sophomore leap in strength particularly should help him. Also I think on a better team and with some added maturity he won’t force his shot as much. He is the best pure shooter on the team I think, but didn’t have either the legs (fatigue) or patience to convert at as high a level as he is capable. Very high expectations for next year.

  • SilentBob

    Three words for James and most of this team. Strength and conditioning. His legs, more than anyone else, seemed to fail him as the season went on. Looked a step slower on his drives and slightly less elevation on his shot. Also hampered his already poor defense. Decision making, as it is with all young players, will also be key. When he is looking for the open man off his drives he was incredible as was shown at Northwestern in the big ten tourney. Also for the love of God kick it out when you get that offensive rebound in heavy traffic. I know they teach you to go back up in high school but you’re in the big ten now and are one of the smaller players, height and weight, on the court.

  • Rick Pearson

    you know I think we have a pretty good year as well we overachieved by everybody’s expectations everybody needs to get off these young kids back so get behind them build confidence looking toward this upcoming fall I really think we can be a good ball club next year so they have my 100% support because I am a die hard HOOSIERS Fan win lose

  • Dereck Johnson

    What they say to reporter’s & what they truly feel, usually are 2 different things. Im glad he sees his weaknesses & has apparently decided to stay. He’ll be big time next year & put in the work. He wants to be a star in the NBA & I believe he thought he was closer to that goal b4 the season started. Now he sees how much work needs to be done. I hope he plays with more swag next year. Also pls develop some type of mid range game & DEFENSE. Glad to have u back.

  • Dereck Johnson

    Absolutely & with Thomas Bryant on board next year. He won’t have to focus on that as much.

  • Dereck Johnson

    I agree 100%. Its funny how ppl forget what they expected this season. I mean what they expected b4 this season started. I would have said good year not great but who cares. He sees he needs work & that’s all that matters.

  • John D Murphy

    It might be a little of his legs. Most likely it is just strength. Yogi and Nick (both two years older) had the strength to push the shot out 3 ft beyond the line. JBJ and RJ didn’t this year. The book on IU became crystal clear…no 3’s from the line. JBJ, RJ, and even Yogi just aren’t able to finish at the rim consistently against any size at all so the drive to the middle pass out that worked in the beginning of the B1G season quit working as the league’s defenses learned how to defend us. JBJ was keyed on much more than CH or RJ or even NZ and so more of his shots were contested. On offense I expect great things from JBJ next year. I just have little reason to expect that our team defense will be enough improved to make a run at a B1G crown or be a serious threat in the NCAA.

  • IUMIKE1

    Totally agree on the, only going one way thing, doesn’t take a master scout to see that you totally played him to drive to the right side only. He seems to have a decent bball IQ, which made it odd to me that he pretty much refused to use the left side of the basket, and the even odder part of it is that when, on the rare occasion that he did use the left side, he, more often than not, had success.

  • IUMIKE1

    We have to be careful not to read something into that quote that isn’t there, but having said that, it did strike me as more than just a little odd that he would put it that way. I also believe that players, some more than others, tend to project what their coaches say in team only settings and tend to see certain things in the same light as the coaching staff does. At any rate it was more than a little concerning to me as well.

  • IUMIKE1

    Not “some” defense, a whooooole lot of defense. lol

  • IUMIKE1

    2b) A better developed left hand. Not too hard to defend a guy when he drives if he is right handed and goes to the right 99 percent of the time.

  • Ryan Howell

    I hope so. I just didn’t like his body language when he was struggling in game. His mental game is not so strong. RJ needs to develop a pg iq(too many turnovers).

  • Ryan Howell

    Still probably the most consistent rebounder on the team. Which is sad, hopefully Holt gets more playing time(was so effective on the defensive end compared to the other forwards).

  • TomJameson

    I believe that RJs turnovers will decrease a bunch next year (sophomore jump). I really think it’s the physical, not the mental for both of those young men. Remember, RJ and JBJ were freshmen coming into the B1G. And they were starting and playing major starting minutes. With the offseason to build muscle, weight, and conditioning I think they’ll be okay.