If there was ever any doubt as to how well James Blackmon Jr. would be able to recover from last year’s season-ending knee injury, he’s put those questions to rest pretty quickly.
Blackmon Jr., a 2014 Indiana commit, is making up for lost time to start his junior high school season.
The 6-foot-2 guard is averaging 37.3 points per game through Fort Wayne Bishop Luers’ first three games fresh off a torn ACL injury that ended his season last February.
“It really kind of feels the same as it did before because of all the work I put in for my knee,” Blackmon Jr. told Inside the Hall of his success. “I just feel like I got better in different aspects. Sitting out watching, I watched a lot of film and stuff, so I’m a thinker of the game now too. My athleticism got a little bit better even though I had a torn ACL.”
Blackmon Jr. opened the year with 38 points in a 79-74 loss to Mishawaka Marian. He was even more impressive his next time out in front of Tom Crean, scoring a career-high 44 points, including six 3-pointers, in a 79-63 win over Fort Wayne South.
He added another 30 points in a 77-68 loss to Fort Wayne Concordia last Friday.
“This isn’t anything I really expected,” Blackmon Jr. said. “It’s just that, my teammates, I needed them to help me, and they got me open a lot. I did what I could to win the games, but I never really thought about scoring a lot of points. It was just something that came with playing hard and working hard.”
It’s a quick turnaround for Indiana as the Hoosiers return to Branch McCracken Court on Friday night for a meeting with Florida Atlantic. The Owls (5-6) are coming off a 69-68 loss at home to Stetson. Indiana will be looking for its 16th consecutive win at Assembly Hall.
The game will be televised on ESPN2.
The competition doesn’t figure to stiffen much for Indiana until the Big Ten season tips off on Dec. 31, but the Hoosiers will round out the non-conference schedule with a pair of Friday games with Florida Atlantic and Jacksonville.
FAU is up first and the Owls are led by former George Washington and St. John’s coach Mike Jarvis, who produced a winning season and NIT birth in 2011-2012, but has otherwise struggled to gain momentum in Boca Raton. This season doesn’t look promising as Florida Atlantic was picked to finish just fourth in the east division of the Sun Belt.
Indiana will once again get the challenge of trying to contain one of the nation’s leading scorers as FAU features senior guard Greg Gantt (pictured), who is averaging 21.5 points. Gantt is shooting an identical percentage on 2-point and 3-point field goal attempts (42.7) and the distribution of his attempts is pretty equal as well (104 2-point attempts vs. 82 3-point attempts).
The absence of Moody means that Jarvis will need more offensive production from guard Pablo Bertone (7.1 ppg), guard Jackson Trapp (6.5 ppg) and forward Jordan McCoy (5.3 ppg) if the Owls hope to keep things competitive on Friday. Trapp has a solid assist rate (20.2), but is turnover prone (33 in 11 games) and McCoy is the team’s leading rebounder at 6.4 per game.
Senior forward Derek Elston played for the first time this season in No. 6 Indiana’s 93-54 victory against Mount St. Mary’s on Wednesday night, but freshmen Jeremy Hollowell and Peter Jurkin failed to get off the bench.
Hollowell had been part of the Hoosiers’ regular rotation through the first 10 games, and he was in uniform and warmed up with the Hoosiers prior to the game against the Mountaineers. And Jurkin, who was suspended for the first nine games of the season and didn’t get off the bench on Saturday against Butler, also didn’t play on Wednesday despite the Hoosiers’ large lead.
Afterward, Indiana coach Tom Crean didn’t offer much in the way of a concrete explanation.
In his opening statement, Crean said: “We dealt with a multitude of situations with staff and players, whether it be an injury or a sickness.”
He went on to mention that athletic trainer Tim Garl had been sick all day and some of the staff had been as well. But he never said definitively why Hollowell or Jurkin did not play despite repeated inquiries.
When asked if Hollowell was sick as well, Crean said: “Yeah. We just had a multitude of things we dealt with and we played the guys that were there to play for us and help us.”
And then when asked specifically about Jurkin, Crean continued to be vague: “I went with the guys that I played. That’s who I went with.”
Elston, meanwhile, returned to the floor ahead of schedule. The Tipton native had knee surgery prior to the start of the season, and the team had targeted a return shortly after Christmas.
But Elston worked hard in his rehabilitation, practiced lightly over the last few days, and got on the floor for nine minutes against Mount St. Mary’s. Elston made his only field goal attempt, scoring two points and grabbing two rebounds to go along with a blocked shot.
Elston received a standing ovation from the Assembly Hall crowd when he entered the game in the first half.
“It felt great to get back out there again,” Elston said. “You can only go through so many practices without it actually hitting you that you want to get out there, get in front of the crowd and see what you can do.
“The standing ovation, that just shows that these people really haven’t forgotten about me. It shows that maybe I do [matter] to this program. Sometimes when you get hurt like that and you’re out so long, you feel like people kind of forget about you. Sometimes, inside of any player, especially me, I feel like people just don’t remember you. But when I go out there and I get that, that standing ovation, it makes me feel special.”
I. The naton’s most efficient offense was on full display tonight inside Assembly Hall. Mount St. Mary’s — as previously detailed round these parts — offers little resistance in the halfcourt once you get past its trapping defense. Indiana connected on 72 percent of its shots in the first half, including 5-of-6 from distance (83 percent); it assisted on 14 of its 18 makes. And a good chunk of those points came off easy looks around the rim, as the Hoosiers tallied 22 points in the paint. Indiana kept it up in the second half and finished with these lines: 70.6 percent from the field, 9-of-12 from 3-point range (75 percent), 27 assists on 36 makes, 50 points in the paint. They scored 1.34 points per possession. And it was nearly a historic night. According to Ken Bikoff, Indiana’s single-game record for field goal percentage is 71.2 percent vs. Michigan State in 1988.
About the only knocks on IU’s offensive output tonight came at the line, as it only shot 12-of-19 (63.2%). The Hoosiers also had 19 turnovers. But remember: This comes against the Mountaineers, a team that entered tonight’s contest fifth best in the nation at turning opponents over due to their defensive style.
Yogi Ferrell posted a career-high nine assists to aid in Indiana’s balanced attack, which featured Will Sheehey (6-of-9, 16 points), Christian Watford (5-of-9, 15 points), Victor Oladipo (5-of-7, 14 points) and Cody Zeller (7-of-9, 16 points) having near identical scoring lines. Watford looked more aggressive this evening, especially around the basket with a couple strong takes. He also added eight boards to his tally. This is good to see.
II. Hanner Mosquera-Perea saw 10 minutes of action tonight and, well, he’s continuing to learn and find his place on the floor. He had some good looks around the rim early, but failed to convert them, and also missed two free throws. He also fouled a Mountaineers 3-point shooter. The freshman did have one rebound. The more time he gets in these next couple non-conference games, the more experience he’ll have — and perhaps more trust Tom Crean will have in him — come Big Ten season.
Derek Elston also returned to lineup this evening to make his senior year debut. He saw nine minutes of action and scored his first basket of the year late in the second half to go along with two boards and a steal. Elston now also gets the rest of Indiana’s non-conference slate to work into game action before Big Ten season hits at the end of the month. And if Peter Jurkin ever sees the court — more on that below — the Hoosiers’ frontcourt is just about back to full strength.
As first pointed out Tuesday on Yogi Ferrell’s Twitter account, Indiana is adding former Park Tudor guard Paul Bayt to its roster as a walk-on.
Bayt played his first two high school seasons at Cathedral before finishing up under Ed Schilling at Park Tudor. He averaged nearly 15 points and shot close to 40% from the 3-point line in his two seasons at Park Tudor.
Here’s the full release from IU:
Carmel native and Park Tudor graduate Paul Bayt, a 6-4 guard, will walk on at IU after spending the first semester at Manhattan College.
He did not appear in any games for the Jaspers and must sit out one year to meet NCAA eligibility requirements.
“We are excited to have Paul at Indiana,” said IU Coach Tom Crean. “He is a well-coached, well-rounded winner who is an outstanding representative in the classroom. Along with Yogi, Paul played an integral part winning two state championships for one of the top programs in the state of Indiana in Park Tudor. He brings some Division I experience to IU but more importantly he brings a great attitude and an ability to shoot the basketball.”
Bayt is Indiana’s fifth walk-on, joining Jonny Marlin, Taylor Wayer, Jeff Howard and Raphael Smith.
Class of 2015 duo leading hot start for Paul VI Catholic
Indiana’s recruiting prowess in the DMV area has been well-established for much of Tom Crean’s tenure in Bloomington. Crean’s second recruiting class included Maurice Creek and his third included Victor Oladipo.
But more recently, IU’s efforts in the area have ramped up to a higher level with the addition of assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Kenny Johnson, a native of Oxon Hill, Maryland and formerly a high school coach (Paul VI Catholic), college assistant (Towson) and AAU director (Team Takeover) in the area.
Shortly after Johnson’s hiring in Bloomington, the Hoosiers added Stanford Robinson, another DMV area recruit, to the fold and several recruiting targets in the 2014 and 2015 classes have emerged from the area.
Two of the early 2015 targets are Paul VI Catholic duo Marcus Derrickson (pictured) and Franklin Howard. The Hoosier staff has already watched Paul VI Catholic, which is off to a 4-1 start, twice this fall.
Despite losing Robinson, who transferred to Findlay Prep in Las Vegas for his senior season, Paul VI already owns a win over Oak Hill Academy and the Panthers are up to No. 17 in the latest USA Today Super 25.
A big reason for their ascent is the play of Derrickson, a 6-foot-7, 250-pound forward with an IU offer and Howard, a versatile 6-foot-4 guard who has drawn interest from IU.
“They’re basketball junkies. There’s no question about that,” Paul VI Catholic coach Glenn Farello told Inside the Hall this week. “One of the hallmarks of the kids we have here at Paul VI is they love the game and they love to work at the game. They both kind of epitomize that, no question.”
Derrickson, who Farello says has some similarities to Kevin Love in his style of play, is averaging a team-high 15.7 points and is the No. 9 prospect nationally in his class according to ESPN.com.
“He’s willing to bang and do the dirty work down low, but also step out and shoot,” Farello said. “He’s got great range out to 23, 24 feet. He’s a tough, physical player. He was part of our team last year, a big time contributor for us last year as a freshman on a team that finished 35-3 and won a championship. He’s just a winner.”