James Blackmon Jr. returning to Indiana for junior season
After testing the NBA draft waters, James Blackmon Jr. has decided he’s not yet ready to take the next step in his career.
Inside the Hall has confirmed that the 6-foot-4 guard and former McDonald’s All-American will return to Bloomington for his junior season.
Blackmon Jr. played in 13 games last season for the Hoosiers before suffering a season ending right knee ACL injury two days before IU’s Big Ten opener at Rutgers.
Without Blackmon Jr., Indiana won 17 of its next 22 games and captured its second outright Big Ten regular season championship in four season.
The Hoosiers beat Chattanooga and Kentucky in the 2016 NCAA tournament before falling to eventual national runner-up North Carolina in the east region semifinal in Philadelphia.
Had he opted to remain the NBA draft, he was expected to go undrafted as he recovers from a third surgery since 2012.
As a sophomore at Fort Wayne Luers, Blackmon Jr. suffered a torn ACL in his left knee and in the summer of 2015, he underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus.
He said earlier this month that this injury has been the toughest to deal with of the three.
“It was a huge low point for me,” he told Moritz Sports in a radio interview. “Probably the hardest injury I’ve ever had to overcome. But I’m getting through it and everything looks up from here. I’m just staying positive through it all.”
In 46 career games, the Marion product has averaged 15.7 points on 43.6 percent shooting and five rebounds per game.
His decision to return is a major coup for Indiana, which will need to replace the perimeter scoring vacated by Yogi Ferrell and Nick Zeisloft.
Blackmon Jr. is expected to be a major part of Indiana’s backcourt rotation next season, a group that will also include Robert Johnson, Josh Newkirk, Curtis Jones and Devonte Green.
He said recently he’s at about 75 percent health as he continues to rehab.
“The doctors told me six months would be coming back fast,” Blackmon Jr. told Moritz Sports. “I’m at four months and I’ve been working so hard at the rehab and doing a lot extra. So I’m at four months and I feel really good. I’m not going to rush anything back or try to come back too fast.”
Indiana to host North Carolina in Big Ten/ACC Challenge
Indiana will host North Carolina in the 2016 Big Ten/ACC Challenge, ESPN announced on Tuesday afternoon. The matchup was first reported on Monday by CBSSports.com.
The two teams will meet at Assembly Hall on Wednesday, November 30.
The Tar Heels and Hoosiers met in the 2016 NCAA tournament East region semifinal in Philadelphia in March. North Carolina beat Indiana 101-86 and advanced all of the way to the national championship game, where it fell to Villanova.
North Carolina will return a strong nucleus that will include Kennedy Meeks, Justin Jackson, Isaiah Hicks, Theo Pinson and Joel Berry.
“Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige are gone, but feast your eyes on everyone who’s coming back for another season in Chapel Hill: Joel Berry, Justin Jackson, Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks, Theo Pinson and Nate Britt,” Gasaway wrote. “You can also throw in top-20 freshman Tony Bradley for good measure. That’ll do — assuming of course that the NCAA’s long-running investigation into alleged paper classes at UNC doesn’t decree otherwise.”
Indiana hosted North Carolina in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge on Nov. 27, 2012 and won, 83-59.
Other Big Ten/ACC Challenge matchups include:
– Michigan State at Duke
– Syracuse at Wisconsin
– Purdue at Louisville
– Ohio State at Virginia
– Virginia Tech at Michigan
– Georgia Tech at Penn State
– Wake Forest at Northwestern
– Rutgers at Miami
– Minnesota at Florida State
– Nebraska at Clemson
– Pittsburgh at Maryland
– North Carolina State at Illinois
– Iowa at Notre Dame
Other known non-conference opponents for Indiana next season include IPFW (in Fort Wayne), Kansas (at Pearl Harbor), Louisville (neutral court) and Butler (neutral court).
To stay or to go: Breaking down the impact of Williams, Blackmon Jr. NBA decisions
The deadline to withdraw from the NBA draft is Wednesday, May 25, which means we’ll know in the next 72 hours whether Troy Williams and James Blackmon Jr. will return to Indiana next season.
Here’s a look at the impact of each decision for Indiana’s outlook next season:
If he stays: Regardless of how much you believe in OG Anunoby taking the next step in his development as a sophomore, the return of Williams makes Indiana’s frontline even more dangerous next winter. Yes, his decision making is questionable at times and he’ll have games where he’s a no-show (at Michigan State last season), but there are also times when Williams can take over a game by attacking the basket relentlessly.
Many have anointed Indiana a top 10 or top 15 with or without Williams next season, but Indiana has more upside with him on the roster. A third team All-Big Ten selection as a junior, Williams would likely enter the season as one of the Big Ten’s 10 best players with a chance to show he can lead a team as an upperclassman.
If he goes: If Williams stays in the draft, Anunoby morphing into an all-league type of player and solid production from De’Ron Davis and Juwan Morgan will be a necessity for the Hoosiers. Anunoby has shown he can play at a high level, but he also struggled against North Carolina in the NCAA tournament, so he’s no sure thing to be as productive as Williams.
Indiana would also be without one of its best playmakers with the ball and a guy who can create a shot for himself, even if he is turnover prone at times. The rebounding presence vacated by Williams, the team’s best defensive rebounder from a percentage standpoint, would also have to be replaced.
James Blackmon Jr.
If he stays: Blackmon Jr. was averaging 15.8 points and shooting 46.3 percent on 3s as the time of his injury last season, which are two numbers that are unlikely to be duplicated by anyone else in IU’s backcourt. With the loss of Yogi Ferrell to graduation, Indiana needs a backcourt player who can create offense and if healthy, Blackmon Jr. is the best option on the roster to step forward. He’s not a point guard, but he can handle the ball capably enough to spend some time there and can also get his shot in late shot clock situations.
His defense obviously needs work, but after watching his teammates win the Big Ten title last season because of their improved work on that end of the floor, Blackmon Jr. surely knows he’ll have to step up the production on that end of the floor. If he’s back, it also allows Indiana to bring freshmen Curtis Jones and Devonte Green along at a slower pace as Blackmon Jr., Robert Johnson and Josh Newkirk should start the season as main cogs in the backcourt.
If he goes: Indiana loses its best backcourt scorer and will need Johnson to become a much bigger part of the offense. The Hoosiers will also have to rely more on Jones, a top 50 recruit and perhaps Green as well.
The backcourt scoring piece, however, is the key. Indiana is already losing Yogi Ferrell, so losing Blackmon Jr. would make the Hoosiers a much more frontcourt oriented team with less perimeter shooting. Tom Crean’s best teams in Bloomington have struck a solid balance between scoring up front and in the backcourt, but this group would likely be counting on Thomas Bryant to score 17 or 18 a game in the scenario that Blackmon Jr. departs.
Around the Hall: Ferrell “the fighter”, NBA decisions, more
Around the Hall is recommended reading from the Inside the Hall staff.
As for the coaches’ pitch about his senior year propelling him into the NBA, well, when Ferrell didn’t get invited to the league’s Chicago Combine, suffice it to say the Indiana staff was surprised.
“In today’s age, kids who meet expectations kind of get overlooked sometimes,” IU assistant Chuck Martin said. “Yogi is one of them. He was supposed to be good, he is good, he’s going to continue to be good. There’s no shock value in that. He gets hurt for it.”
Ferrell was disappointed about not getting to go to Chicago, but he understood. And he’s used it as motivation.
“I understand that they wanted to evaluate some of the younger guys, guys they haven’t seen as much,” Ferrell said. “So yes, that’s a little bit of extra motivation for me. I want to show NBA teams my ability, and show them I was definitely one of the guys who deserved to go to the combine.”
The Big Ten generated $448.8 million in revenue during 2014-15, a 32-percent increase over one year for college sports’ second-wealthiest conference behind the SEC.
In the first year with Maryland and Rutgers as members — coinciding with the debut of the College Football Playoff — the Big Ten took in $110 million more than in 2013-14, according to tax records provided Wednesday to CBS Sports. The league paid its 11 longstanding members about $32.4 million each.
That’s on par with the SEC’s payout of $32.7 million and considerably more than the Pac-12 ($25.1 million) and Big 12 ($23.3 million). The SEC generated $527.4 million in revenue last year. The ACC is the only major conference yet to release its tax records.
Why he’ll stay in draft: Williams already has his degree and had a major hand in bringing Indiana back to respectability. The Hoosiers didn’t play in the NCAA Tournament when Williams was a freshman and he’ll be remembered in Bloomington for having a significant role in a Big Ten regular season title and an NCAA Tournament win over Kentucky. The 6-7 forward is a freak athlete that has an NBA body with gifts from God. There’s almost no chance he goes undrafted for that very reason.
2. Indiana Hoosiers
Assume for the sake of discussion that coach Tom Crean is correct, and Troy Williams really is going to take a stab at professional ball now rather than later. I still like Indiana at No. 2 here. The Hoosiers are unlikely to shoot as well as they did in Big Ten play last season (when they hit 54 percent of their 2s and 40 percent of their 3s), but on the plus side, they should find it relatively easy to turn the ball over less than they did in 2015-16. Perhaps even far less — call that a wash.
Video: “Beyond the game” with Devonte Green
Via BeyondTheGame on YouTube, get to know class of 2016 Long Island Lutheran High School guard and Indiana signee Devonte Green:
Breakout candidates in 2016-2017 for each Big Ten team
With plenty of roster turnover and guys leaving early for the NBA in the Big Ten, 2016-17 could be a year of transition for the conference.
It should also be a season of opportunity for players to take on bigger roles. Here’s a look at a potential breakout candidate for each Big Ten team for the 2016-17 season:
(Note: We only considered players who are returning from last season who played less than 50% of available minutes. We also considered redshirted players or players who sat out last season as transfers.)
· Illinois – Leron Black: Injuries and legal troubles defined Black’s sophomore season in Champaign, but there’s no denying his talent as a former top 50 recruit. At 6-foot-7 and 220 pounds, he’s a versatile four-man who can step out and also crash the glass hard. He’s suspended for the first six games of next season (two are exhibitions), but if he’s anywhere near 100 percent with his health, he’s a player to watch for the Illini in an important season for John Groce’s future.
· Indiana – OG Anunoby: Anunoby was excellent in a backup role as a freshman in Bloomington, but should be in line for more minutes and increased production next winter. He’s an incredible athlete who showed that he can step out and hit 3s and also defend at a high level. He’s already being discussed as a player who could have a chance to leave for the NBA after next season, but to get there, he’ll need to prove he can continue to have success in a more prominent role.
· Iowa – Ahmad Wagner: The Hawkeyes lost four starters, so opportunity won’t be an issue in Iowa City. As a freshman, Wagner made over 70 percent of his 2s and got to the foul line at a ridiculous clip (80.4 free throw rate). He struggled once he got there (51.4 percent), but on a team that is going to need scoring, Wagner should get opportunities to take on a much more prominent role for Fran McCaffery.
· Maryland – Jared Nickens: After coming off of the bench for his first two seasons in College Park, Nickens should be a fixture in Maryland’s starting lineup next season. He’s a high volume 3-point shooter (147 attempts as a sophomore) that needs to add other ways to score to his game to keep defenses honest. But with Jake Layman and Robert Carter gone, Nickens will get every chance to shine for the Terps.
· Michigan – Moritz Wagner: The German big man showed flashes of his potential as a freshman, but never really put things together consistently enough to carve out a significant role for the Wolverines. That should change as a sophomore. Wagner made over 70 percent of his 2s last season and with Ricky Doyle and Kameron Chatman transferring, he’ll be a key piece for the Wolverines.
· Michigan State – Matt McQuaid: The Spartans have a lot of 3-point shooting to replace with the graduation of Denzel Valentine and Bryn Forbes, but McQuaid should be able to fill some of the void. He hit close to 41 percent from deep as a freshman and while he may still find himself coming off the bench next season, if Michigan State’s freshmen have growing pains, Tom Izzo won’t hesitate to turn to McQuaid.
· Minnesota – Dupree McBrayer: Reggie Lynch, a transfer from Illinois State, probably would have landed in this spot, but a recent arrest has clouded his future in Minneapolis. McBrayer was underwhelming as a freshman and was one of three players suspended for his involvement in a sex tape that was released on social media. However, he averaged a respectable 8.7 points, 3.5 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 1.5 steals during an 11-game stretch in Big Ten play.
· Nebraska – Anton Gill: A former top 60 recruit who struggled to stay in the rotation at Louisville, Gill sat out last season in Lincoln as a transfer. It’s no secret that the Cornhuskers need talent to have a chance to climb back into the thick of the Big Ten race and the left handed guard is an athletic slasher that can get into the paint. He shooting needs some work, but if he’s given more freedom than he was at Louisville, Gill should be able to shine for Tim Miles.
· Northwestern – Vic Law: Law missed his entire sophomore season with a shoulder injury, which was a significant blow to the Wildcats given his talent and athleticism. A former four-star recruit, Law can play multiple positions and adding him to the rotation should make Northwestern much more versatile in the frontcourt. As the highest rated recruit to ever commit to the program, a big season from Law will go a long way in helping the Wildcats reach postseason play.
· Ohio State – Trevor Thompson: Thompson is the default option here because of all of the attrition in Columbus. He tested the NBA waters, without a combine invite, before opting to return for his junior season. Thompson was a solid shot blocker and rebounder last season for the Buckeyes. But in order to reach his potential, he needs to make both of those things his focus and make a living offensively with offensive rebounding. He’s not skilled enough to command the ball in post-up situations, but has the talent to make an impact as a defensive presence in the paint.
· Penn State – Mike Watkins: Watkins missed his entire freshman season in State College because he wasn’t cleared by the NCAA, but he’s a former four-star recruit that should be in line for plenty of minutes this season. Jordan Dickerson and Brandon Taylor both graduated, paving the way for Watkins to carve out a major role right away. The highest rated big man to commit to Penn State under Pat Chambers, Watkins is a major piece in the talent infusion that should help the Nittany Lions make a jump up in the league standings next season.
· Purdue – Isaac Haas: A.J. Hammons is gone, which means Haas is now the main man in the middle for the Boilermakers. Will his conditioning be at the level it needs to be at to handle more minutes? If so, he should continue to be able to dominate games for stretches while on the floor. He could stand to improve at finishing around the rim (59.4 percent on 2s), but at 7-foot-2, there aren’t many teams who can guard him straight up.
· Rutgers – Deshawn Freeman: Rutgers is under new leadership with the hiring of Steve Pikiell and with that comes a clean slate for Freeman, who spent last season both injured and suspended. When he was on the floor last season, Freeman averaged 13.1 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. As Pikiell begins the rebuild of Rutgers, Freeman is one of his most talented pieces.
· Wisconsin – Andy Van Vliet: The Badgers have excelled with plenty of big men who have sat out their first season and Van Vliet, a Belgium native, might be the next in line. At 6-foot-11, Van Vliet can reportedly shoot it from outside and drew strong praise from Greg Gard this past season. Opportunity may be more limited in Madison with a strong returning group of players, but it could be hard to keep Van Vliet off the floor with his size and skill.
Roundup: Transfers a major topic of discussion at Big Ten meetings
The annual Big Ten meetings are taking place this week in Chicago near O’Hare Airport and the league’s men’s basketball coaches are in attendance as usual.
Here’s a look at some of the coverage that has come out of the meetings, which will wrap up later today:
While no course of action was decided upon, coaches and administrators generally agreed that the transfer situation has spiraled out of control, especially with graduate transfers who are immediately eligible at their new schools.
“It’s a vicious cycle,” Northwestern coach Chris Collins said. “Where we’re headed is ultimately free agency, and that’s not a good thing.”
As the rule stands now, athletes who transfer from one Division I school to another must sit out one season before playing again.
But some athletes apply for immediate eligibility because of medical or family hardship or a coaching change. Also, athletes who graduate in four years can move to a different school and pursue a master’s degree with immediate playing eligibility.
Some coaches want change.
“My personal feeling,’’ Nebraska coach Tim Miles said, “and a lot of the Big Ten coaches feel the same way, is that no matter who you are, transfers should sit out a year. It makes it an academic process.
“Anytime you have an immediately eligible transfer, it promotes free agency. I don’t think that climate is positive for anybody.’’
This always has to be only about the players — at least in how it’s presented. It’s the only chance coaches and administrators have of slowing down this runaway train, or at least preventing it from blowing up the sport as we know it. That’s the direction college basketball is headed, a discussion that’s soon to be had — the notion transfers should never have to sit.
“That would just disrupt everything,” Crean said.
If it happens, Izzo has said, he won’t stick around to see it.
Most men’s basketball coaches who spoke Tuesday kept a stiff upper lip about Fox and its cable channel Fox Sports 1 (FS1), which has struggled in the ratings. FS1 carries Big East basketball and averaged just 96,000 on the network (national champion Villanova calls the Big East home, by the way). Last year, the Big Ten averaged 1.2 million viewers for basketball games on ESPN.
“I think it’s been (ESPN) a great partner for the conference,” Northwestern basketball coach Chris Collins said. “I think it’s provided a lot of great exposure, but I have all of the confidence in Commissioner Delany. He’s already shown with BTN and a lot of the moves that were made that maybe people thought might not be the best ended up being great for the league. It’s hard for me or any of us to argue his leadership on what he thinks might be best for the exposure of the league. I think we’re all aboard. I think he’s given us great assurances that everything that’s going to be done is going to be for the best of the conference and best for the exposure of this product.”
Athletic directors gathered at the Big Ten headquarters for meetings this week said the topic has not been discussed.
It’s a sharp contrast from the Big 12, where presidents are considering expansion from 10 teams. The league is mulling whether adding two more members, splitting into divisions and playing a football championship game will increase its revenue and chances of participating in the College Football Playoff.
“We have other things that we’re focused on,” Nebraska AD Shawn Eichorst said. “The stability is terrific, that’s for sure.”
In this edition of the show, Morris and Inside the Hall editor Alex Bozich are joined by Eric Crawford, a sports journalist at WDRB in Louisville who covers Louisville, Indiana and Kentucky and attended the NBA draft combine in Chicago.
Among the topics discussed:
· Impressions of Troy Williams at the NBA draft combine
· Troy’s defense and whether it’s NBA ready
· Whether the NBA is less favorable to seniors
· Indiana’s ceiling next season with Williams and without him
· Yogi Ferrell’s future in the NBA and why he’s looked at less favorably than some of the other smaller guards in the draft
· The atmosphere of the NBA combine
· The rule change this year of testing the waters and whether it’s good for college basketball
· Whether OG Anunoby would have stood out at the combine
Former Indiana point guard and All-American Yogi Ferrell is beginning to workout for NBA teams this week after being snubbed for the draft combine over the weekend in Chicago.
Ferrell was also recently a guest on the Chris Mannix Show on NBC Sports Radio and discussed a variety of topics, including mock drafts, his senior season in Bloomington, not being invited to Chicago, whether college athletes should be paid and much more.
A full transcript of Ferrell’s comments is available below:
On the last time he looked at a mock draft:
“I’d say probably two years ago. I don’t really get into that stuff. I haven’t even paid attention to all of the NBA boards.”
On whether it is hard to avoid looking at mock drafts given their prevalence:
“I feel like some of the mock drafts are people’s assumptions. I’d say the lottery, those guys are normally locked in. But from there on out, it can be assumptions, maybe different guys, people they’ve talked to. I feel like it’s always up for grabs.
“The only people that know are the teams, that’s about it.”
On if his friends or family members tell him about the different mock drafts:
“I get that a little bit. Them telling me that they’ve looked at all of the mock drafts and tell me where I’m going to go. It happens.”
On how strongly he considered coming out of school following his junior season:
“To begin with, I’d say it was pretty strong. That’s why I took up as much time as I did, to figure out whether or not it was a great choice for me to go or come back to school. As time went on, the process went on and I got feedback from all of the teams where they projected me, basically. And as time went on, I was swayed back to coming back to IU. I felt like that was one of the best decisions I made.”
On what brought him back to Indiana for his senior season:
“I just thought it was the class we had coming in. I had met those guys, had a strong connection with them and I could see how hard they were working. I felt like we could make a jump, especially from last year, from my junior year to my senior year, a jump in our play and our ability. I felt strongly about that. Coach (Tom) Crean and I was talking to the coaches, they really wanted me to come back and felt like I could do a lot of things for this university and me going in here and breaking a lot of records, leaving as a four-year player, it was a good choice.”
On if he’s glad he came back looking back on it:
“100 percent. I am glad I came back, definitely.”
On what he will miss the most about college:
“I’d probably just say my teammates. I know how it is at the next level. It’s all about business. In college, it’s more of a business and a little bit of fun to it. I’ll just miss my teammates, playing with them, playing those home and away games. Especially playing at home, Assembly Hall. Playing there is just one of the greatest feelings ever with the best fans in the country. I’d say just the whole aspect of basketball.”
On what he won’t miss about college:
“I would have to say those long practices. They get to you, especially me being there for four years. But those long practices get a little shorter when you’re winning. You win games, coach cuts practice to an hour and a half or two hours instead of going three and a half every day.”
On whether that’s how Crean operates: lose and it’s a long practice or win and it’s cut shorter:
“You could kind of say so, basically. Which I would understand that. Coming off of a loss, you don’t want a short practice and acting like everything is OK. You gotta go into practice, fix everything you need to fix, get better at different things. So I can understand his reasoning behind doing that.”
On whether he thinks college players should be compensated beyond getting a scholarship:
“Yeah, I’d say so. Probably a little bit of a stipend. I’ve kind of looked into it a little bit and I think student-athletes have two jobs with school and basketball, just the amount of hours they put in each week. But on the other side, to play the devil’s advocate, a scholarship is an opportunity to play at the highest D1 level against some of the best competition, free education, which other students can’t get. So it’s an opportunity. So I can kind of see that. But I think probably a little bit, student-athletes need a stipend to just help them along the way.”
On if it bugged him that he wasn’t invited to the draft combine:
“Yeah. I didn’t get invited and a lot of people were shocked. I did everything I could, sent in my form and got an email back saying that I wasn’t invited. I didn’t get down on myself, though, I feel like. I’m not discouraged by it or thinking that this is basically the end for me. After talking to a lot of guys, like my coaches and my agent and they feel like I should have been in there just with the different people that they’ve talked to. I’m not down by it, I’m still just getting my workouts in right now and getting ready for these NBA workouts. I just want show them that basically, I should have been invited and show them my ability.”
On the feedback he’s received about his draft prospects:
“My agent has told me great things. I’ve got a lot of workouts coming up. At the end of the day, I’ll probably have up to 20 workouts. 18 to 20. So I’m going to be flying all over the country doing these (workouts) and my agent said they’re very high on me. I just got to go in there, show I can shoot the ball, I got to have great conditioning, which I’ve been working on since the season was over with and I feel like I’m ready for it.”
On what he’s trying to work on or polish before the workouts:
“Definitely shooting. With me being, I guess you could say, one of the shorter guys, we’ve got to bring a little something extra to the table. With that being said, guys like me, my height, we’ve got to be able to knock down jump shots. Another thing is being able to play the entire game if we have to. Conditioning has got to be right, got to have our defenses down, defenses right, getting that and just going out there and being a leader.”
Video: Troy Williams talks to reporters at NBA draft combine
Indiana junior forward Troy Williams met with reporters on Thursday and Friday at the NBA draft combine in Chicago and discussed a variety of topics, including his upcoming decision on whether he’ll remain in the draft, what he’s heard from NBA teams and much more.
Watch clips from three different media sessions with Williams below: