James Blackmon Jr. Archive
After losing a lottery pick, a senior who scored more than 1,000 career points and several players via transfer, Indiana is going to look much different this winter.
And given that 60 percent of the roster is new and the Hoosiers are without a true post presence, much of the team’s offense is going to originate on the perimeter.
But change isn’t always a bad thing and in IU’s case, the roster turnover should allow Crean to avoid situations like last season when he was forced to put guys on the floor who couldn’t shoot or score with any consistency.
“Very few times do people (in the Big Ten) put players on the court that can’t make shots or aren’t bringing something to the table,” Crean said yesterday at Big Ten media day in Rosemont, Illinois. “There’s very few places to hide a guy.”
With guys like Austin Etherington, Evan Gordon and Jeremy Hollowell being replaced by James Blackmon Jr., Nick Zeisloft and Robert Johnson, the Hoosiers shouldn’t run into many scenarios where they won’t have a capable and confident shooter on the floor to go along with Yogi Ferrell, a first team all-Big Ten selection in the preseason.
With the start of college basketball season on the horizon, we’re taking a long look at the conference at large as well as Indiana’s roster this month. Today, we start our look at Indiana’s roster with James Blackmon Jr.
James Blackmon Jr.’s decision to re-open his recruitment in August of 2013 was a crippling blow at the time for Indiana. After the Hoosier staff had spent another summer tracking Blackmon Jr. around the country, the five-star guard decided he wanted to look around and assess his options.
But after two-plus months of visits, phone calls and the best efforts of some of the country’s top programs, Blackmon Jr., in front of a national television audience, announced that Indiana was the place for him.
“This was where my heart was,” Blackmon said. “I couldn’t imagine myself not playing for the fans of Indiana basketball.”
Fast forward to almost one year later and the 6-foot-4 shooting guard is preparing for his first season in Bloomington, where he’ll be expected to play a major role.
He’s already been recognized as one of the top 20 guards in the country by Sports Illustrated because of his prowess as an elite scorer and shooter. “Indiana needs shooting. Badly,” SI wrote. “Blackmon addresses scoring from the perimeter instantly as one of the best marksman among the incoming freshmen, and he’s building strength to endure the workload.”
And unlike most freshmen, Blackmon Jr. had the opportunity to get a jump start on his college career as Indiana took a five-game exhibition tour of Canada in August. The Fort Wayne native was the team’s leading scorer on the tour as he averaged 18.8 points and posted an effective field goal percentage of 65.3.
So how does Blackmon Jr.’s game translate to college?
SI.com: Ron Baker, Fred VanVleet and Harrison twins lead list of top 20 guards in college basketball
For Indiana to turn a dismaying 17-15 season into ancient history, it has to rely less on a player who averaged 17.3 points and earned second-team All-Big Ten honors. Ferrell’s assist-to-turnover ratio was a middling 1.5-to-1. A Hoosiers team that will rely heavily on perimeter production – there’s no strong post presence after Noah Vonleh left for the NBA, and the top newcomer is prized shooting guard recruit James Blackmon – can’t afford for its most experienced cog to be careless with the ball. Ideally, Blackmon’s proficiency and some improvement from wing Troy Williams can remove the do-everything pressure from Ferrell, and he can settle into playmaking mode. He’s the first Indiana player to record 120 or more assists in his first two seasons since Isiah Thomas.
With the official start of practice less than four weeks away, Inside the Hall and UMHoops have again partnered to bring you a preseason breakdown of the top 25 players in the Big Ten for the 2014-2015 season.
Our selection process involved much deliberation to arrive at a list we hope will provide plenty of reaction and debate. The series will be broken into five parts and our first installment of players 25-21 is available below:
25. Romelo Trimble, Maryland (6-foot-2, guard, freshman)
Dez Wells is the top returning player for Mark Turgeon and the Terps as the program enters the Big Ten, but an argument can be made that Trimble, a McDonald’s All-American who chose to stay close to home, is the team’s most important player. On a roster that was rocked by transfers in the offseason, Turgeon is planning to slot Trimble in as the team’s point guard after the departure of Seth Allen, who transferred to Virginia Tech. The Upper Marlboro native was a big-time scorer (23.1 ppg) in high school at Bishop O’Connell, but will need to be more of a distributor capable of running the offense as Maryland looks to bounce back from a disappointing 17-15 season.
24. Sam Thompson, Ohio State (6-foot-7, forward, senior)
24.7 mpg, 7.9 ppg, 2.7 rpg, .9 bpg, .8 apg, .7 spg, 50.9 eFG percentage
After spending his first three seasons in Columbus as a role player, Thompson should take over at the three for LaQuinton Ross, who made a questionable decision to enter the NBA draft. Thompson is the leading returning scorer for Ohio State and will need to prove he’s capable of more than just scoring off of dunks as the Buckeyes lost a ton of production with the departures of Ross, Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith. With increased minutes and slight improvement in areas like free throws and 3-point shooting, Thompson should be able to expand into a double-digit scorer to go along with his impact on the defensive end, the calling card for Ohio State under Thad Matta.
With the start of the fall semester underway and less than five weeks until the official start of practice, it’s time to begin looking ahead to the 2014-2015 season.
Today, we begin our Big Ten preview with a look at five freshmen, listed in no particular order, who could make the biggest impact next season.
D’Angelo Russell, Ohio State, guard — It’s not easy for freshmen to crack the starting lineup in Columbus, but the 6-foot-5 Russell, a Louisville native and McDonald’s All-American, looks poised to do just that. The Buckeyes lost Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr. to graduation and have Shannon Scott and Sam Thompson returning on the perimeter. While Scott may be the best perimeter defender in the Big Ten and Thompson is an elite athlete and finisher, neither is known for scoring. That’s where Russell, the highest ranked incoming Big Ten recruit, should make an impact from day one. With his size, athleticism and versatility, Russell is dangerous off the dribble and in transition and is also a capable shooter from distance.
Romelo Trimble, Maryland, guard — Mark Turgeon lost a large chunk of his roster in the offseason via transfers, but welcomes a strong recruiting class led by Trimble, a McDonald’s All-American guard from nearby Upper Marlboro. The departure of point guard Seth Allen, who transferred to Virginia Tech, means that the 6-foot-2 Trimble is likely to take over in the backcourt immediately and play alongside Dez Wells, the team’s leading returning scorer. A prolific scorer in the prep ranks at Bishop O’Connell, Turgeon will need Trimble to play more facilitator than go-to scorer in his rookie season. The Terps are one of the tougher teams to forecast this season in the Big Ten as they had so much offseason turnover, but much of their success will rest squarely on the shoulders of Trimble.
Welcome to “Montreal rewind,” our player-by-player recap from Indiana’s five-game tour of Canada. Today: James Blackmon Jr. Previously: Nick Zeisloft, Devin Davis, Troy Williams, Yogi Ferrell, Robert Johnson, Stanford Robinson.
A theme of our Montreal rewind series has been Indiana’s retooled backcourt and the most important piece of it showed in Canada that he’s ready to be a major contributor as a freshman.
James Blackmon Jr., who committed to Indiana before his freshman season of high school, later de-committed and then committed again last fall, stepped into a Hoosier uniform for the first time and immediately began doing what he does best: scoring.
Lauded as one of the top shooters in the country, Blackmon Jr. averaged a team-high 18.8 points in IU’s five-game tour of Canada.
Efficiency was a big part of his game on the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL) circuit and at Marion and his first performances as a college player were no different. The 6-foot-4 guard posted an effective field goal percentage of 65.3 and hit 13 of his 15 free throw attempts.
Most impressive about how Blackmon Jr. played on the trip was the variety of ways in which he scored and the fact that he didn’t force many shots. He hit nine 3-pointers over the five games, showed a solid midrange game and floater and also got to the basket in the halfcourt and in transition.
Indiana’s five-game tour of Montreal and Ottawa wrapped on Wednesday afternoon and the Hoosiers returned home to Bloomington with a 4-1 record, much needed experience and plenty to work on before the start of practice.
Inside the Hall was there for each of the five exhibition games and you can read all of our coverage from the trip at this link. But with so much to digest in such a short period of time, our coverage from the trip is not done.
Here’s a look at five takeaways from what we saw in Canada:
· It’s early, but the first vibe from this team is a positive one: One thing I tried to do with each of the games was not turn them into a bigger deal than what they actually were. It’s August, the competition was up (Ottawa and Carleton) and down (McGill, Laval and UQAM) and the game is different with FIBA rules.
That said, there just already seems to be a cohesiveness forming with this group that I never observed last season. That’s not to say that chemistry was the overriding issue with Indiana a season ago, but there’s value in having a group of players who genuinely like each other on and off the court.
Following Indiana’s final win in Montreal, both Troy Williams and Robert Johnson talked about the chemistry and how it’s coming along so far.
“Off the court, anyone can hang out with anyone,” Williams explained. “I can hang out with Stan (Robinson) and Devin (Davis) one day and then the next day I could hang out with Jeremiah (April) and Tim (Priller). We all get along with each other so well.”
“I think it is coming along really good,” Johnson said. “From day one, whenever we went out and did different things, we always did it as a team. From what they tell me, last year it wasn’t always like that, so from that standpoint it is good and it has helped bring us together even more.”