James Blackmon Jr. Archive

Blackmon Jr., Ferrell make list of Sports Illustrated’s top 20 guards

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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.

Big Ten’s top 25 players: 25-21

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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)
McDonald’s All-American

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.

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2014-2015 Big Ten preview: Five impact freshmen

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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.

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Montreal rewind: James Blackmon Jr.

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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.

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Five takeaways from Indiana’s tour of Canada

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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.” 

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Film Session: Offensive options

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Due to FIBA rules, a 24-second shot clock and a whirlwind set of five games, drawing concrete conclusions about these 2014-2015 Hoosiers isn’t wise.

Still, the vibe is decidedly different from the disappointment of a year ago. New faces are in place. They’re hanging out a lot — and even staying present with each other during bus rides home instead of staring at their smartphones.

And so if a theme emerged from the Montréal trip, it’s this: Trust is building — both on the court and off it. On offense, no longer does Yogi Ferrell have to do it all. There are better ball handlers, playmakers and 3-point shooters up and down this roster. Move the ball, make the extra pass, play together and for each other. That’s the key. Because the potential for offense variety is vast; this group of perimeter players can mix and match all over the court.

In a special Montréal edition of Film Session thanks to the livestream against McGill, we’ll look at all this starting to take shape:

After a Robert Johnson missed 3-pointer from the right wing, Troy Williams blows past the McGill defenders to grab the rebound, going from the weak to strong side to grab the board:

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Williams throws a hesitation dribble at the McGill defender:

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The Minute After: UQAM

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MONTREAL — Thoughts on a 109-77 win over the University of Quebec at Montreal:

Indiana’s five-game trip through Canada came to an end on Wednesday afternoon and in a lot of ways, the game felt much like the first game of the trip for the Hoosiers.

The opponent had little in terms of size, IU was clearly the more athletic and talented team and once it took control, there was little doubt as to what the result would be.

Still, there were positives to draw out of the effort, particularly when you consider this team was playing its fifth game in six days.

The bounce back effort of Robert Johnson, who went scoreless on Tuesday, is near the top of the list. The freshman guard from Richmond (Va.) finished with 17 points, hit all four of his 3-point attempts and also added five rebounds, four assists and three steals. In his postgame comments, Tom Crean mentioned that he didn’t even realize that Johnson failed to score on Tuesday because he was contributing in other facets of the game.

Devin Davis also had a strong final effort on the glass, corralling a team-high 10 rebounds in 17 minutes off the bench. While Davis wasn’t consistent with his rebounding totals on the trip, he’s definitely worked on his body in the offseason and seems more comfortable when he catches the ball near the block. While he’s still undersized, the added strength should allow Davis to hold his own as he role continues to grow.

Troy Williams was also outstanding on this afternoon with a team-high 21 points, seven rebounds and four assists and said one of the reasons he’s more comfortable right now than he was last season is that his left hand is completely healthy. Crean has talked a lot on this trip about getting his team to understand that it’s often better to just make the simple play and Williams, with his elite athleticism, is a great example for a player where this should be the focus.

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