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 coach Tom Crean believes that Blackmon Jr. is going to help the Hoosiers not only as a scorer, but also as a guy who can set the table for his teammates.
“He has such a gift of scoring and shooting and feel for the game that his passing will get better,” Crean said. “His decision-making will get better but his ball-handling and explosion game has to continue to get better. You are seeing flashes of it, but you aren’t seeing it where it needs to be with the ball yet. But that will come and it will be pretty impressive when it does.”
Blackmon Jr., who chose to commit to Indiana over offers from Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville, Michigan, Michigan State and North Carolina, said the opportunity to play both guard positions was a big reason he came to Bloomington.
“I thought that was one of the reasons I thought I should come here,” he explained. “He’s going to push me even to play the point guard, I can show that here.”
With Blackmon Jr., Nick Zeisloft, Stanford Robinson, Troy Williams and Robert Johnson to go along with Yogi Ferrell, the Hoosiers will have one of the league’s top perimeter units in terms of both shooting and playmakers off the dribble.
“What I’ve been trying to get across to these guys is that the harder we run, the more we run for layups – and if it’s not there, get to the corners – the better our offense is going to be,” Crean said. “We knew it was going to happen, it’s going to continue to happen all throughout the year – you have to guard the corners this year.
“You had to guard them the couple years we had the 50-plus wins and with those teams you had to guard the corners every game. You didn’t have to guard the corners last year for 3’s, you had to guard for back-cuts, now you have to guard it for everything. That just increases our ability to do so many different things on offense.”