Blackmon Jr. gets NBA feedback, opts to return for sophomore season

  • 04/23/2015 5:04 pm in

Not long ago, James Blackmon Jr. had a meeting with Indiana coach Tom Crean.

It started as a discussion about the Indiana freshman’s chances at being selected in the 2015 NBA draft. It ended with Blackmon Jr. leaving straight for the gym.

On Thursday afternoon, Crean and Blackmon Jr. sat together once again, this time in the Assembly Hall press room. The 6-foot-4 guard made his announcement public. He would be returning to Indiana for his sophomore year.

“It was just positive and negative things for me, but the greatest thing about that was I could see what I need to get better at,” Blackmon Jr. said. “Every day you look forward to being there (in the NBA). But right here, I love it at Indiana and this is a place where I can just get better every day and for the long run I’ll be ready for.”

After a freshman season in which Blackmon Jr. averaged 15.7 points and 5.3 rebounds per game, he chose to explore his NBA draft options with Crean.

As with any player, Crean said he made it a priority to get feedback from those with real insights — the decision-makers, the general managers and coaches of certain NBA teams. Forget NBA draft boards, he said. The only opinions that matter were those from who would be deciding Blackmon Jr.’s future.

“All you want to do is make sure you’re giving them every bit of factual information you can get,” Crean said. “You give them real insight. You try to take opinions out of it, including your own, but when you’re his coach, you better have proper insights.”

Throughout that process, Blackmon Jr. heard what he needed to hear. He recalled NBA teams saying that they like his athleticism and his ability to score.

But beyond that, he said he didn’t remember much else about what NBA teams liked about him.

“I just remember the negatives more than the positives,” he said.

Above all in that process, he found out NBA teams want to see him play better defense — both on the ball and off the ball. He felt he could improve his leadership and his strength.

But he also mentioned the importance of showing improved point guard skills next season — an aspect Crean further harped on, unprompted.

“He’s got to become even more of an initiator,” Crean said. “Initiator doesn’t mean a facilitator. An initiator means initiating what’s there offensively — whether it’s a shot, a drive, a next pass, a cross-court pass, pick and roll, whatever it is, and continue to understand how to play off what the defense is giving you.”

As Blackmon Jr. announced his return to Indiana, there was no regret. In fact, he said hearing the NBA feedback “made me want to work even harder.”

Crean noted when Blackmon Jr. leaves, he wants it to be when he will make an impact and be a contributor at the next level.

“That’s what the separator becomes,” Crean said.

And Blackmon Jr. is at peace with that. He knows he can make a difference at Indiana next season. It’s something he already is looking forward to.

“I’m going to be playing with a great team,” he said. “We have a huge chance to do something great this year. I definitely looked at that, and the teammates I have push me every day. I want to be a part of that.”

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  • JWaltFTW

    I really do think he’ll become a much better player next year. His dream is to play in the NBA, and he obviously wants that to happen. He has the talent, he just needs to utilize it better. Hearing that he does the talent to make it should motivate him.

  • ForeverIU

    James is obviously being groomed to be our next point guard. We go to a 2-guard line-up next year, and we will be great.

  • John Prichard

    I really hope he works on his defense. No way he is ready for NBA.

  • Shaggy_C

    I hope other potential NBA prospects out there understand the importance that Crean puts into getting his players face time with real decision-makers from the league…

  • oldiugymnast

    I guess you and I differ on the definition of “obviously.” The only obviously I got was that JBJ obviously needs to improve his skills at point.

  • ForeverIU

    I believe Yogi is leaving, so obviously he is being groomed for the point. Although I think I prefer Robert for the role.

  • oldiugymnast

    I got that. I just want you to admit that you are basing this highly suspect belief on…. nothing at all – or just rumors and innuendo. By all accounts – including Yogi and his Mom’s twitters, he hasn’t decided and won’t make his decision until tomorrow.

  • cooper

    This was the only decision to make. He isn’t strong enough for the NBA yet. He probably does need to become a PG which is a good idea. He could be a kyrie Irving type. Problem will be he has to play much much better defense.

    I assume Ferrell will go pro. His I watch the NBA as a student, not a fan comment was enough for me. Don’t see it happening but maybe he will have a pro career.

  • ForeverIU

    You so much want him to stay, don’t you? I have released myself from my Yogi addiction, lol! I actually thought Yogi would stay until we offered Mychal Mulder.

  • TomJameson

    I think Mulder is going to UK … I think Yogi is staying … If I’m wrong on the latter then RJ will be the “official” point, but JBJ will play some also, as will Troy. If I’m wrong only on the former, then we can use the extra guard because we’re going to be pressing more and we could use the extra guard.

    Then there’s a lot of “if this, then that’s” going on … LOL

  • TomJameson

    He stated that was a priority, so I have no doubt that is what he will do.

  • ForeverIU

    Regardless of where Mulder goes, it’s the fact that we offered him that is relevant to our discussion.

    And here’s my longer answer, admittedly based on wishful thinking:

    CTC wants to move away from small ball and to a mostly 2-guard line-up: James and Robert. With Nick coming in to remind opponents that we still deserve respect from behind the arc.

    But we still need a guard in a supporting role, and thus offers like Mychal Mulder.

    Thomas Bryant alone will not be the answer for our inside game. If we depend on him too much he will burn out. We need Hanner and Emmitt to play alongside him, with Jeremiah putting in some minutes.

    If Yogi leaves, I think we will have one or two more transfers, one to accommodate a supporting guard such as Mulder (or his equivalent), and another to accommodate a star player such as Thon, if he commits.

  • IUfanforever

    Whew that’s a relief that James is coming back….lol this is not even close….he wouldn’t even be a 3rd round draft choice this year. He will be 1st rounder in 1-2 years from now. Yogi is on the bubble….he is a late 2nd rounder at best….but IMHO would still be a mistake for him. Next year Yogi could be a late 1st rounder. Wow what are these players thinking? The worst teams in the NBA ,JBJ and Yogi could not make the rosters next year. That would include the Knicks.

  • IUBizmark

    Could the Mulder offer be contingent upon Yogi leaving? I ask because I thought the same as you, then thought Yogi was leaving when we offered Mulder. But then I considered that the Mulder offer was only a safe guard in case Yogi leaves.

  • IU Hossiers # 34, 1979-83

    JBJ, Thanks for being an I player. My family and fellow I alumni are grateful that not only are you here this season,,,,,, but you are coming back for another. Relax, next year at this time you will be glad you did this. Rock on IU! Final Four next season.

  • IU Hossiers # 34, 1979-83

    IU not I.

  • TomJameson

    Forever, Everybody’s speculation is base on wishful thinking at this point. LOL
    I believe that CTC will go to a more traditional lineup as well, but mostly because the one year (last year of course) that he did the “small ball” was by necessity because that’s what IU had. But, he still will play a little of that “positional less” ball.

    I think the guards will all be able to dribble, drive, and shoot. Yogi will be the main 1, JBJ and RJ will alternate between the 2, and the 3 can be any number of players, starting with Troy. And they will ALL take turns at the main 1 at one time or another. In other words, there will be 3 guards on the floor taking the 1-3 spots, with the 3-guard being somewhat of a wing as well.

    The 4 spot can be filled by many as well, starting with Troy, Hanner, OG, Hartman (possible 3 also), Juwan, etc… And the 5 spot will of course be Bryant, with Hanner and Holt spelling him.

    There are just so many options right now it almost makes my head spin. One thing I’m pretty sure of though, is that if Yogi comes back it can be a special year. If Thon comes to IU (without causing friction in the team matrix) It can be a VERY special year.

    Oh yeah, I also think there will be another transfer or two. It would be great to be able to use the entire bench if needed, and to have some bench players to grow into the system and continue this continuity that seems to be starting. I certainly hope so anyway.

  • TomJameson

    I read somewhere that Mulder was heavily favored to go to UK, but I could be wrong on that. Regardless, I think the Mulder offer would be good either way with Yogi. My reasoning is that if we press more like CTC hinted at doing, we will need another guard. Pressing takes a lot of bodies because of the wear-and-tear, and the possible fouling of course.

  • TomJameson

    Yeah, both of them would be playing in the d-league, but even that’s dependent on how they did in the camps. I think they could both play somewhere next year, but more likely overseas.

  • IUDan

    It just occurred to me that if Yogi does go, we will suddenly be pretty thin in the backcourt – RJ, JBJ, Nick . . . so I agree with you guys that CTC will bring in another guard.

  • marcusgresham


  • marcusgresham

    My initial thought was that he was insane for even considering it, then I heard other people talking about it and it made sense. Even if he is pretty sure he isn’t ready, he can at least get feedback from NBA coaches and GMs on what the would like to see from him to become ready. In that regard I think it’s a great move that will help him personally and IU as a team, as he should be using his off-season to become a more complete player.

  • PalmettoHoosier

    I think the best part of this whole process is NBA folk telling JBJ they’d like to see him play better defense. Hopefully the whole team takes that to heart this off season not just JBJ.

  • ForeverIU

    I like that James is getting professional feedback. But what’s happening here? Does our coach’s evaluation and mentorship not suffice? Why do we need the NBA to tell us that we need to play defense? Is this the new face of the college game: media press conferences and NBA consultants?

  • Having an announcement to return to school for sophomore year seems unnecessary, but this feels like a long-play to get JBJ in the draft for next year. Similar to Watford before his senior season. Putting their names out there seems to add legitimacy to their NBA stock.

    I can see Crean saying next year how close JBJ was to declaring for the draft in 2015, but he learned about his weaknesses, came back to IU, improved his draft stock, and is now ready to enter for 2016.

    …and hopefully same for Yogi.

  • ForeverIU

    Perhaps, but the significance of the Yogi discussion is not just in getting the prediction right. I see the discussion on Yogi as an opportunity for us to envision a post-Yogi team identity (whether he decides to stay or not). I think it serves us better to envision a big-heavier team, in which case we move to a 2-guard lineup. I would rather lose Yogi than compromise the development of either Rob or James.

    If there is no satisfactory place for Yogi in the NBA, then it would serve him well to play overseas and get some worldly seasoning away from the shadows of Mama and Papa.

  • ForeverIU

    I don’t know Tom. I’ve become skeptical about our “positional fluidity”, so to speak. And I’m also skeptical about the third guard as a wing. It might very well still be CTC’s operating paradigm, and we’ll win a lot of games perhaps, but not tourney deep runs.

  • PalmettoHoosier

    As with any player, Crean said he made it a priority to get feedback
    from those with real insights — the decision-makers, the general
    managers and coaches of certain NBA teams. Forget NBA draft boards, he
    said. The only opinions that matter were those from who would be
    deciding Blackmon Jr.’s future.

    “All you want to do is make sure you’re giving them every bit of factual
    information you can get,” Crean said. “You give them real insight. You
    try to take opinions out of it, including your own, but when you’re his
    coach, you better have proper insights.”

    Apparently coach himself didn’t think his evaluation/mentoring were sufficient.


    I agree with you on what you say, but the thing that I most want you to be correct about is the, “more pressing”, part. Hopefully it won’t just be a little more, but rather a WHOLE lot more.


    Yea, kinda the, we can tell our kids what it is that they need to do, but sometimes it’s more likely that they will do those things if they hear that they need to from some else, thing. lol


    See my reply to marcusgresham above.

  • Hey FIU.. You are definitely going off the deep end. Do you realize what you sound like? You sund like some BS artist, throwing out all of the esoteric terms that you likely do not even know what they mean, because you’ve just made them up. Look I usually agree with a lot of what you say, but I honestly believe you’re trying really hard to impress somebody. Are you trying to get hired by ITH or something? I mean ‘team matrix, positional fluidity’ who are you trying to kid? Keep it simple stupid is probably the best modus operende on here. Sorry big guy, but you’re kind of gagging me with all this stuff. Whew…

  • ForeverIU

    Lol, it was Tom who said “team matrix” not me. So you going after me just shows that you are a self-appointed Gestapo going after anything that YOU perceive as criticism of Crean. As for “positional fluidity” … it just sounds soooo sexy.

  • That is too funny. I’m not really some “self appointed gestapo”, more like a ‘vigilante…lol… Seriously I hadn’t heard Crean use that term. But in fairness, he uses so many ‘terms’, it’s not hard to miss one. So I was wondering, ‘positional fluidity’.. it does sound kinda cool. But, does it really reference the fluidity with which players move between positions in a team environment, or the fluidity with which a player performs his own assigned positional duties within, the team ‘matrix’… hahaha… wow that was fun. I was likely just having one of those ‘grousing when tired from a rough day at the office’, types of moments. But at least I’m not really a woman like Bruce Jenner has become…lol… Isn’t that a weird one? Interestingly, he says he’s always been attracted to women, not men, but he thinks he has a woman’s soul. So maybe he’s a transgender lesbian woman.. Go figure…