With the start of college basketball season on the horizon, we’ve transitioned from our look at other Big Ten programs to our player-by-player previews of the 2022-23 Indiana roster.
Today, our player profiles continue with a look at senior Trayce Jackson-Davis.
Previously: Malik Reneau, CJ Gunn, Jalen Hood-Schifino, Kaleb Banks, Tamar Bates, Logan Duncomb, Anthony Leal, Trey Galloway, Jordan Geronimo
One thing keeps Trayce Jackson-Davis from being mentioned among the best frontcourt players to ever play at Indiana.
Statistically speaking, Jackon-Davis will be favorably viewed in the program’s record books. Entering what will likely be his final collegiate season, he’s already scored 1,588 points, grabbed 797 rebounds and swatted 178 shots.
But winning significant games has alluded Jackson-Davis for most of his time in Bloomington.
As a freshman, he was one of the primary reasons the Hoosiers were on pace to make the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2016. But COVID-19 canceled March Madness.
As a sophomore, Jackson-Davis was again Indiana’s best player. But in the biggest spots, the Hoosiers were unable to deliver wins. After an overtime loss at Florida State in early December of 2020, Jackson-Davis was visibly irked by his team’s inability to close out a winnable game.
“I was really mad,” Jackson-Davis told reporters on Zoom. “We’re trying to be different this season, and to be different, we have to win these games.”
Indiana, however, was no different that season. The Hoosiers repeatedly faltered down the stretch, losing their last six games. Archie Miller was fired. It appeared Jackson-Davis would either leave for the NBA or transfer like his good friend and teammate Armaan Franklin.
Mike Woodson, Indiana’s newly appointed head coach, had different plans. After a conversation with the Center Grove product, Woodson convinced the star forward that returning to school was the best path forward.
Under Woodson, Jackson-Davis took his game to another level as a junior. He was given the freedom to roam the paint and block shots. He was publicly encouraged by Woodson to expand his offensive game. In the season’s most important spot, Jackson-Davis outplayed an opponent who had been his kryptonite, Michigan’s Hunter Dickinson. Most importantly, Indiana reached the NCAA tournament and won a game in the First Four in Dayton.
After a positive COVID-19 test kept him from participating in the NBA draft combine in May, Jackson-Davis opted to return to school for the 2022-23 season.
Indiana basketball is now saddled with its highest expectations in 10 years.
The Hoosiers are a near-unanimous pick to win the Big Ten and are ranked No. 14 in the preseason Associated Press top 25 poll. Jackson-Davis is a preseason first-team Associated Press All-American and one of the favorites for conference player of the year.
Now comes the difficult part for Jackson-Davis to cement his legacy as an all-time great at Indiana. He has to win. And win big. The task won’t be easy. The Hoosiers have a stacked non-conference slate which includes Xavier, North Carolina, Arizona and Kansas. The Big Ten schedule isn’t favorable.
If Jackson-Davis leads Indiana to a Big Ten title or a deep NCAA tournament run, he’ll have earned it.
“I think I have kind of set in stone my individual legacy, being an All-American and doing all those things,” Jackson-Davis said last month at Indiana’s media day. “But those don’t really matter if you don’t win something here. Winning is a big thing here, so winning a National Championship and also winning a Big Ten title, those are my two main goals this year, and if I do that, I know everything else will take care of itself.”
Bottom line: Does Jackson-Davis have another level to reach as a player? Perhaps. Among the improvements that would be notable to his game are free throw shooting and a made 3-point shot occasionally. But even if his numbers stay similar to a season ago, Indiana needs Jackson-Davis to be his leader. Last season, the Hoosiers wilted far too often in tough situations late in games. Expectations aside, the reality is that Indiana hasn’t posted a winning record in Big Ten play since the 2015-16 season. And this current group of players hasn’t proven it can win in tough environments. The talent is there to change that this season. It starts with Jackson-Davis, who has said all of the right things in the offseason but now must follow through with his play.
quotable: “Just coming in here my freshman year and not having really any expectations, even sophomore year, and then junior year just having a new team. Finally coming in here to this historic program and having an expectation to do something big I think is huge. Obviously, we’re going to carry that with a chip on our shoulder, but I think our team is hungry, and we’re ready to get out there and play.” – Jackson-Davis at Indiana’s media day when asked about the program’s expectations this season.
Filed to: 2022-23 season preview, Trayce Jackson-Davis