James Blackmon Jr. is testing his NBA Draft stock, but Collin Hartman isn’t going anywhere.
Blackmon has sent in his paperwork and plans to declare for this year’s draft, a source close to the program told The Herald-Times on Thursday. Meanwhile, Hartman announced that he will return to Bloomington next season for his final year of eligibility. Hartman took a redshirt after missing all of his senior season this past year due to a left knee injury suffered during a non-contact drill in September.
Although Blackmon plans to go through the pre-draft workout circuit, he is not expected to hire an agent. That would allow Blackmon, IU’s leading scorer, to maintain his amateur status and return for his senior season if he chooses.
Hartman’s decision means the Hoosiers will have one of their most valuable pieces in place for coach Archie Miller’s first season as Indiana’s coach. Hartman emerged as a glue player during his sophomore and junior seasons and started 24 games during IU’s run to the Big Ten championship in 2016.
That season, Hartman averaged 5.0 points and 3.1 rebounds and made at least one 3-pointer in 19 games. He had 10 games where he recorded three or more assists and moved around the floor to make the necessary hustle plays on both ends of the court.
“It’s been a long ride, it’s been a long journey,” Hartman said in a video posted to social media. “A lot of rehab. It’s been fun. I really thought long and hard about whether I was going to come back or not. I’ve been talking to a lot of my close friends and family and people I trust and I’ve decided I’m coming back.”
And that’s a huge bonus for Miller, who is using his first few days on the job to build relationships and connect with the players he inherited from former coach Tom Crean.
“We are thrilled that Collin has decided to come back and play next season,” Miller said in a statement. “Having an individual who has won a Big Ten championship and had success in the NCAA Tournament gives our program a big lift. He brings leadership and intangibles that can do nothing but help us achieve our goals.”
Injuries have dogged Hartman throughout his time at IU. He tore the ACL in his right knee mere days after his freshman season ended in 2014, but rehabbed quickly enough to play 32 games and surface as a contributor during the 2014-15 season.
He fractured his wrist in IU’s Big Ten Tournament loss to Michigan in 2016, but played through the pain during IU’s march to the Sweet 16 that season.
Throughout it all, Hartman has leaned on the guidance of his mother, Melissa Compton, a former high star who’s also dealt with knee injuries in her past.
“I’m so happy that Collin has made his decision to return to IU basketball to finish the last chapter of his basketball journey,” Compton said in a statement.
Hartman earned his bachelor’s degree last May and will continue to pursue his graduate degree while helping the Hoosiers begin a new era this fall.
“This is something that I had been leaning toward since before the season had ended and I needed to make sure that I could fully dedicate myself both mentally and physically to the process,” said Hartman, who famously got engaged to his girlfriend during this past season’s Senior Night ceremony. “It is important that I am able to come back and perform at the level I was at before the injury occurred.”
Blackmon earned a third team All-Big Ten honors from the league’s media and an honorable mention nod from the league’s coaches after pacing IU with 17 points per game as a junior during the 2016-17 season.
This will be the second time Blackmon has declared for the NBA Draft. Although he missed all of conference season with a knee injury suffered midway through his sophomore year, Blackmon declared for the draft after the 2015-16 season to participate in interviews with NBA executives.
Blackmon’s decision to declare for the draft is not expected to be officially announced by IU’s program until others who are also weighing whether to enter the draft have done so.
Thomas Bryant and OG Anunoby, who missed the final two months of the season with a knee injury, are also expected to consider entering the draft.
Whether he can continue to develop as a more reliable defender remains a question.