Jackson-Davis fitting in with Hoosiers

He’s an Indiana Mr. Basketball and a McDonald’s All-American.

He’s 6-foot-9, long and athletic, with springs to make blocked shots and two-handed slams look effortless.

He’s got a persona online, going by an acronym, “TJD,” and isn’t afraid to tweet at future teammates and say “#HOOSIERDADDY”.

There are plenty of reasons to be excited about one of the program’s newest and brightest faces, freshman Trayce Jackson-Davis, who will be formally introduced to the Indiana fanbase today at Hoosier Hysteria.

But for all that makes the Center Grove alum stand out, it’s quite the opposite that has impressed IU coach Archie Miller this preseason.

“Trayce coming in, being a McDonald’s All-American, there’s a lot around him in terms of accolades and hype,” Miller said. “But right now he’s been very, very humble in the way that he’s worked, in the way that he’s fit in.”

Miller appreciates all Jackson-Davis can give the Hoosiers early in his career. He can block shots and run the floor. He’s a long body, gunning for the rim on pick-and-rolls.

At the same time, there have to be high but very realistic expectations for Jackson-Davis, a freshman forward in one of the most physical conferences in the country.

“The Big Ten is not an easy league, because, to me, it’s a league that prides itself on systems and style of play and cultures and older players, and you run into guys that have been doing it a lot longer than you,” Miller said. “That being said, when you are as talented as a guy like Trayce, sometimes you hope that trumps some of that learning curve.”

Last year, the Hoosiers had a Mr. Basketball capable of doing that as a freshman, New Albany product Romeo Langford, who led IU in scoring (16.5 ppg) despite playing most of the season with a thumb injury.

But not every Mr. Basketball who arrives on campus will be a one-and-done talent like Langford, and Jackson-Davis came to Bloomington knowing he had a lot of work to do. That has meant a great deal of banging in the post with fourth-year posts, senior De’Ron Davis and grad transfer Joey Brunk.

“It’s really good leadership, all the upperclassmen have been really good, just battling them every day,” Jackson-Davis said. “Big Ten toughness and a physical style of play, I think that’s going to help me in the long run, especially going against those two guys every day in practice.”

While the Hoosiers have just four scholarship guards, the frontcourt has depth. So Jackson-Davis could play multiple roles.

He can play the five, giving the Hoosiers a big to run the floor in an uptempo game. Or he could play alongside either Davis or Brunk at the four, which will require Jackson-Davis to defend more on the perimeter than he has in the past.

The freshman has credited junior Justin Smith with offering some defensive pointers at the four. On the other hand, someone like Brunk, a Southport alum via Butler, offers a 6-11 frame and a veteran’s level of resistance in the paint.

“Even before the summer, back in May and April when we worked out, just starting that chemistry early, him showing me pointers of how to play college basketball, how hard he goes all the time,” Jackson-Davis said.

Brunk has emerged as a leader in both words and actions, winning the program’s award for the best offseason in the weight room.

But Jackson-Davis has, by all accounts, had a good offseason, as well. He says his vertical jump has increased, and he is listed at the same weight (245 pounds) as Brunk.

“Trayce is a great kid before anything else on the basketball court,” Brunk said. “But he has a great, great opportunity in front of him, has a very high ceiling, and really excited to get to play with him and watch him and root for him.”

At Hoosier Hysteria, fans will get to see Jackson-Davis do some of what they’ve seen in AAU and Center Grove highlight films.

He’s going to be in the dunk contest, facing off with Smith, junior Al Durham, and fellow freshman Armaan Franklin. That should be fun to watch, but Jackson-Davis’ focus will have to immediately return to less glamorous ventures.

“I’m really just focused on just getting our team chemistry down, just trying to fit in, just trying to get well with the team, my teammates,” Jackson-Davis said, “but I think we’ve done that really well and we’ve all been working hard.”