Franklin, Jackson-Davis adjusting to collegiate stage

Armaan Franklin and Trayce Jackson-Davis are quickly becoming two pivotal pieces on a Big Ten basketball team.

But when Indiana’s pair of true freshmen are asked about their bond as teammates, they quickly revert to just being a couple of fun-loving late-teens.

How’s their chemistry? “Great chemistry,” Jackson-Davis said, laughing as he pulled away from the microphone.

“We’re roommates. We’re brothers. We love each other,” the 6-foot-9 forward added. “We hang out all the time.”

Their bond goes back years. Franklin, the 6-4 guard from Indianapolis Cathedral, played AAU basketball with Jackson-Davis, the Center Grove alum, starting in seventh grade.

Where some see Indiana’s 2019 Mr. Basketball, a long, athletic shot-blocker and rim-runner, Franklin sees something extra.

“He’s a big, goofy dude,” Franklin said. “Like he’ll just say some random stuff sometimes. I’ll be looking at him like, ‘Bro, what are you talking about?'”

“Armaan, when you first get to know him, he’s quiet,” Jackson-Davis said. “After a while, he’ll get out of his shell. He’s a fun dude to be around. We love our movies.”

Will Ferrell movies, in particular. Especially the buddy comedy Step Brothers, which they’ve watched a half-dozen times since it was made available on Netflix.

They are a fun pair off the court. On it, they have been seriously useful to the Hoosiers’ cause.

Jackson-Davis blocked four shots in the opener against Western Illinois. Franklin, who was forced into duty at the point position during the Gannon exhibition, continued to show his skill finding the open man in Game 1, dishing out eight assists to zero turnovers.

As the Hoosiers (1-0) move into Game 2 versus a pressure-oriented Portland State team, the experience of the opener is something both freshmen will look to build on.

“For me, it was exhilarating,” Franklin said. “I was a little nervous, but just playing in front of these great fans, you have so many expectations. Just got to live up to them.”

The expectations for Jackson-Davis were probably highest. Considered the No. 30 player in the 2019 class, it wasn’t a question if he would play early but where.

Jackson-Davis has settled into a starter’s role alongside 6-11 redshirt junior Joey Brunk, while he can also play the five in smaller lineups. That first role, the four, just requires Jackson-Davis to guard out to the perimeter a little more.

But it’s not his first time. Jackson-Davis played the four plenty in the EYBL circuit before college.

“Really just got to be used to getting in the gap, just making the right plays, closing out on shooters,” Jackson-Davis said. “Really what coach worries about is catching shooter’s shots, but I thought I did pretty well with that (Tuesday). I just got to keep working towards it.”

The young forward appears to be putting in the work. He’s been awarded the program’s gold practice jersey a total of three weeks, including this current one.

“I’m just always trying to compete,” Jackson-Davis said. “I know all of our teammates are trying to compete. What really helps me is the rebounding aspect. So I’ve just been really trying to hit the glass hard, especially after the Marquette scrimmage. Coach Miller put an emphasis on that.”

While there were a lot of outside expectations on Jackson-Davis coming in, Franklin was a little more under the radar. He was tabbed a three-star prospect, No. 151 nationally, by 247Sports. But he’s played an outsized role thus far.

That role, point guard, isn’t something he would have ever expected coming in.

More of a wing, Franklin was the Hoosiers’ only guard left standing after junior Al Durham bruised his knee with nine minutes left in the Marquette scrimmage. Senior Devonte Green and sophomore Rob Phinisee were already sidelined.

It was a sudden switch, but this wasn’t Franklin’s first time at the point. He experienced this same situation at Cathedral.

“I was thrown into playing point my junior year at the last minute, so this is kind of like another situation for me, so I was kind of ready for it,” Franklin said. “Just had to learn at a faster pace. There were more things to learn at this level, so I think I’m starting to adjust to it a little bit.”

Durham, one of the Hoosiers’ co-captains, was a driving force in getting Franklin settled.

“When I was first starting to do it, I would mess up a little bit and he would just pull me to the side and show me what I can do, what my reads are,” Franklin said. “You got to look at all the reads, got to know all the plays, every position. I think that was the biggest adjustment.”

Franklin fared well, producing 12 points, eight rebounds, and four assists in 37 minutes during the Gannon exhibition. With Durham and Phinisee back to handle the ball more, Franklin isn’t as badly needed at the point. But it’s been a valuable experience, nonetheless.

That turnover-less outing against Western Illinois continued to show Franklin’s poise on a bigger stage at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

“For me, it’s just playing basketball, making the simple plays. You know, find the open man,” Franklin said. “If I have a shot, I’ll shoot it, but mostly just looking for the open man.”

Jackson-Davis and Franklin each seem to have a sense of their own strengths and weaknesses, whatever it may be.

When it comes to who is better at which video games, there is a clear dividing line.

“Fortnite, it’s me,” Jackson-Davis said. “Madden, I give props to him. Call of Duty, probably me. FIFA, him.”

“All the athletic games, give them to me,” Franklin said. “He has all the shooting games.”

Friday’s media session ended with a question about whether they have bunk beds.

They aren’t that close.

“We got our own rooms,” Jackson-Davis said.

“Yeah,” Franklin said. “We got our own space.”

Portland State (1-0)

P. No. Name Ht. Cl. Avg.

F 22 Alonzo Walker 6-6 Sr. 12.0

C 0 Sal Nuhu 6-8 Sr. 12.0

G 11 Holland Woods 6-1 Jr. 12.0

G 30 Chris Whitaker 6-3 So. 9.0

G 10 Matt Hauser 6-2 Sr. 13.0

Indiana (1-0)

P. No. Name Ht. Cl. Avg.

F 4 Trayce Jackson-Davis 6-9 Fr. 8.0

F 3 Justin Smith 6-7 Jr. 24.0

C 50 Joey Brunk 6-11 Jr. 11.0

G 2 Armaan Franklin 6-4 Fr. 5.0

G 1 Al Durham 6-4 Jr. 21.0

COACHES: Archie Miller, 36-31 in third season at IU, 175-94 in ninth year overall; Barret Peery, 37-30 in third season at Portland State.

WHEN: 2 p.m.

WHERE: Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

SERIES: No meetings.

BROADCASTS: BTN Plus; IU Radio Network.