BOZICH | Blackmon reminds Indiana why Calipari wanted him at Ken - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Blackmon reminds Indiana why Calipari wanted him at Kentucky

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James Blackmon Jr. scored 25 points in his debut at Indiana. James Blackmon Jr. scored 25 points in his debut at Indiana.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WDRB) – Here is one word that John Calipari is not conditioned to hearing:


Andrew Wiggins said it. So did Gary Harris. It's a tiny list, nearly irrelevant, considering how relentlessly Calipari has won over five seasons at Kentucky.

But here is another guy who said the two-letter word to Calipari:

James Blackmon Jr.

As Calipari's monstrously talented team was charbroiling Grand Canyon Friday night, Blackmon was putting his name into the Indiana University record book directly behind Eric Gordon.

Here is the category: Most points by an Indiana freshman in his first game.

Blackmon scored 25, eight fewer than Gordon delivered in his debut game seven years ago, as the Hoosiers dispatched Mississippi Valley State, 116-65, in Assembly Hall.

Kentucky recruit Trey Lyles was Indiana Mr. Basketball, but Blackmon showed why everybody in his home areas of Marion and Fort Wayne pushed his candidacy -- and why Tom Crean kept recruiting Blackmon after he de-committed from Indiana before his senior year and took a serious look at UK.

Blackmon's father, former Kentucky guard James Blackmon, was parked in the first row behind the IU bench, wearing a replica of his son's number 1 IU jersey. Dad stood and applauded every time his son showed that he is one of the finest freshman guards in the nation.

And the key word there is guard. Not shooter. Not distributor. Guard.

Blackmon made seven of 10 shots, including three of four three-pointers. He led Indiana in points – and free-throw attempts, making eight of nine. James Blackmon Jr. is a shooter who does not settle for jump shots. He attacks.

“You can say (his ability to attack the basket) is overlooked,” Blackmon said. “Coming here, coach Crean has pushed me to get into the lane even more and that's something I'm going to keep working on.”

“When you've got a guy like that, who's very serious about his work, that doesn't take himself (too) seriously, that's he's all this or all that, he's got a tremendous work ethic,” Crean said.

“He and Robert (Johnson, IU's other freshman guard) spend a lot of time in that gym. They're not just in there playing H-O-R-S-E. They're in there getting after it, working on their games.”

Duke and Kentucky can fuss about which school has the best freshman class in America. Rick Pitino of Louisville got productivity from Quentin Snider in Puerto Rico.

But Crean's first-year players had a dynamic night, too. Blackmon, Johnson (15 points), Max Hoetzel (19), Tim Priller (2), Nate Ritchie (2) and Jeremiah April (2) gave Indiana 65 points, 27 rebounds and seven assists.

At 8:45 p.m. Friday, here is the name of the freshman college basketball player who was trending fifth nationally on Twitter:

Tim Priller.

Here is that Twitter list: #LouisYouSangGreat; 106&Park; #HollywoodFilmAwards; #Rejected70sPimpNames; Tim Priller.

“That's pretty cool, I guess,” said Priller. “I don't know what it is.”

Priller is a zero-star recruit that Crean found in suburban Dallas last spring. He's not fast. He's not a leaper. Priller is 6 feet 9 and leans forward with a lumbering gait when he runs. His shoots the ball high, with a bit of an awkward stroke, but made 51 percent of his three-point attempts in high school. The crowd, especially the students, love his Joe Normal approach.

“The crowd likes him,” said Crean, who suggested Priller resembles Scooby Do. “I think that's nice … I think the biggest thing to me is that Tim knows who he is right now. But as the same time, Tim doesn't have any clue how good he can be.”

For one night, Priller moved into the human victory cigar fan favorite position at Assembly Hall. That's the kind of opening night it was for the Hoosiers. They were never challenged by a team that Ken Pomeroy ranked 350th in the nation in his pre-season numbers. They weren't supposed to be.

Indiana's freshman class was not ranked in the top 10 by the recruiting gurus. But Crean fetched what Crean needed – guys who can shoot the basketball.

Indiana made 11 of 23 three-point shots – and only three were made by guys who were on the team last season. Blackmon was a force from the perimeter -- and getting into the lane or rim.

“He's almost as good with his off-the-dribble three as he is with the catch-and-shoot three, which is very unique,” Crean said. “He's just a good shooter. To me, he's very, very conscientious about being a complete player.”

The fun times figure to last one more game for Indiana. The Hoosiers welcome Mike Davis, the coach who led IU to its last Final Four in 2002, to Bloomington Monday night. Davis coaches Texas Southern, which lost its opener to Eastern Washington, 86-62.

Then things get serious. Larry Brown, a Hall of Fame coach, brings 22nd ranked Southern Methodist here Thursday.

“We want to continue to play like we played,” Crean said.

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