BOZICH | Does Blackmon's return signal Ferrell's departure at Indiana?
James Blackmon Jr. said he plans to work on his point-guard skills during his sophomore season at Indiana. Is that a clue about the decision Yogi Ferrell will make about returning to IU next season?
Thursday, April 23rd 2015, 3:24 pm EDT by
Thursday, April 23rd 2015, 8:37 pm EDT
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WDRB) – The most interesting thing James Blackmon Jr. said Thursday was not that he was returning to Indiana University for his sophomore season. That was expected.
There also was nothing jarring on the list of skills that NBA personnel told IU coach Tom Crean that Blackmon must improve.
Here was the breaking news during a press conference at Assembly Hall:
Blackmon said that he planned to work on his leadership skills and "showing a lot of point-guard traits."
If you're stacking clues, here is another to add to the list. Crean said that Blackmon has "got to be more of an initiator."
Indiana has a point guard who has started the last three seasons. His name is Yogi Ferrell. He has been one of the finest initiators in the Big Ten. Ferrell has scheduled an announcement about his future for Saturday. He will announce if he will play a fourth college season or leave for the pros.
I'll live dangerously and connect the dots. If Blackmon intends to show "point-guard traits," next season and Crean wants him to be more of an "initiator," the surest way for that to happen would be if Ferrell is not around to dominate the basketball.
It's just a guess, but one that I'm comfortable making. I also don't believe that a player schedules an announcement off campus (Indianapolis) on Little 500 Weekend if his intent is to return for his senior season.
Crean was not prepared to sign off on my assumption Thursday. He said Ferrell has had "two feet in" the program since the end of the season. "Yogi is going to make a smart decision," Crean said.
Here is the name of a guy who made a smart decision: James Blackmon Jr.
I didn't say the right decision or the wrong decision. Only Blackmon and his family can say if the call was right or wrong. He has to live with it.
But the decision was wise.
At best Blackmon would have been taken late in the second round of the 2015 NBA Draft. The kid can score. At 15.7 points per game, Blackmon was the sixth-leading scorer among freshmen in the nation. He can make three-point shots, draining 77, a record for freshmen at IU.
But Blackmon will need at least another season (maybe two) to play his way into the guaranteed money of the first round.
Blackmon has work to do. You know the list. Crean mentioned defense, ball-handling, consistency, understanding spacing and other items as things that NBA personnel want to see Blackmon do better.
Even Blackmon said the feedback that resonated were the negatives, not the positives.
"It made me want to work out even harder," Blackmon said.
"The first place he went was right back to the gym," Crean said.
The gym at Cook Hall is a competitive place to be in Bloomington this week. Victor Oladipo has returned to town after two stellar NBA seasons. Noah Vonleh arrived in Bloomington after finishing his rookie year. Christian Watford, a four-year starter who left IU in 2013, is looking for pick-up challenges in town.
Blackmon, Robert Johnson, Troy Williams and the other solid pieces that will return to Crean's program have much to learn from those guys. With or without Ferrell, Indiana should start next season ranked in the Top 25. They should be better than 20-14. They need to be better than 20-14.
Thomas Bryant, Indiana's best recruit, figures to give the Hoosiers one piece they lacked – a legitimate, full-sized center. Crean's team averaged 77 points per game last season. Points will not be an issue.
But Oladipo can tell Blackmon and the others that the primary reason he surged from off the NBA radar as a freshman to the overall second draft pick in 2013 is that he learned to defend and to treat the basketball as if his draft status depended on that.
Indiana committed more turnovers than its opponents last season.
Indiana had fewer steals than its opponents last season.
Indiana had fewer blocked shots than its opponents last season.
Crean's players should not need an NBA general manager to tell them the improvements the Hoosiers make on defense will shape the 2016 season.
"We have a chance to do something great," Blackmon said.
On Thursday, James Blackmon Jr. did something wise to continue that process.
Copyright 2015 WDRB News. All Rights Reserved.