LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- I’ll say this one final time so the people in Boston, Memphis, Bristol, Los Angeles, Durham and Chicago can hear it:
The Indiana men’s basketball team was poorly coached last season.
The offense was robotic (more on that later). The fundamentals were sloppy. The edge was missing. The defense was inconsistent. The willingness to surrender was obvious.
Archie Miller is gone. Mike Woodson is in charge.
Trayce Jackson-Davis delivered final confirmation that significant change is coming at Indiana on Friday by announcing he will return for his junior season.
I believe in Coach Woodson and his plan! 🔴⚪️🔴⚪️ pic.twitter.com/amhPdix4Pp— TJD (@TrayceJackson) April 2, 2021
“(Woodson) came in and said he doesn’t want a rebuild,” said Jackson-Davis, who met with Woodson for two hours Thursday. “He wants to win right away. He said I’m a big piece to that.
“After hearing that and after hearing an NBA coach tell you that, it was really a simple decision to come back and play for him honestly.”
In five days, Woodson has shown his message has registered and been accepted. Woodson won his opening week in the job.
Jackson-Davis, a 6-foot-9-inch forward, will stay for his junior season. Guard Parker Stewart pulled his name from the transfer portal, giving IU at least seven returning veterans. Parker has a solid relationship with IU assistant Kenya Hunter, who turned down multiple offers to return to IU.
IU’s only Class of 2021 recruit, Logan Duncomb, a top-100 center from Cincinnati, reaffirmed his commitment. C.J. Gunn, a junior whose Lawrence North squad will play for the Indiana Class 4A title Saturday, also reaffirmed his oral commitment as the first guy in IU’s 2022 recruiting class.
“The mood here is really, really, really, really positive,” Jackson-Davis said. “I feel like there is a light. I feel like we’ve been in the dark for awhile, and there wasn’t any energy. There was no energy here. All the life after this season was sucked out of us.
“Ever since Coach Woodson got hired, I feel like a new positive vibe has come. We’ve been hoopin.’ We’ve been playing some open gyms with the guys. Really just excited to be playing basketball again and excited to be out there and just being part of the team and just getting work in, honestly.
“With (Woodson) not really being able to talk to us (much) yet because of all the recruiting stuff, but when he does talk to us, I really think that he has the knowledge and knows what he’s talking about and what he’s saying.
“I think there is a positive energy right now.”
One of the first things Woodson said after taking the job was that he could make Jackson-Davis more than a 19-point scorer and an all-Big Ten player.
Woodson looked at Jackson-Davis and saw what reasonable basketball observers saw:
A player who needs to develop his right hand. A guy who needs to prove he can make a 12-foot jump shot. A guy who has to bump his free throw percentage from 66% to more than 70. A player who needs to convert more of his shots around the rim.
Woodson told Jackson and his step-father Ray Jackson, that he can do that during a two-hour meeting in Bloomington on Thursday. After the meeting, Ray Jackson told his stepson, “You’re staying.”
“(Woodson) basically told me, ‘We’re going to get your right hand going,'” Jackson-Davis said. He said Woodson also told him that he wanted him to shoot the ball and would be removed from the game for not shooting.
The previous coaching staff did not do that. Although Jackson-Davis’ scoring average (from 13.5 to 19.1) and usage (from 21.8% of IU’s offensive possession to 29.7%) improved, too many of his other important numbers did not improve.
His field goal percentage declined. So did his free throw percentage. His turnover percentage grew. His blocked shot percentage declined. Jackson-Davis said he viewed Indiana’s offense as “robotic.” Woodson will coach his guys to play faster, a more modern approach to the game.
With Iowa’s Luka Garza as well as Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn of Illinois likely gone next season, Jackson-Davis should be in the front row of Big Ten player of the year candidates in 2021-22.
If he intends to make his way into the NBA, like his father, former Pacers’ forward Dale Davis, Jackson-Davis must accept coaching from Woodson and the staff he’ll assemble in Bloomington.
If Woodson intends to fulfill his plan to avoid a rebuild, he must add more pieces around his best player.
Jackson-Davis, Stewart, guard Rob Phinisee, forward Jerome Hunter, guard Anthony Leal, guard Trey Galloway and center Joey Brunk. That’s a center, a power forward, two wings, two shooting guards and a point guard.
Six scholarships remain open. At least four IU players are in the NCAA transfer portal, highlighted by starters Armaan Franklin and Race Thompson. Jackson-Davis said he has encouraged every player in the portal to stay at IU but given them the space to make their decisions.
For him, the decision was simple. When Miller was dismissed, Jackson-Davis was nearly certainly leaving, even if he was likely bound for the G-League or overseas. After the meeting with Woodson on Thursday, Jackson-Davis was eager to rewrite the ending to his Indiana career.
“My legacy is I want to get Indiana basketball back on track,” Jackson-Davis said. “That’s my goal. That's why I came back, because I believe in the tradition. I believe what we have here is something special, and I want to be one of the reasons why.
“I didn’t want to be someone who ran away when it was tough. Really, all in all, I believe in Coach Woodson and I believe in the tradition of Indiana basketball. And I know we can get it back.”
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