The Journal Gazette
Saturday, May 21, 2022 1:00 am

Jackson-Davis: 'I'm back'

Forward gives up NBA to return to IU for senior year

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

Indiana's basketball roster is set for the upcoming season, and it will be the most complete team the Hoosiers have fielded since they won the Big Ten in 2016.

Forward Trayce Jackson-Davis, a 2020 All-American and the 15th-leading scorer in IU history, made sure of that Friday when he announced he would put the NBA off for another year and return for his senior season in Bloomington.

Jackson-Davis averaged 18.3 points, 8.1 rebounds, 2.3 blocks and 1.9 assists last season while shooting 59% from the field on the way to second-team All-Big Ten honors. 

After leading the Hoosiers to their first NCAA Tournament since 2016, Jackson-Davis put his name in the NBA draft process to gauge interest and get feedback from league scouts and general managers. 

On Friday, the 2019 Indiana Mr. Basketball posted a video to Twitter that ended with the words Michael Jordan made famous when he returned to the Chicago Bulls in 1995 after a brief retirement: “I'm back.”

“The opportunity I had to work on my game for the professional level was something that was invaluable as I continue my growth as a basketball player,” he said in a statement announcing his decision. “However, I am looking forward to returning to Indiana to be with my coaches and teammates and building off of what we accomplished at the end of the season.

“There are goals I have for our team and for myself individually on the court, but at the end of next year more importantly, I will be proud to say I am a graduate of IU.”

Indiana coach Mike Woodson had been publicly lobbying for Jackson-Davis to return in recent weeks, reiterating the importance of the decision at the Big Brothers Big Sisters Gourmet Dinner in Fort Wayne on Tuesday.

““The big question now is, 'Is Trayce Jackson-Davis going to come back?'” Woodson said. “I'm hoping like hell he comes back because he's a big piece to the puzzle.”

Other Hoosiers had tried to sway the 6-foot-9 forward, as well. Point guard Xavier Johnson, with whom Jackson-Davis developed an outstanding chemistry in pick-and-roll offense at the end of last season, tweeted Sunday: “We have unfinished business @TrayceJackson...”

When Jackson-Davis announced his decision, Johnson quickly congratulated his teammate.

“Glad to see you back home brother! Let's WORK!,” the senior point guard wrote on Twitter. “Yes indeed ... it just got real!”

Jackson-Davis may have been pushed toward staying at Indiana by factors out of his control: He was scheduled to work out at the NBA combine this week in Chicago in an effort to boost his draft stock, but a positive test for COVID-19 last week prevented him from participating in 5-on-5 scrimmages at the event.

Jackson-Davis will have a chance to improve his draft stock during the upcoming season. One of his priorities will likely be developing his 15- to-20-foot jump shot, a piece of his game Woodson has been pushing him to add since the coach took over at Indiana in April 2021.

The star forward's return makes Indiana one of the preseason favorites in the Big Ten and will likely earn the Hoosiers a spot in preseason top-25 polls.

IU has four starters and most of its key backups returning from a team that went 21-14 and won an NCAA Tournament First Four game against Wyoming to reach the tournament's round of 64. Jackson-Davis poured in 29 points and grabbed nine rebounds in the win over the Cowboys, part of a four-game stretch that saw him average 26.3 points and 8.8 rebounds in the biggest games of Indiana's season.

The Hoosiers are also bringing in five-star freshmen Jalen Hood-Schifino and Malik Reneau to round out the roster.

With those two, Tamar Bates and Jackson-Davis, Indiana will have four former five-star recruits on its roster for the first time since began ranking individual players in 2003.

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