It was the alley-oop of ideas, one for which Indiana University’s director of men’s basketball operations will be forever credited with the assist.
Trayce Jackson-Davis, modeling the jersey number of the Hoosiers’ career scoring leader and a fellow southpaw at the team’s Hoosier Hysteria festivities and scrimmage inside Assembly Hall, had cloaked himself in pressure.
A dunk competition. Thousands of IU diehards watching. Three-time All-American Calbert Cheaney’s No. 40 taking flight for the first time since 1992.
Name a better way to immediately endear oneself to Hoosier Nation.
[sc:text-divider text-divider-title=”Story continues below gallery” ]
“(Brian Walsh) said (Cheaney) used to do a bunch of reverse dunks during games. It was his signature dunk,” said Jackson-Davis, the 6-foot-9 forward-center from Center Grove and the 2019 Indiana Mr. Basketball. “He came up with the idea of wearing the jersey, and I thought it was really cool.”
Jackson-Davis prevailed in the team’s dunk competition, his ability to throw down a Cheaney-esque reverse cradle dunk putting him over the top.
Rocking the 40 was pretty fearless stuff for a 19-year-old making his official Assembly Hall debut.
“I thought it was pretty creative,” said Ray Jackson, Trayce’s father. “He wanted to get the crowd going, pay tribute to Calbert and get some of the old-school people on his side. Trayce is a smart kid who understands his surroundings. Once he got to IU he really wanted to fit in, but that’s just him.”
What Jackson-Davis has accomplished since is even more impressive.
A starter in coach Archie Miller’s lineup since the opener, a 98-65 rout of Western Illinois, Jackson-Davis averages 13.7 points and 8.0 rebounds. He leads the Hoosiers in blocked shots with nine, the wingspan that altered hundreds of shots in high school already making its presence felt.
He recorded his first double-double in only his second outing, a 13-point, 10-rebound showing in Indiana’s defeat of Portland State, and added 20 points in a Tuesday rout of North Alabama, hitting 14 of 15 free throws in the process.
IU is 3-0 entering Saturday’s home game against Troy and won’t play a road contest until visiting Wisconsin in early December. Ample time for Jackson-Davis to adjust to the college game in familiar confines before experiencing life as a men’s basketball player in the Big Ten Conference.
Jackson-Davis admits to rooting for Duke and Kentucky while growing up. He starting becoming familiar with Indiana during his junior year at Center Grove, which is the same winter Archie Miller took over as the Hoosiers’ coach.
He learned about the five national championship banners, candy-striped warmup pants and more.
Miller, whose first two seasons in Bloomington netted a 35-31 record and last season’s squad advancing to the NIT quarterfinals, can’t help but be impressed with Jackson-Davis.
“He’s so gifted and so talented. When the ball finds him around the basket, he’s got great hands and he’s going to be able to finish,” Miller said. “At the end of the day I’m watching Trayce so I can continue to watch him grow up and develop. Trayce knows he’s got to get better. He’s very coachable. He’ll continue to work at it.”
Added Jackson-Davis: “Coach Miller told me coming in that if I work hard, the sky is the limit.”
And while Indiana’s No. 40 jersey has since been placed back in storage, the young lefty wearing No. 4 is starting to build his own legend.