NEW CASTLE — Incoming Indiana freshman forward Trayce Jackson-Davis put on a high-wire display during the Indiana High School All-Star game at New Castle Fieldhouse, finishing alley-oop dunks in transition and off the backboard.
Yet to prepare for the rigors of a Big Ten season, the 6-foot-9, 245-pound Jackson-Davis has spent much of this week in a different kind of gym.
Jackson-Davis enrolled at IU this week and has received an early introduction into strength coach Clif Marshall’s strength and conditioning program. On Wednesday, Jackson-Davis joked it was leg day, but his arms were tired.
“The Big Ten is a meat grinder,” Jackson-Davis said. “It’s one of the hardest conferences, the most physical conferences in my opinion. You’ve got big seven-footers that are 270, 280 pounds.
“You’ve just got to be able to put on weight. I think Coach Clif is going to be able to do that for me. He wants me to stay around what I’ve got right now, 245, but he wants me to drop some fat and gain some muscle, and then just leaning out on the court and getting that motor going as high as I can to get ready for that season.”
Jackson-Davis has gotten a taste of Big Ten physicality this week practicing against 6-8, 360-pound Dewand Jones, another Indiana Senior All-Star who is headed to Ohio State on a football scholarship.
“Playing against him, he’s crazy hard to move, hard to even play against,” Jackson-Davis said. “He’s all (of) 360 (pounds), just ginormous, so I try to get the best of him with my athleticism. Sometimes it works, sometimes he gets the best of me.”
In addition to strength and conditioning, Jackson-Davis decided to enroll at IU early to work out and get to know his new teammates.
“That’s a big thing, a really big thing for us, just jelling as a team because I know chemistry wasn’t great last year,” Jackson-Davis said. “So just try to build that chemistry early, and then just obviously getting in the weight room and getting stronger and getting better on the court.”
Jackson-Davis already has established a rapport with another IU newcomer. He’s been working out with IU graduate transfer center Joey Brunk since before the 6-11 post scorer decided to leave Butler to join the Hoosiers. The duo have spent time together with NBA skills coach Jason Smeathers, refining their games inside.
“Joey, he’s definitely a locker room guy,” Jackson-Davis said. “He’s going to be a guy that’s going to talk a lot. He’s going to be a leader out there.
“We started working out. I liked his energy. He was still at Butler not even thinking of coming to IU yet, but after he decided to leave we just started to getting to talk back and forth, and we decided to push each other really hard, and then he decided to come which is just honestly amazing for us because we already have that chemistry. So bringing that chemistry down there will be great.”
At an IU alumni gathering last week, head coach Archie Miller said he felt Jackson-Davis will be versatile enough to rotate and play both power forward and center with Brunk, returning senior forward De’Ron Davis and returning junior forward Justin Smith. Jackson-Davis feels comfortable playing both spots. A McDonald’s All-American, Jackson-Davis averaged 21.6 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.9 blocks at Center Grove in Greenwood to earn Mr. Basketball honors.
“In high school, I’ve been really used as a post player, but I can step out to the 3-point line and make moves and show off the dribble and score like that,” Jackson-Davis said. “So it’s just really basically what the coach needs me to do.”
BIG TEN-ACC CHALLENGE
The Big Ten announced its matchups for the ACC Challenge on Thursday. Both IU and Purdue will be at home.
The Hoosiers will host Florida State at Assembly Hall on Dec. 3, while Purdue will host defending national champion Virginia on Dec. 4.
Florida State reached the Sweet 16 last season under 70-year-old coach Leonard Hamilton, who has won 554 games overall in 31 seasons at Oklahoma State, Miami and FSU.
Virginia has lost most the core of its national title team to the NBA draft, including swingman De’Andre Hunter, guard Ty Jerome and guard Kyle Guy, a former Lawrenceville Central standout who worked out for the Indiana Pacers on Thursday.