My Two Cents: Another Big Day For Indiana Senior Forward Trayce Jackson-Davis, So Hoosiers Fans Need to Appreciate It More
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Wisconsin center Steven Crowl couldn’t defend Indiana’s Trayce Jackson-Davis on Saturday, but he’s not alone. Lots of people can’t defend the 6-foot-9 senior from Greenwood, Ind.
I can. Been doing it a lot lately, in fact, and have been for a long time.
This has been a rough couple of weeks around Indiana’s basketball program. The Hoosiers lost their first three games of the new year, and looked bad doing it at times. Some of the Indiana fan base, allegedly loyal, has been brutal toward Indiana’s players and coaches. The worst of the collection has made disparaging videos and social media posts, and some have even made threats and accusations. It’s been ugly — and completely uncalled for in a lot of instances.
The Indiana fan base is much like an expensive aged bottle of red wine. It’s all so, so good, and so wonderful — except for that nasty sediment at the bottom of the bottle. Rot-gut horrible, and it tends to ruin all the good times.
This very small vocal minority is worth ignoring, but it’s just not easy. Several players had a hard time doing that last week, getting into verbal sparring matches with fans on social media platforms.
For me, Trayce Jackson-Davis is rewriting a lot of the Indiana record books during his fourth year here at Indiana, but despite that, he’s been attacked left and right lately. One guy — an idiot who’s always causing problems, according to a few people I reached out to who know him — wrote him a nasty, accusatory letter that Trayce shared on his Twitter account.
Others have been ripping him on social media with some pretty vicious attacks, too. I wind up doing a lot of arguing when people say stupid stuff. It’s just the way I’m wired. If I disagree with you, I will say so. I even wound up arguing with an older woman earlier this week when she said Trayce ”was garbage and shouldn’t even be starting.”
That’s just so foolish. So I’m absolutely going to defend him against fools like that who clearly know very little about basketball.
There’s a lot of good reasons for why I defend him, too. The fact that he’s a really good kid who’s very engaging has something to do with it. He does a lot of good things in the community, too, and he loves Indiana.
He’s also a very good basketball player. Sure, he has some flaws, but he’s had a great career at Indiana, and it’s nowhere near over. He’s done a lot of things to make himself a special Indiana player that we’ll remember for a long time.
Saturday was a perfect example. In a game against Wisconsin that Indiana really needed to win, he had 18 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and five blocked shots. Only three times in Big Ten history since those stats have been kept has someone done that against a ranked team. AJ Hammons of Purdue in 2013 and Liam Robbins of Minnesota two years ago were the others.
Jackson-Davis also had a triple-double in a Big Ten game against Nebraska, scoring 12 points with 11 rebounds and 10 assists in December. It was only the third triple double in Indiana basketball history. Only Steve Downing in the 1970s and Juwan Morgan six years ago have ever done it.
Only three ever.
He almost had another one too against Northwestern last weekend, when he had 18 points, 24 rebounds and eight assists. He got his eighth assist with 11:30 to go in the game, but the other two never came, which is too bad.
No Big Ten player ever has had a triple double that included at least 18 points or more and 24 or more rebounds.
Those are a few isolated instances, of course, but there’s all the big picture stuff, too. We track his scoring prowess in a story after every game, and he’s No. 8 all-time in scoring and will probably finish in the No, 3 to No. 5 range at the end of this season. He’s No. 2 in blocked shots, and No. 4 in rebounds all-time.
Yes, all-time. In several categories.
So when the sediment portion of the fan base wants to call him garbage, I’m always going to defend him.
I don’t care that he can’t make — or doesn’t take — three-pointers or long jumpers. I’ve also thought that at Indiana, I’ll take him making twos at the basket instead of missing 16-footers. I’ll take that all day long.
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I don’t care that he hasn’t shown NBA scouts a perimeter game. That doesn’t matter because what’s best for Indiana is all that matters right now. His pro career comes later.
I’ll never let you question his heart, or how much he cares or how much he leads, because he cares deeply about this program, especially his teammates and coaches. He’s been the best player on very average teams for three years, and this is the best team he’s ever played on. “We have a squad,” he said earlier this year, and no one is more pained by losses than he is. Jalen Hood-Schifino is the best player he’s ever gone to war with. None of the first three teams he played on would have won at Xavier or beaten North Carolina like Indiana did earlier this year.
Indiana is missing two starters, seniors Race Thompson and Xavier Johnson, and that has been a factor in this recent three-game losing streak. Sure, there’s a ”next man up” thing, but those reserves have not stepped up. Jackson-Davis has been playing through his own back issues, but still shows up for every big game. He refuses to come off the court.
That’s why Saturday meant so much to him. It was as much of a ”must win” as you can have for a mid-January game with Wisconsin. He knew why it mattered so much, and knew he had to lead the way. And he did, making all seven of his shots in the second half when the Hoosiers pulled away. That included three amazing dunks with quick moves around Crowl. He was so good that the CBS crew doing the game couldn’t stop raving about how good he was.
Jay Wright, who’s won national titles at Villanova and is in his first year of broadcasting, even brought up ”Final Four contenders” if Indiana can get whole when Thompson and Johnson return. That’s because of Jackson-Davis.
Saturday mattered, so much, in a lot of different ways.
“Yeah, our backs were against the wall, dropping three straight, especially two of them by one and two points,” Jackson-Davis said after the Hoosiers’ 63-45 win. “It’s demoralizing, and then going into Penn State and that — (a 19-point loss) — happening. So your backs are against the wall and we play Wisconsin, a team that I have not beaten since I’ve been here, and obviously they are a little short-handed but we are shorthanded, too.
“So it was a dogfight and we knew it was going to happen on the defensive end and that’s what we preached all week in getting ready and prepared for them. I also thank the crowd because the crowd was a huge piece as well. Obviously, in this league, you lose three games in a row, but you can also win three games in a row. The Big Ten is the Big Ten. Every night is going to be a grind and we have to build off of this. Wisconsin is a great team, and we’re going to play a great team (Thursday) in Illinois that has struggled and found success recently. It’s going to be a dogfight and it’s on their home court, and that’s what we’ve got to get ready for.”
The environment was fun, too. The students were back on campus for the first time in a while, and Assembly Hall was rocking. There was a lot going on with the Jackson family, too, because Trayce’s brother Tayven was at the game on an official visit with Indiana football Tom Allen and offensive coordinator Walt Bell. Tayven, a four-star recruit who won two high school state championships at Center Grove, transferred from Tennessee.
The student section kept chanting ”We want Tayven,” and he liked that. All the love shown made a difference, clearly, because Tayven committed to the Hoosiers on Sunday.
As Trayce was walking out of his postgame press conference, I asked him how it felt to be the second-most important Jackson in the building. He smiled and said, ”well, I don’t know about that.” It was pretty cool, though, and he’s going to be glad to have his brother around. They’re close, and each other’s biggest fans.
Trayce visited Knoxville for a Tennessee football game earlier this year, and it was weird seeing him and his friend Race Thompson dressed in Volunteer orange. They took pictures with Tayven and Hall of Famer Peyton Manning.
Now those get to be pictures in Indiana gear for the Jackson men.
There’s no telling how the rest of this season plays out. Many Indiana fans — those sediment folks — have already quit on this team. Good riddance. Thankfully they don’t matter, not one bit. Indiana’s players are still engaged, and still plan on having a good season.
Jackson-Davis will continue to play some great basketball, and Indiana is still going to win a lot of big games. It’s mid-January, and it’s the Big Ten grind. And there’s still a long way to go.
So be grateful that he wears an Indiana uniform. He’s done a lot of things that few players at Indiana — and even the Big Ten — have ever done.
And he’s not done yet. So enjoy it.
- GAME STORY, INDIANA TAKES DOWN BADGERS: Indiana looked lost during a recent three-game losing streak, but they completely flipped the script on Saturday and shut down No. 18 Wisconsin 63-45 at Assembly Hall with a great defensive effort. CLICK HERE
- WHAT MIKE WOODSON SAID: Here’s what Indiana head coach Mike Woodson had to say following the Hoosiers’ 63-45 win over No. 18 Wisconsin inside the Hall. Read his full transcript, or just watch the attached video of the press conference. CLICK HERE
- PHOTO GALLERY: Indiana hosted Wisconsin Saturday and snagged a much-needed win with a great defensive effort in the 63-45 victory. Here are the best photos from the game. CLICK HERE
- ESSEGIAN SHINES FOR WISCONSIN: Wisconsin freshman guard Connor Essegian scored 14 points and had 11 rebounds Saturday, returning to his home home state. The 6-foot-4 guard from Fort Wayne, Ind. scored 2,526 career points for Central Noble High School. CLICK HERE
- INDIANA ALL-TIME SCORING LIST: Trayce Jackson-Davis has gone from No. 15 to No. 8 on Indiana’s all-time scoring list so far this season. Here’s the complete list of all 54 Hoosiers who have scored in double figures. CLICK HERE
- INDIANA SCHEDULE: Here is the complete Indiana men’s basketball schedule for the 2022-23 season, with opponents, dates, gametime and TV information, plus links to all the stories for games played so far. CLICK HERE
The author of 5 books, 3 of which are New York Times bestsellers. I’ve been published in more than 100 newspapers and magazines and am a frequent commentator on NPR.