In the months leading up to the 2015-16 college basketball season, BTPowerhouse will be releasing a new series called the 'BTPowerhouse 25,' which features the Top 25 players in the Big Ten as voted by members of the staff. All players set to be on Big Ten rosters for next season were eligible during the staff vote with their top selection receiving 25 points and their 25th and final selection receiving 1 point.
The countdown is now just outside of the top-10 where we find Indiana Hoosier shooting guard James Blackmon Jr. Blackmon returns for his sophomore campaign looking to boost his NBA draft stock and help propel the high-powered Hoosiers deep into next March's NCAA Tournament. Blackmon is the second IU player to make the list, joining new teammate Thomas Bryant.
'BTP 25' #11-James Blackmon Jr.
- Eligibility: Sophomore
- Career Totals: 33 games, 989 minutes, 518 points, 176 rebounds, 50 assists
- 2014-2015 Averages: 30.0 min, 15.7 pts, 5.3 rbs, 1.5 asts, 0.1 blks, 0.6 stls
- Position Role: Shooting Guard
First and foremost, Blackmon is a fantastic scorer of the basketball, thanks in large part to terrific outside shooting. In his freshman campaign, the 6-foot 4-inch guard scored at least 20 points in 10 different games. If you watched any Indiana basketball broadcasts last season, you surely heard the tidbit of information that James Blackmon Sr. did not allow his son to shoot from outside growing up until he matured enough to have the strength to shoot from distance. The result is that the younger James has one of the best looking jump-shots in the country.
On top of his scoring, Blackmon contributed greatly on the glass, averaging more than five rebounds per game last season. Even more than filling up the stat sheet, the numbers point to Blackmon's ability to move about the floor without the basketball, a key in Indiana's current system that typically only features one true frontcourt player.
Areas For Improvement
Blackmon himself has admitted that his defense needs to improve. On defense, the Hoosiers love to place pressure on the ball as soon as it crosses the halfcourt line. Former Hoosier, now Rhode Island transfer, Stan Robinson was often tasked last season as the player to put immediate pressure on opposing point guards. Robinson saw limited minutes though, and when he wasn't on the floor it was typically Robert Johnson running the defensive point. Blackmon will see his draft stock rise if he can take over that position and become the man who draws the many tough backcourt assignments that IU will face this season.
As good has his shooting was, Blackmon stumbled down the stretch and struggled to find consistency away from the friendly confines of Assembly Hall. I dove more in depth into the numbers a few weeks ago, which can be seen here.
It's hard to say if Blackmon's offensive numbers will match last season. Assuming that someone will average 16 points per game seems a little boisterous, plus it may not even be necessary for the Hoosiers to be successful with all of their returning firepower. I do expect Blackmon to still put up solid numbers, while watching his shooting percentages rise across the board. Blackmon should find himself in First Team All-Big Ten conversations.
This will likely be Blackmon's final season wearing the candy-striped pants. If Blackmon can demonstrate lock-down ability on the defensive end of the floor, and consistency and point guard skills on the offensive end the NBA will come calling loud and clear for Blackmon and his white spot of hair.
'BTPowerhouse 25' Rankings
- Players That Just Missed The Cut
- #25 - Kendrick Nunn (Illinois)
- #24 - Bryant McIntosh (Northwestern)
- #22 (tie) Rasheed Sulaimon (Maryland)
- #22 (tie) - Thomas Bryant (Indiana)
- #21 - Rapheal Davis (Purdue)
- #20 - Derrick Walton Jr. (Michigan)
- #19 - Caleb Swanigan (Purdue)
- #18 - Shavon Shields (Nebraska)
- #17 - Eron Harris (Michigan State)
- #16 - Zak Irvin (Michigan)
- #15 - Jae'Sean Tate (Ohio State)
- #14 - Bronson Koenig (Wisconsin)
- #13 - Alex Olah (Northwestern)
- #11 (tie) - Diamond Stone (Maryland)
- #11 (tie) - James Blackmon, Jr. (Indiana)
- #10 - To be continued ...