Indiana’s roster turnover took another hit over the weekend when FanRag Sports’ Jon Rothstein reported that James Blackmon Jr. would hire an agent and keep his name in the 2017 NBA Draft.
Blackmon, who would have been a senior at Indiana next season, had originally declined to hire an agent as he entered the draft process. The decision comes just a week after former teammate Thomas Bryant decided that he will also be hiring an agent and leaving Indiana early. That duo, combined with the loss of OG Anunoby and the potential departure of Robert Johnson, would give Indiana a quartet of early draft entrees that would deplete the roster.
Blackmon scored a team-high 17.0 points per game as a junior, shooting 47.7 percent from the field, 42.3 percent from the 3-point line and 83.7 percent from the free-throw line. The 6-foot-4 guard added 4.8 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game on the way to earning third-team all-Big Ten honors.
The Marion, Indiana native started 75 of the 76 games in which he played at Indiana, having missed more than half of his sophomore season due to injuries. Blackmon contributed right off the bat for Indiana, averaging 15.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game as a freshman in 2014-15. He returned to lead the Hoosiers in 2015-16, but averaged 15.8 points and 4.2 rebounds per game while playing just 13 games.
Blackmon is a classic collegiate scorer, typically playing shooting guard and scoring in a variety of ways for the Hoosiers. He’ll have to round out his game in the NBA, showcasing more of an ability to play point guard. His style does have the ability to fit in the pro game, but it’s no guarantee he’ll get the chance.
As for Indiana, new head coach Archie Miller will have his work cut out for him next season. If Johnson returns, Miller will have a solid focal point. The 6-foot-3 Johnson averaged 12.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game as a junior this season, making 32 starts and averaging 29.4 minutes per game. The Virginia native can get it done on both ends of the floor and would be asked to do a lot for Indiana next season.
The Hoosiers will bring back a pair of promising young big men. Juwan Morgan started 20 games as a sophomore this year, averaging 7.7 points and 5.6 rebounds per game while shooting 54.8 percent from the field. At 6-foot-8, Morgan will team up with 6-foot-10 De’Ron Davis inside.
Davis showed flashes as a freshman, but didn’t get too many touches on the way to averaging 5.9 points and 3.1 rebounds per game. The former top-50 recruit will get a chance to showcase himself more as a sophomore, and Indiana will need him to do so in order to compete.
Josh Newkirk will also be asked to take on a bigger role. Newkirk, a redshirt senior who transferred from Pittsburgh after his sophomore season, averaged 9.0 points, 3.2 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game at Indiana last season. He’ll likely be the steady hand at point guard, something that the Hoosiers had a tough time finding after the graduation of Yogi Ferrell in 2016.
Devonte Green and Curtis Jones will get a chance to establish themselves after playing relatively small roles as freshmen. Green averaged 4.4 points and 1.1 assists in 15.2 minutes per game, while Jones added 3.5 points in 11.2 minutes per game. If Johnson leaves, the Hoosiers will count on at least one of these two to play major minutes and put the ball in the basket.
With all this change, it’ll be an interesting year in Indiana. However, with Miller installed at head coach, even Indiana fans will likely have tempered expectations entering 2017-18.