Last season, the Hoosiers made 5.5 3-point shots per game, good enough for last in the Big Ten along with Purdue. The only thing that sort of made up for their lack of perimeter game was a PF/C named Noah Vonleh, who will be playing in the NBA next season. Indiana will need to be hitting a lot more threes next season to make up for the loss of their inside threats in Vonleh and Sheehey. Good news for Hoosier fans is that they have the 5th rated SG and 20th overall player in ESPN’s top 100, who happens to be the best pure shooter in the country, in their 2014 recruiting class.
As a senior in high school at Marion H.S. in Indiana, James Blackmon Jr. made 4.25 3-point shots per game on 9.3 attempts, giving him a 46% 3 pt. shooting percentage. In addition to those impressive numbers, Blackmon Jr. averaged 33.4 points, 1.8 assists, 4.4 rebounds, and 1.9 steals per game. Despite his great senior season, he finished just behind Kentucky commit Trey Lyles for the honor of being Indiana’s Mr. Basketball. Lyles took the award with his 24 points, 13 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks per game numbers.
James Blackmon Jr. could be a great compliment to Yogi Ferrell in Indiana’s backcourt, as Ferrell does most of his offensive damage driving in the lane and is not exactly known for his shooting ability. Blackmon’s versatility in his shooting is quite impressive.He can make any shot on the floor. He can hit shot coming off screens, off the dribble, from mid-range, and can drive the lane all with great precision. Having a knockdown shooter lurking around the perimeter will open up the floor for more offensive options and will take a lot of pressure off of Ferrell. The threat of Blackmon’s three-point shooting will force the defense to make a decision of who to defend when Ferrell takes the ball to the basket. They will either have to bring in help from the wing to prevent an easy layup or stay out on James Blackmon to prevent the kick out. Either way, opposing defenses are not going to like it when these two are out on the floor together.
A weakness that this backcourt duo will have to overcome is that they are very undersized. Playing defense could be a struggle for them as they will be giving up a few inches of height to their opponents. Yogi Ferrell is listed at 5’11 and Blackmon has been measured at 6’2. They will have a tough time playing teams with guards that measure up to 6’6 like Kentucky. One good thing for the Hoosiers is that most Big Ten teams are not exceptionally big at the guard position. Most Big Ten teams have guards that are around 6’2 or 6’3. So they won’t be giving up too much in conference play. Another weakness these two have is passing. As mentioned earlier, Blackmon only averaged 1.8 assists per game with a 1.1 assists/turnover ratio as a senior. Last season, Yogi Ferrell averaged just 3.9 assists per game with a 1.5 assists/turnover ratio. Those numbers will have to drastically improve for the Hoosiers to be able to compete every night in Big Ten play as most other teams are much more efficient.
Looking at high school film of James Blackmon Jr., I have noticed that he reminds me a lot of Gary Harris. They have an almost identical shooting motion with, as a result, similar 3 point shooting percentage. They have a very similar build, other than Harris being 2 inches taller. A few differences between them are that Blackmon averaged 14 more points per game than Harris, but Harris averaged more assists, rebounds, and steals. Out of high school, Harris was a more well-rounded player, but I believe Blackmon can learn to be just as well-rounded along with his better scoring ability.
Blackmon’s skill set will continue to grow as he finishes his senior year, and he will learn even more as soon as he first steps on campus in Bloomington. Also, unless he improves tremendously his freshman year at Indiana, I don’t see him leaving for the NBA after one year. Indiana fans should expect him to stay at least two years.