James Blackmon: Evaluation

The former Indiana commitment is maintaining a very high profile heading into the fall.

Introduction

There's no two ways about it: James Blackmon is a specialist. He's a category killer, one of those guys who will receive marching orders his entire career to punish defenses from long-range.

And from the beginning, he has risen to the challenge. Blackmon rose to the foreground somewhat on the basis of his name, given that his father, James Sr., played for Kentucky during the 1980s. But he proved capable enough at a very young age that he drew an early offer from Indiana, which accepted his commitment during the fall of his freshman year.

And so it went. Tom Crean had made a splash by locking up one of the state's best young talents, and Blackmon set about knocking in jump shots. He played a very stationary game as an underclassman, at times looking brilliant and at others struggling to be at all effective.

His career hit a speed bump when he tore his ACL during February of his sophomore season. That put him out of action that spring and summer, and he worked his way back slowly in time for his junior season.

When he returned, he poured in numbers at a breakneck pace. Blackmon proved to be an elite scorer within the state based largely on his ability to bury long threes. No longer a mere catch-and-shoot product, he added wrinkles such as a step-back jumper.

He played well this past spring and absolutely lit it up during the summer. He was spectacular at the Nike Global Challenge in July, slicing defenses with his perimeter shooting and proving to be a constant threat even when facing hard close-outs.

So all was well in Blackmon-land, but Hoosier-land soon would receive a hit. Blackmon decided that he'd committed too early and that he wanted to undergo the recruiting process, and thus he backed off his early pledge.

That brings us to the present, where he is assessing his options — Indiana still looms as one of them — in preparation for a final decision.

Assets

Blackmon gets the vote here as the No. 1 shooter in the senior class. His jump shot is so devastatingly effective it doesn't merit the words to describe it. There's nothing he needs to improve, he just needs to continue working on getting open and creating opportunities to get as many clean looks as possible. That's all there is to it.

He also has shown reasonably good quickness. Not great, but pretty good. His body control is above-average, and he converted one contested left-handed layup at the LeBron James Skills Academy this past July that suggested perhaps he's more athletic than generally given credit.

Stationary shooters at that size have struggled to an extent in the past, at least based on high school reputation, including former Illinois wing Richard McBride. But Blackmon is quicker, not as bulky and more agile than that, so he has a chance to add just enough variety to complement his shooting.

In addition to scoring, he's a reasonably good handler and passer in the open court, though not a true standout in either category.

Deficits

Blackmon possesses sufficient size for the college wing, but 6-3 doesn't make him tall and that's obviously short for the professional ranks. He also isn't a great dribbler versus pressure and can be harassed into turnovers. As mentioned, his quickness is okay, but he isn't an explosive finisher and must be careful about his attempts around big men inside.

Defensively, he has suffered through some poor outings against elite athletes. He must work to become a solid defender and has the body to accomplish that, but it's unlikely he'll ever be known for his work on that end.

Outlook

Shooting is but one skill for a player to possess, but it's arguably superior to every other skill. The best players in the world all have their ways of getting the ball into the bucket, and the non-elite athletes simply must be able to stroke it.

Blackmon certainly can do that and should receive a plug-and-play opportunity to light it up as early as his freshman season. He'll need time to balance his contributions, but even initially he should be able to create an impact based on his prime marksmanship.


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