Blackmon, IU’s fourth McDonald’s All-American in as many years, will undoubtedly be asked to carry a big load as a true freshman. Through his first few weeks on campus, Indiana coach Tom Crean likes what he has seen from the 6-foot-3 guard.
The 33rd ranked player in the 2014 class played for his father, James Sr., first at Fort Wayne Bishop Luers then at Marion, and Crean believes that played a role in the younger Blackmon’s advanced skill set and knowledge coming into college.
“Well coached by his father, without a doubt, and his dad has done so many things to hold him accountable to become not only a better shooter but a better scorer and a better player over time,” Crean said at his summer update press availability Tuesday afternoon. “Now he's learning about the explosiveness that he can play with and building that athleticism into his game.”
So far, the seventh year Indiana coach has been impressed with the work ethic and commitment as well as the bonding between Blackmon and fellow freshman Robert Johnson.
“[Robert] and James are basically joined at the hip with the way that those guys work out after we work out or come back at night,” Crean said.
As was the case with many of IU’s players, Crean raved about the strength development of Blackmon, specifically on the bench press.
According to Crean, at this time last year, Blackmon was only able to lift 185 pounds on the bench press one time. He's now up to nine repetitions.
“But that right there to me, for a team that has not played a game yet, to see what he has done physically in the period of last summer to where he's at right now, is a sign of things to come.”
As is the case with all freshmen, Crean acknowledged that this can be a tough period as they adjust to a vastly different life.
“I don't judge where their confidence is at right now and I don't judge where their game is at right now because so much is being thrown at them,” Crean said. “They are going through the academics and going through the study halls and the lifting and the conditioning and the workouts and the playing. They are doing all these extra things and away from home for the first time.
"You're not going to be overly confident with that but the bottom line is getting better is what's key. I think they all see themselves getting better.”
With Blackmon likely having to contribute immediately on a young 2014-15 Indiana squad, the sign of things to come may be a much-needed one.