Did anyone really think Blackmon would leave?

James Blackmon Jr. announced Thursday he will return to Indiana for his sophomore season. No kidding. Did anyone really think he might leave early? Here are my thoughts on why this was a good decision.

James Blackmon Jr. announced Thursday – in a press conference – that he’s returning to Indiana for his sophomore season.

No kidding. How many people really thought Blackmon was ready to make the jump to the NBA?

The only thing more surprising to me than hearing that Blackmon Jr. was announcing that he was returning was simply that he was holding a press conference to do it.

As a member of the IU media corps said to me after it was over, did Calbert Cheaney hold a press conference after this freshman year to announce he was coming back? Uhhhhhhh … no.

Myself, the first I even considered Blackmon might leave was Wednesday when it was mentioned as a possibility as part of Tom Crean’s press conference to announce the signing of Thomas Bryant.

Sure, I had seen his name on some of the mock drafts in the mid-to-late second round. But even when I saw his name, I never really paused to think that he might not return to IU.

Now as I say that, I’ll admit I’m still one of those people who believed Noah Vonleh could have benefitted from a second year at IU, too.

But Vonleh was a different situation. And when you’re being told by people that you’re a potential lottery pick then I completely get you should go.

Blackmon clearly wasn’t in that position.

In fact, if anything, Blackmon should have learned through his freshman season that he still has a lot of work to do if he is going to take that next step.

When I think of Blackmon, I think of two things that need to improve in particular: Defense and consistency.

A lot was made all season long of Indiana’s inability to guard anyone. And Blackmon was as guilty as anyone. It’s simply an area of his game that needs a lot of work. Defense is so much about buying in, and working a little harder and being willing to do extra work. From what I hear of Blackmon’s work ethic, he’ll put in the necessary time and effort so it’s just a matter of getting better through repetition.

During the season may not be the time to get better there but the offseason will clearly afford him some opportunities.

The thing that really jumps out at me, though, is his level of consistency.

All you have to look at is this year’s Big Ten Tournament. In the opener against Northwestern, he makes 8-of-15 shots from the field, including 5-of-10 3-pointers. He scores 25 points, pulls down six rebounds and dishes out seven assists.

The next day against Maryland he is no where to be found. He is 2-for-12 from the field including 1-of-5 from 3-point range. He has six points, five rebounds and one assist.

Sure, there were games where he was able to really light it up from the outside last season. But there were games where he couldn’t hit anything. He was 1-for-14 from the field at Michigan State, 2-for-14 at Maryland and 1-for-10 at Northwestern.

Do those sound like statistics of a player who is ready to make a jump to the NBA after his freshman season?

I don’t think so.

I’m in complete agreement that Blackmon Jr. needed to return next season.

I’m just a little surprised he needed to call a press conference to make it official.


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