The Indiana Hoosiers pulled off the victory in a nail biter against Xavier, 80-79, with some impressive performances by the stars & NBA Draft prospects of each team. The four players I was most impressed by were: Trayce Jackson-Davis & Jalen Hood-Schafino of Indiana, and Colby Jones & Desmond Claude of Xavier.
Let’s dive into what I saw in each of the four players:
Trayce Jackson-Davis was the star of this game, like he will be for many games this season. With 30 points on 81% shooting, six rebounds (four offensive), two assists, and three blocks, Jackson-Davis (TJD) held down the paint on both ends while commanding double teams out of post-ups, even 15+ feet away from the basket.
TJD took a stepback jumper, albeit forced by the clock, against pressure, and the shot didn’t look broken like it has in the past. While it was hard to find misses from TJD in this game, even some of the misses he had were positive. Overall though, his ability to finish above the rim, particularly as an aerial threat, and with finesse below the rim, make him an intriguing big man with skill. His long arms and dynamic athleticism also allow for him to defend at a high level, both on-ball and as a weakside/help rim protector.
I still believe TJD is worth taking in the late first round/early second round. The 30-37 range on draft night generally has a high hit rate, and I could see TJD contributing to that trend. Players like Dwight Powell have carved out starting/rotational roles with similar skillsets, and someone like Trayce Jackson-Davis could do even more damage, having speciality as a rebounder, defender, and finisher.
Colby Jones had a loaded stat-line, going for 13 points on 4-11 shooting, six assists, three steals, and two blocks. While most of his plays weren’t advanced, he still did a great job gelling into lineups with a variety of different role-playing teammates. Jones also made Indiana pay for lapses on both ends, finding the holes offensively, and knowing where to be on defense. Colby Jones is hard to project as a liability in any way, since he almost always impacts the game even when his scoring isn’t a weapon.
With great length, an elite floater (that he tried forcing a bit much in his return from injury), and good shooting form, projecting Colby Jones as a light three level scorer is reasonable. Having three level scorers in the backcourt off the bench is a must in the NBA, which makes Jones’ physical traits a standout skill for him among players that play a similar role.
Jalen Hood-Schifino had a rough game in terms of production (1-9 shooting), but his first half impressed me in terms of the eye test. He has a good crossover, he looks composed when being asked to handle the ball. A lot of off-guards in his role get deer-in-headlights eyes, but he looked comfortable and confident. The jumper looks good enough to count this one as yet another off game as part of a slow start to the season through three games, but I buy the numbers evening out.
Defensively, Jalen Hood-Schifino should be able to defend both wing spots and even some forwards with his strength. He has quick feet and reads ball-handlers well in terms of predicting the next move. I did see him be a bit too eager to jump on three point shots once or twice, but sometimes that play works out, and should be something that can be ironed out with more experience.
Desmond Claude stood out to me, a 6’6 freshman guard. While the production wasn’t anything excessive, his cohesion within the offense, and ability to see over defenses as a passer, while also having a good sense of how to get to the basket, really stood out to me. A worst case for Claude is riding the bench until Colby Jones goes pro, but even then, he should find minutes off the bench to be productive. A best case scenario that wouldn’t be entirely surprising, is him clicking come conference play, a la Malaki Branham, and start producing as a dangerous duo with Colby Jones. He has clean passing form, and looked incredibly composed against a strong Indiana team.
Look for these four players to appear on NBA Draft radars for the rest of the season and even into future drafts. All four of these players have draftable upside, with Claude being an underrated freshman.