Trayce Jackson-Davis on title goals, preventing off-court slipups from 'ruining our season.'

·8 min read

Trayce Jackson-Davis met with the media via Zoom call from his parents' home in Greenwood on Monday after announcing his decision Friday to withdraw from the NBA draft and return to Indiana for his senior season. Here's what he had to say in a remarkably candid half-hour.

On his decision to return and the effect of his positive tests for COVID-19

"After not being able to attend the NBA combine, coming down with COVID, it kind of put a damper on things I've been working on throughout the NBA process. It made the decision quite easy, I probably could have done some draft workouts and tried to raise my stock, but I felt like the decision to come back was the right one and an easy choice."

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On how he wants practice and the offseason to be different this year

"Just the things we were working on. We ran a lot last year when there was having more emphasis on defense, so having more emphasis on the offensive game plan. Our defense is going to carry over from last year. i just think we'll have to speed some of the younger guys up. I think the biggest thing for us will probably be offensively, more sets and things of that nature, getting meshed together more, play with different guys. Last year, we had two teams, the starting five and the bench. We played against each other and we would never switch up the teams. The starting five and the bench players would play together. I think that's huge for us, to get our team chemistry better."

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On the effect of NIL and the transfer portal

"It didn't impact my decision. I was never looking at another school or seeing who was going to reach out and give me the most money to go there. It was never anything like that. I was either going to the draft or staying at IU. I wouldn't consider the NIL to be a big reason why I stayed, even though there is probably going to be money there and opportunity there, which I'm blessed to be in that situation. Obviously I'm going to use it to my advantage, but I'm here to play basketball and finish my degree."

Indiana Hoosiers forward Trayce Jackson-Davis (23) celebrates the win over the Illinois Fighting Illini  at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.
Indiana Hoosiers forward Trayce Jackson-Davis (23) celebrates the win over the Illinois Fighting Illini at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.

On how he told Mike Woodson and his reaction

"He was kind of surprised actually. I was the one that called to host the meeting on Thursday. I told him on Thursday. We had a long talk about, especially the offseason stuff, some things I envisioned that would help us be successful. This was his first year in college basketball. I was just waiting to see what he would do with his way. Taking the things I learned in the other two seasons under coach (Archie) Miller, incorporating some of the things I thought would benefit us was big. We talked about that. I told him at the very end of the meeting I was going to come back. He was ecstatic. He was ready to go. He was really pumped up. He's probably still smiling right now."

On mixing in outside shooting with paint touches this season

"This is the way coach Woodson explained it to me: He said last year, I was so dominant on the low block I didn't really need to do that. I'm still going to have dominance. I'm not going to just utterly forget about that. The biggest thing for me is just adding just a few jump shots here and there to my game. He said I have to shoot four or five jump shots a game and I'm still going to have 10 to 12 under the rim."

On what he learned while training for the combine in Los Angeles

"When I was out in California, I was getting trained like a guard. Ball-handling, shooting, reading movements off the dribble. Catch-and-shoot. It was a lot of 2-on-2, 3-on-3. Things of that nature to really help work on your outside game. It's all of those components that are really going to help me in the future."

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On the feedback he still got from the process despite missing the combine

"The feedback I got from the GMs, they said I was going to get drafted. They said anywhere from the beginning to late second round. The way that I would boost my stock is to show out at the combine, show I could shoot the ball, things of that nature. Defensive matchups, showing I could guard big guys but switching out and guarding the perimeter. I didn't get a chance to do that. It sucks, but I'm blessed that I don't have any COVID symptoms."

On how good this IU team could be

'I think this is the best team that I've been on since I've been here. It's not even the sense that — it's the talent that we have. We have talent all across the board from the guards all the way down to the centers. We have dudes that care about the program, are here for the right things. I think the big thing that we didn't have last year that we have this year is our team chemistry. Last year we had three guys come in and start for us that we didn't know, like we never played with them. We had to build our chemistry over the summer. Having a full year of experience with them and then adding two, three, or four freshmen in, I think it's going to be huge for us. I think the ceiling for our team is anywhere from Big Ten championship to national championship, if I'm going to be honest with you. I set my standards high."

On his desire to see teammates who test positive for drugs kicked off the team on their first offense

"Well, now just me being a senior, it's different. It's my last year. This is my last time being at IU, and I don't want anything of that nature ruining our season. If you're that selfish to do that during the season, then you don't need to play for this university. I think it's plain and simple. They've kind of been sticklers about it, but it's always giving chances and chances and chances. Being the team captain, I feel like we've had enough chances. We're mature enough to know what's right and what's wrong. That's a big thing for us. I think it's a big thing with a lot of the teams I've been on with the drugs affecting our team. So we're not having that this year. We have enough to do."

On whether drugs affected last year's team

Not necessarily as much last year. I think more just getting in trouble in general. Obviously there's things that happen behind the scenes, but I'm not really going to go into that. It definitely has had effects in the past. So I'll just leave it at that."

On whether he would have been OK with beginning his career in the G League

"Yeah, so even with the G League, the only way — there's players in the G League now that are still on guaranteed contracts. So if I had to go develop in the G League, I wouldn't mind doing that as long as I was guaranteed a contract. So that was my big thing. If I was guaranteed a contract in the second round, then I would have stayed in the draft, but that's not what happened. I didn't think that's what was going to happen. So I felt like coming back to school was the best option. We didn't really talk about NIL or any of those types of deals. I know the money's out there, but we're just going to play it by ear and see what happens. So it was really more of a — it was a guaranteed contract. I could have played in the G League. I would have been fine with that if it was for my development purposes."

On what he's said to Xavier Johnson's since Johnson's arrest in April

"I think X is going to have his head straight. He's going to be with me most of the time, me and Race. That's who he's going to hang out with, who he's going to be with. We're going to make the right decisions. He's going to make the right decisions for us. There's not going to be any of that, no funny business going on. Coach Woodson and him have already had those discussions. So he's ready to get started, ready to get to work for next year."

On what it would mean to finish his career at IU with over 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds

"To achieve those things, it's huge. There's only four or five players that have scored 2,000 points, and then one player or two players that have had 1,000 rebounds. Just being mentioned in that category with how good those players are, you mention names like Calbert (Cheaney), Steve Alford, Alan Henderson, it's crazy. Just to be even mentioned in that category is huge. But right now I'm focused on a championship."

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: IU basketball: Trayce Jackson-Davis talks about return for senior year