A year ago, Center Grove center Trayce Jackson-Davis dribbled into what could be described as a historical hornet’s nest.
The Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference had produced 14 boys basketball state championship teams and nine Indiana Mr. Basketballs prior to the start of the 2015-16 season.
Daunting stuff for a ninth-grader.
Jackson-Davis, though understandably inconsistent in his debut varsity season, nonetheless impressed enough to be selected to the Daily Journal’s All-County team at season’s end.
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Fast forward to today.
Taller and more physically mature, the 6-foot-8 left-hander is putting together an impressive sophomore campaign. Jackson-Davis leads the Trojans in scoring (14.0), rebounds (9.7) and blocks (3.0) entering tonight’s home contest against Lawrence North.
Coach Jack Keefer’s Wildcats, coming off a 56-53 win against previous Class 4A No. 1 North Central, have their customary surplus of height.
Keefer’s current roster includes eight players standing 6-4 or taller.
Jackson-Davis is coming off a 17-point, 17-rebound performance in last Friday’s overtime victory at Ben Davis. The following night, in a home win against Roncalli, Jackson-Davis scored 11 points.
He must continue his recent level of play for Center Grove to have any chance of snapping its four-game losing streak against Lawrence North. The remainder of the Trojans’ regular-season schedule also includes road games at Warren Central, Lawrence Central, North Central and Brownsburg.
Last season’s experiences will come in handy.
“Last year was a good learning experience for me, just learning what my role was and learning to grow as a player,” Jackson-Davis said. “Some of the teams we played intimidated me a little bit because it was all so new to me.”
“I’m better now at going after the ball, being more aggressive and getting the ball to my teammates.”
One textbook example of the latter came late in the fourth quarter of the win at Ben Davis.
With the score knotted at 44-44, Jackson-Davis stood near the top of the key with the ball over his head. Noticing senior forward Travis Roehling making a cut to charge in from the left side, Jackson-Davis hit his teammate in stride.
Roehling flipped in a reverse layup for the go-ahead points.
The Giants sent the game to overtime with a pair of free throws. However, this new aspect to Jackson-Davis’ hoops skill set had never been more noticeable.
On Dec. 30, Purdue University men’s basketball coach Matt Painter attended Center Grove’s home game against Greenwood. Painter offered Jackson-Davis a scholarship later that weekend during the sophomore’s visit to Mackey Arena to watch the Boilermakers host Minnesota.
IUPUI is the other Division I program to have offered Jackson-Davis a scholarship. Iowa would like him to visit, while Xavier and Ohio State also have demonstrated interest.
Interest surely will continue to pick up, especially as Jackson-Davis expands what he can do offensively, defensively and intangibly.
“I think I need to finish this season out trying to be a dominant post player,” he said. “Then next season it’s just getting the confidence to shoot the mid-range jumper.”
By the time he’s a senior, Jackson-Davis hopes to be able to occasionally pull defenders away from the basket as a result of an improved perimeter shooting touch.
Not yet to the halfway point of his basketball career at Center Grove, time remains on his side.
Name: Trayce Jackson-Davis
Born: Long Beach, California
Family: Parents Ray and Karla Jackson, Dale Davis; sister Arielle, 25; brother Tayven, 13
Favorite TV show: “SportsCenter”
Favorite food: Steak
Favorite movie: “Remember the Titans”
Favorite athlete: Russell Westbrook
Favorite team: Minnesota Vikings