Both sides of the hyphen in the last name of one of Indiana’s premier high school basketball players tell a story.
They are similar, but different, for Trayce Jackson-Davis, a 6-foot-9 left-handed center for Center Grove who does his best to handle the unconventional reality of having two fathers.
Jackson-Davis, a junior who already has been offered scholarships by the likes of Butler, Indiana, Purdue, Michigan State and Xavier, will likely enter the 2018-19 season as a leading candidate to be Indiana Mr. Basketball.
However, to get to this lofty vantage point, Jackson-Davis, who is polite, soft-spoken and the consummate team player, utilizes a maturity that belies his nearly 18 years.
Trayce has been raised by his de facto father, Ray Jackson, for his entire life. His birth father is former Indiana Pacers forward Dale Davis.
After Trojans games, it’s not unusual to see all three on the court at the same time, though Davis, 48, who resides in Atlanta, isn’t able to witness every outing.
“Dale and I have no issues. We’re good,” said Jackson, 43, the chief of police at Center Grove Schools. “It’s just a collaboration of trying to raise Trayce and give him all the knowledge and tutelage we have of playing sports.”
So far this season, Jackson-Davis has clearly been putting that knowledge to good use. He’s averaging 25 points, 9.3 rebounds and 4.4 blocks heading into this week’s Johnson County tournament, which the Trojans will host.
Jackson, who played football at Washington State University and was in the National Football League “on and off” for four seasons, has been a daily presence in Trayce’s life since birth.
On Feb. 22, 2000, he cut Trayce’s umbilical cord at Anaheim Hospital in southern California, and has since become birth father to Jackson-Davis’ brother Tayven, an eighth-grader at Center Grove Middle School Central.
Ray and Karla Jackson also have a daughter, Arielle, who is 25.
Jackson-Davis considers Jackson, the man who helped raise him, as his father. Trayce’s relationship with Davis, his own flesh and blood, continues to slowly evolve, but remains a work in progress.
“Dale is a really busy guy. He’s got a lot of businesses that he takes care of,” Jackson-Davis said. “I would usually go down and see him through middle school and elementary school, but now since I’m older he comes up and watches me play.
“He’s there and he always talks to me. He’ll tell me things I need to work on. I’d say we’re getting a little more comfortable. He’s pretty talkative with me and knows a lot of things about basketball. That’s what we mostly talk about.”
Early on, the kid who would eventually blossom into an imposing force at both ends of the hardwood went by Trayce Davis.
He implemented the hyphen once he entered ninth grade.
“When I got to high school, I didn’t think it was fair. Ray raised me my whole life, so I did Jackson-Davis. They both want the best out of me, but I would say they do it at different angles,” Jackson-Davis said.
“Ray takes me to the gym and does all that stuff. Dale is mostly about the mindset, but when he’s in town he’ll try to get me in the gym. They’re both doing their part to try to make me the best player I can possibly be.”
And the best person.
Jackson remembers a game against Bloomington North this season in Center Grove’s West Gym, when Trayce landed awkwardly during a 77-68 victory.
Walking up and down the sideline to test his leg, he was approached by a couple of young fans trying to get Jackson-Davis’ attention. The big guy smiled, took a moment to high-five each and then proceeded with his rehabilitation.
“It’s little things like that,” Jackson said.”Trayce doesn’t talk about himself. We’ve raised him to be a down-to-earth kid, but that’s just his nature. He has a huge heart, just like his mother.”
Johnson County tournament
Edinburgh-Franklin loser at Greenwood-Whiteland loser, 7 p.m.
At Center Grove
Edinburgh/Franklin winner vs. Greenwood/Whiteland winner, 6 p.m.
Indian Creek/GCA winner vs. Center Grove, 7:45 p.m.
At Center Grove
Fifth place, 6 p.m.
Third place, 6 p.m.
Championship, 7:45 p.m.