Column: Indiana must appreciate Trayce Jackson-Davis while he’s here

The Archie Miller era was a somber time for Indiana fans.

The Hoosiers have made the NCAA tournament zero times during his tenure at Bloomington outside of the 2019-20 What If season. There was no firing and the hated Purdue Boilermakers began a winning streak that was only ended by a last-ditch attempt by Lafayette native Rob Phinisee during Mike Woodson’s freshman year in town.

The bright spots were few and became dimmer every year. There was Romeo Langford, Indiana’s most hyped recruit in decades, who left town as a one-and-done with no postseason because of the team around him. There was an enigmatic tendency to beat Tom Izzo’s Michigan State fairly regularly.

Everything eventually left except for Trayce Jackson-Davis.

Jackson-Davis, a 4-star Indiana kid who dominated at Center Grove High School south of Indianapolis, was a priority for a staffer who promised to recruit the state just a year before the lockdown. He was joined by Cathedral’s Armaan Franklin, who later transferred to Virginia after Woodson was hired.

Jackson-Davis almost declared himself for the NBA draft after Miller’s sacking, but a meeting with Woodson convinced him and his family to stay in Bloomington.

Despite the increasing dysfunction that surrounded him in his first two years, Jackson-Davis remained a consistent dominant presence from the moment he stepped onto the pitch as a freshman. When Indiana needed points, the fans knew who got the ball.

Guys like that don’t just grow on trees.

He may have returned to Indiana in part to cement his legacy as a Hoosiers great of all time, but the coming years would be far too late for the program and Indiana fans to appreciate all that he has done here. This must be started immediately.

He, Jackson-Davis, stepped up and held a players-only meet as the season soared ahead of a matchup with Wisconsin. In the end, the Hoosiers won 63-45. An 80-65 road batter from Illinois soon followed.

Indiana handled both without starting point guard Xavier Johnson or Race Thompson, with Jackson-Davis serving as a reliable force on and off the court while their replacements found their way.

The lead extended to the court, where he mixed up opposing bigs with various moves and dunks into the post. There was nothing Steven Crowl or Dain Dainja could do to contain it.

When North Carolina head coach Hubert Davis was asked why Indiana scored in the Hoosiers’ win over the Tar Heels, his answer was simple:

“Indiana has Trayce Jackson-Davis.”

He had opportunities to go. Go to the NBA and develop there or enter the transfer portal and do it somewhere else. Given how things have been during his time here, you can’t blame him.

But he did not do it. He cares about Indiana and he cares about him just as much.

Jackson-Davis does Herculean work for the Hoosiers on and off the field. To appreciate that years from now, long after he’s gone, would be a disservice to him and you.

Greatness deserves to be appreciated in its time.