Pacers.com

Blackmon, Jr. Trying to Prove a Point

by Mark Montieth
Pacers.com Writer
@MarkMontieth

He can shoot the basketball, everyone knows that. The college stats are there in black and white, and he's the type who will pass the eyeball test in virtually every workout.

The question James Blackmon, Jr. has been trying to answer in his pre-draft workouts for NBA teams has been twofold: can he handle the ball well enough to play point guard, and can he defend his position? How well he's answered them will determine whether he hears his name called on draft night or goes the free agent route.

Blackmon worked out for the Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse Saturday morning. He said it was either his 14th or 15th for an NBA team, and he can be forgiven for not being sure. They all run together after a while, and this one was his sixth in six days – a back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back, if you will. He worked out in Los Angeles on Friday, arrived at his Indianapolis hotel around 12:30 or 1 a.m., then was up at 7:30 to prepare for his last audition.

Still, he seemed energized when talking with the eight reporters gathered around him on the practice court.

"It's good that I finished at home," he said.

"I brought a little extra edge. It was hard not to show my best for this one."

Blackmon was born and raised in Fort Wayne, finished his high school career in Marion and played three seasons at Indiana University. He entered the draft following a season in which he averaged 17 points on 48 percent shooting – 42 percent from the 3-point line – in 30 games. He had hit 46 percent of his 3-pointers the previous season, when he played in just 13 games because of a knee injury.

So, yes, he can shoot, a point he reiterated in drills following Saturday's session on The Fieldhouse practice court. His problem is that he's 6-foot-3, short for a shooting guard in the NBA, which means he must prove himself as a point guard. Which leads to the other problem, which is that he doesn't have elite quickness by NBA standards. Having had two knee surgeries while at IU doesn't help.

The next college shooting guard to transition to NBA point guard successfully might be the first. James Harden did it after playing seven NBA seasons, but he's 6-5. Blackmon, however, believes he's showing better ballhandling skills than people assume from him, and believes that might be why he's received far more invitations to work out than he expected when the process began.

Teams have played him at point guard in fullcourt and halfcourt situations, seeing how he handles pick-and-rolls and one-on-one matchups.

"It's one-on-one, you're on an island," he said. "Offensively I've been showing I can break people down and defensively showing that competitive edge, getting into people.

"In college I played off the ball, but in these workouts I've been strictly a point guard, and playing a little combo. I've showed that part of my game. That's something I didn't show in college."

Blackmon, who announced his decision to stay in the draft on May 7, participated in graduation ceremonies in Bloomington. He still needs one online course to complete his degree requirement, a sports communications class that requires a couple of projects and an internship. His pre-draft workouts and all the interviews that go with them would seem to qualify for course credit, but he'll complete that later.

Mock drafts have him as a fringe prospect, one unlikely to be drafted but one who could sneak into the latter reaches of the second round. That shouldn't deter him too much, however, given the example set by two former IU teammates, Yogi Ferrell and Troy Williams.

Both were undrafted last year, but wound up on NBA rosters and succeeded. Ferrell played in 46 games for Brooklyn and Dallas. He started 29 games for the Mavericks, for whom he averaged 11.3 points, 4.3 assists and 1.6 turnovers, and had a 32-point game at Portland. Williams played in 30 games total for Memphis and Houston, starting in 16. He averaged 9.7 points in his six games with the Grizzlies, including a 21-point outing at Phoenix.

"The draft is obviously the goal, but some guys who got drafted aren't playing and those two are," Blackmon said. "I've been talking to them almost every other day, especially Yogi. I worked out for Dallas this week. Just talking to them has definitely given me confidence."

"Either way it goes, draft, un-draft, I'm confident I'm an NBA player."


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