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Indiana basketball looks to 2023 NBA Draft as culmination of past two years



Thursday is a culmination of the past two years for Mike Woodson & Indiana basketball, continuing its push to get IU back to national relevancy. (Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports)

Mike Woodson wanted to bring the Indiana basketball program back to national relevancy. That was one of the biggest points of emphasis he had when he took the program over just two years ago.

How would that happen? For starters, win games and return to the NCAA Tournament. He’s done that in back-to-back seasons and finished second in the Big Ten last year. Second, win recruiting battles. He’s done that as well — in a big way. He’s landed four five-star prospects in two classes (transfer and high school recruits).

The third way was to develop. Develop his freshmen and develop upperclassmen.

Thursday — the 2023 NBA Draft — is a culmination of step number three. Not only is Indiana in position to potentially have a lottery pick, it has a chance at two first-round selections. That would be the first time for Indiana since 2013 (Victor Oladipo, Cody Zeller)

Jalen Hood-Schifino was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year and has seen his progression move from a potential two-and-done prospect to a one-and-done player. He also received an invite to the NBA Draft Green Room, something Indiana hasn’t had from a prospect since 2019 (Romeo Langford).

Trayce Jackson-Davis enters Thursday as one of the most improved players in all of college basketball from last year to this year. His overall game rose to a level not many thought it could. Woodson and this Indiana basketball staff are behind that.

It’s clear to NBA scouts as well.

“I think teams were able to see his playmaking and defense take a step, with his PnR (pick and roll) defense previously being a big knock on him he’s probably still inconsistent but above average at this point and every team loves having the ability to play through big’s, especially since most PG’s in the NBA are more combo guards than true PG’s,” a NBA scout told “Coaches increasingly appreciate and know how to use versatility at each position, so this gives you someone else on the floor that can make plays for others.”

Jackson-Davis is a late first-round pick to early second-round selection come Thursday. It’s a much-improved position from the past few years when teams were only focused in on his ability — or inability — to shoot the ball. Instead of taking jump shots as a senior, however, he continued to dominate in the post and show he can be a tremendous asset to any NBA team regardless of his shot.

Jackson-Davis went on to average 20.9 points, 10.8 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.9 blocks per game. As a 6-foot-9 center, Jackson-Davis averaged the seventh-most assists in the Big Ten — amongst all players. He ranked fourth in the NCAA in blocks.

“It was the Lord’s plan, honestly,” Jackson-Davis told Andy Katz at the Combine. “Being with coach Woodson and talking to him and having him in my corner, it was a great experience. I trusted the process and I’ve benefited from it.”

For Hood-Schifino, his ability to play at a high level was seen early in his lone season in Bloomington. But, it took a tremendous step up when Xavier Johnson went down with a broken foot on Dec. 17. Hood-Schifino was then given the keys to the team and told to do just about everything on the floor. He needed to score, distribute, play defense and lead … and he took his play to another level, helping form one of the most formidable duos in the country with Jackson-Davis.

That development was and is critical for Indiana.

“It’s done a lot, you know,” Woodson said on Hood-Schifino’s development. ” … Not to say he was a one-and-done, but he put himself in that position and was able to do a lot of nice things for our ball club and you know, our program benefited from it.”

Hood-Schifino and Jackson-Davis are set to be the 78th and 79th players from the Indiana basketball program selected in the NBA Draft. Hood-Schifino — at the least — will be the 27th player selected in the first round. Indiana ranks second among Big Ten teams in that category and are just one of five programs in college basketball with at least 20 first-round selections.

So, as the Indiana basketball staff looks to Thursday, it’s a culmination of the past two years and all of the hard work that went into the main goal at hand — get Indiana back to national relevancy.

Besides, Mike Woodson wasn’t taking no for an answer when it came to getting and improving talent.

“When I took the job, I made it clear to my coaches that we deserved to sit at the table with the best players,” Woodson told reporters last month. “We kind of squabbled a little bit early on because they didn’t think we were in that position to be able to do that.

“Well, back in the day, it was always that way.”

SEE ALSO: Indiana basketball recruiting beginning to click on all cylinders: ‘I wanted to be able to sit at the table with the best players’

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Alec Lasley is the owner of Hoosier Illustrated, a comprehensive site covering news, updates and recruiting for Indiana University athletics. Alec has covered Indiana for six years and is a credentialed media member. He has previously worked for both Rivals and 247Sports.