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‘The program is only going up from here’: Jalen Hood-Schifino, Trayce Jackson-Davis excited about path of Indiana basketball



Mike Woodson and his Indiana basketball staff continue to add talent to the roster, with no intention of stopping anytime soon. (Rich Janzaruk/Herald-Times-USA TODAY NETWORK)

The Indiana basketball program couldn’t land the ‘big ones’ for much of the last few years. Then, Mike Woodson ended that streak … and has done so ever since.

From the 2016 class until the 2021 class, Indiana landed two five-star players and one other top-30 player. In Woodson’s tenure, he has landed three five-star prospects, in at least one recruiting service, and one other top-30 player. He also landed another former five-star prospect from the transfer portal this offseason.

Before Woodson, the question was always if the team had enough talent. That’s not the case with the program that he has now built.

Indiana had Big Ten Freshman of the Year this past season with Jalen Hood-Schifino — now a projected late lottery to late first round selection in the upcoming NBA Draft. The development of Trayce Jackson-Davis from this staff has now put him in position to be a potential first round pick.

And once again for the 2023-24 season, there will be no question about the natural talent on the roster.

2023 five-star signee Mackenzie Mgbako and Oregon transfer Kel’el Ware, a 2022 five-star, are both McDonald’s All-Americans on the Indiana basketball roster. This is the first time since the 2016-17 season that IU will have multiple McDonald’s All-Americans on the roster.

Mgbako was the finishing touches on the 2023 recruiting class, committing to the Hoosiers in early May over Kansas.

“Everything they (Indiana) have been able to do over the last 30-45 days has now set themselves up for — now expectations going into next year, of something where you don’t drop off as much as it could’ve been going into next year,” HoosierIllustrated owner Alec Lasley said following the Mgbako commitment. “It was massive in what you’re trying to build in what is a bridge year and a gap year from the Trayce Jackson-Davis era to the 2024 and 2025 classes.”

“He’s a necessary addition for Indiana to continue cresting in the right direction,” CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander said of Mgbako. “… he’s going to step into Jackson-Davis’ role. He’s a better shooter and a more reliable shooter from the mid to deep range than Jackson-Davis was. Getting him was a big one.”

“I knew it. I mean, he didn’t tell me or anything. I just assumed it was Indiana because Mike Woodson is going to put him in the best position to succeed and to get to the next level,” 2024 five-star Indiana target Dylan Harper told

This week at the NBA Combine, both Jalen Hood-Schifino and Trayce Jackson-Davis made it known that their excitement for the Indiana basketball program is at an all-time high.

“I congratulate the coaches every time they win a recruit,” Jackson-Davis said to 247Sports writer Isaac Trotter. “ … I knew it was going to be good. Knew Coach Woodson would pull that one in. I’m really proud of them that they got another squad. That was my main focus that when I left everything was still going in the right direction.”

“I’m actually down training with one of the guys, Kel’el Ware. I knew him a little bit. They added him, the kid from Miami, then Mackenzie Mgbako, a top-10 recruit. That was huge. Got to talk to him a little bit,” Hood-Schifino added. “I knew Coach Woodson and the rest of the coaching staff would get it going down there. The program is only going up from here. Really happy for us. Can’t wait to see how it goes next season.”

After six years without an NCAA Tournament berth, the Hoosiers have gone to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments in Mike Woodson’s first two years. It was also the first time since the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons in which Indiana had back-to-back 20+ win seasons.

Indiana finished the 2022-23 season 23-12 and secured a 4-seed in the NCAA Tournament. Its 12 Big Ten wins were the highest since the 2015-16 season and the second highest since 2012-13.

Despite the trajectory that the Indiana basketball program is on, it hasn’t reached an Elite Eight since 2002 when the Hoosiers were national runner-ups.

Mike Woodson’s goal(s) at Indiana are simple, and it looks like he’s not stopping until he gets the program back to national prominence. So far, he’s doing the little things that help build up a program to reach those milestones.

“I came back here to win Big Ten titles and a national title. That’s all I want,” Woodson said ahead of this past season. “I’m not going to push the team in any other direction. If they’re scared of that challenge, then they shouldn’t be here.”

SEE ALSO: Indiana Basketball Mailbag: Mackenzie Mgbako, final scholarship spot, IU back court & more

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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.