Trayce Jackson-Davis finally gets his draft experience: 'I know I can help a team'
Jackson-Davis worked out for his hometown Pacers on Monday. "Today I felt like I kind of got my swagger back."
Trayce Jackson-Davis was supposed to be going through all of this three years ago — gathering information from NBA evaluators, going to the draft combine and impressing teams during pre-draft workouts.
The Covid-19 pandemic abruptly ended the college basketball season during the 2020 Big Ten Tournament at then Bankers Life Fieldhouse when Indiana University played Nebraska. Utah’s Rudy Gobert had tested positive, the NBA paused its season and college basketball followed.
So then there was no draft combine or pre-draft workout opportunities before the 2020 NBA Draft. And it’s in those workouts where TJD’s skillset has a real chance to shine.
The following year, Archie Miller was fired as IU head coach and replaced by alum Mike Woodson, an assistant for the New York Knicks. Jackson-Davis sat in Woodson’s office, liked what he had to say and elected to return for his junior season.
Then in 2022, just before the draft combine started in Chicago, Jackson-Davis came down with a bad case of Covid-19 — which caused him to miss out on the exposure from the event and not be at full strength for team workouts. So he told coach Woodson, who was in Chicago for the combine, over a Zoom call that he would be returning.
Back for one last season in Bloomington, Jackson-Davis was one of the best players in college basketball. He became both a better player and a better leader. He led the program and everyone else fell in line.
So it was notable there here he was on Monday, back home again in Indiana and working out for the Pacers.
“Finally being able to experience this process is a blessing to be in and I’m just happy to be here,” he said after competing in a workout group that included Arizona's Azuolas Tubelis, NC State's Terquavion Smith and Kentucky's Chris Livingston. “I’m going to give it my all and see where I end up.”
Early returns have been favorable for the Center Grove High School and IU product. He’s made a strong impression in front of multiple teams already, like Sacramento and Utah, league sources said. Indiana too. His draft range suggests he could go anywhere from 26 to 40.
Jackson-Davis did not participate in the scrimmages at the draft combine in mid-May, but he was proud of all his testing; well, except for his lane agility time that ranked fifth slowest among all who tested.
“I didn’t do it right so my time wasn’t that good,” he said with a grin.
The 23-year-old measured 6-foot-9, 240 pounds with a 7-1 wingspan.
He’s been training in Los Angeles, then began the pre-draft process in San Francisco and worked out for four Western Conference teams before coming home for the weekend, spending two days with family, and then ramping up again on Monday at the Pacers practice facility.
He has workouts with eight more teams scheduled running up to June 19, just a few days before draft night on June 22 in Brooklyn.
A visit to Boston on Tuesday, then Brooklyn, Charlotte, Orlando and the list goes on…
“Obviously being in your hometown, you got a little bit of juice getting ready for this workout and I thought it went great today,” Jackson-Davis said.
And you could see it on his face, he knew he crushed it.
It also helped how the Pacers essentially produced a highlight package for him that they shared on social media. Normally, it's just a photo of each player involved.
But not for this one.
They showed him doing a little bit of everything: attacking, dunking, making 3s, defending and running.
At 12:23 p.m., he walked over to the north west corner of the Pacers practice facility and had 19 members of the local media waiting to hear from him. For context, that’s larger than any Pacers practice during the season. And usually there’s three of us at these draft workouts.
“I’m not gonna lie, this is my first media that I’ve had,” he said — with laughs all around. (Note: Most teams keep workouts private and do not invite media for interviews.)
Hometown Workout Where His Dad Played
I was reminded of the photo above this week on Twitter. It was from 2017, when the Pacers celebrated their 50th season. Trayce was a sophomore in high school; it was a year before he committed to play at IU.
Jackson-Davis is the son of Dale Davis, who was selected 13th overall by the Pacers and was with the team from 1991-2000. In his final year, Dale was named an All-Star. And then he was dealt to Portland in a trade that brought Jermaine O’Neal to Indy.
Dale lives in Atlanta and their relationship seems to be in a good place, though it wasn’t always that way. Trayce was raised by his mom (Karla) and Ray Jackson, who he considers his father. While in high school, he decided to go from “Davis” to “Jackson-Davis.”
Dale attended some of his son’s Center Grove games during his senior year. Trayce was the 2019 Indiana Mr. Basketball and a McDonald’s All-American headed to play at IU. Most of their relationship is kept private and Trayce doesn’t talk about him often.
“He’s letting me find my own pathway and he knows that I want to do that,” Jackson-Davis told Fieldhouse Files. “If I ever need anything, he’s there. He hasn’t been a huge factor. If I ever need to talk to him, he’s always there for me.”
Trayce was born in 2000 and only attended a handful of Pacers games growing up. “I went to some,” he said, “but I probably could have gotten to lot more. In my life, I’ve probably been to like 20, 25.”