Observing Trayce Jackson-Davis, Jordan Geronimo, and Hunter Maldonado

March 15th, 2021

By Alan Lu

Today, I took the time to watch Trayce Jackson-Davis and Indiana face off against Wyoming in a play-in game in the 2022 NCAA Tournament.  Jackson-Davis is quietly having a tremendous junior season, and it also presented another opportunity to watch Wyoming’s go-to scorers, Hunter Maldonado and Graham Ike, both of whom faltered when I last saw them play in their team’s February 23rd loss to Colorado State. 

This game was very uneventful, as there were a lot of slow-down, low post touches on offense, as well as a huge number of turnovers, especially on Maldonado and Ike’s end in this game.  Trayce Jackson-Davis turned in a strong showing, as he played very well on both ends of the floor and led Indiana to get the win over Wyoming, and freshman forward, Jordan Geronimo surprised as he made a number of highlight reel-worthy plays to bolster his team.  Here are my thoughts on how Jackson-Davis and other various prospects fared on this day.

Trayce Jackson-Davis scored 29 points and hauled in 9 rebounds, as he led Indiana to defeat Wyoming in the First Four of the 2022 NCAA Tournament.
(Photo:
Andy Lyons/Getty Images, via ESPN)

Indiana’s 6-9 junior big man, Trayce Jackson-Davis put forth a terrific performance in his team’s win over Wyoming.  He came in to this contest as head and shoulders, the best prospect to play in Tuesday’s play-in games, and he was every bit as good as advertised.

Jackson-Davis thrived as a scorer on off-ball motion plays.  He managed to score on an aggressive drive on the break with his right hand while drawing an extra free throw afterwards.  He also caught a lob pass off of a roll and proceeded to score on a thunderous, alley-oop dunk.

He also showed good footwork, and he used a spin move to score on a smooth, finger roll layup off the dribble.  Jackson-Davis also did a satisfactory job of scoring in the post, and he looked to score often from the block.  He would often establish position on the block, he would use ball fakes and spin moves to sometimes get past defenders, and he was able to score on a handful of left-handed, jump hooks.  Jackson-Davis also received the ball around the basket, and he drove to the rim to score on a thunderous dunk. Sometimes though, he wouldn’t get deep enough and would be walled off by his defenders, and he would sometimes miss on contested, left-handed jump hooks.

He also displayed perhaps adequate playmaking skills.  Though Jackson-Davis didn’t technically pick up an assist in this game, he was able to consistently pass out of the post to find open shooters.  Also, Jackson-Davis would set good, firm screens to help his teammates get open driving lanes.  However, when posting up once, he lowered his shoulder and was called for a charging foul that time.

Also, Jackson-Davis showed a solid ability to rebound the basketball.  He especially excelled at getting defensive boards, and he was able to box out his man to do so once.  He also played satisfactory defense in this game.  Jackson-Davis especially defended well early on, and he is an athletic interior defender that has a very good motor.  He would rotate to block shots in the post, and he also would hold his ground when defending in the post to force misses.  He also deflected a pass to nearly get a steal, and he also successfully drew a charge when defending on the block another time.  However, he would give up deep position when defending down low, which would lead him to allow scores at times.  He also over-helped in the paint once, and he was late to get back to his man, which led him to allow a three-point basket to an opponent.

In general, Trayce Jackson-Davis had a strong showing in his team’s win over Wyoming.  In a slow paced game where turnovers were abundant, Jackson-Davis proved to be the steadiest, most reliable hand, as he would consistently score and make plays on both ends of the floor.  He will still need to show that he can knock down jump shots from further out and show more of a diverse game offensively, but Jackson-Davis is an athletic, energetic big man that has played very well at the collegiate level.  He played very well in his team’s victory over Wyoming, and he could be a solid pick for an NBA team in the second round of the 2022 draft.

Indiana’s 6-6 redshirt freshman forward, Jordan Geronimo also played very well in his team’s win over Wyoming.  While he hasn’t played nearly as much this season, he made a number of very athletic, highlight reel-worthy, hustle plays, and he may have a decent amount of upside as a prospect for the NBA. 

Geronimo showed a knack for scoring on hustle plays.  He would often run in to score on thunderous tip slams off of offensive rebounds.  He also excelled at scoring off the dribble, and he also did a very good job of finishing plays around the basket.  He can use either hand to score off the dribble, and he was able to execute a nifty spin move to score off the glass.   He didn’t shoot the ball nearly as well from the outside, as he missed on an open mid-range jumper and was inconsistent with his three-point shot, but Geronimo was able to make an open, corner three midway through this match.

He also did a very good job of rebounding the basketball.  Geronimo would often leap up aggressively to get boards on both ends of the floor, and he has a keen nose for the ball.  He also played solid defense in this game.  Geronimo rotated to emphatically block an opponent’s shot in the post, as he also took the ball away in mid-air.  On another play though, he ended up getting beat off the dribble and committed a foul that time.

Geronimo came virtually out of nowhere to turn in a tremendous game off the bench to help Indiana get a key win over Wyoming in the play-in game in the 2022 NCAA Tournament.  He is a very athletic, high-motor forward that makes highly energetic plays, and he could be an intriguing prospect to watch in 2023.  He’ll still need to improve his outside shot and playmaking skills in the meantime, but his ability to move off the ball on offense and make rangy, hustle plays could enable him to transition well into a defensive specialist role in the NBA sometime in the future.

Hunter Maldonado had his ups and downs in his team’s loss to Wyoming.  He played poorly in the first half, as he was highly turnover prone, and he didn’t seem to be comfortable in doing anything except operating out of the post on offense in that time span.  He seemed to expand his game more in the second half, which enabled him to settle in more, and he was able to score and get assists off the dribble, and he even knocked down a couple of threes patiently off the dribble.  However, his aggressiveness often bordered on recklessness, and his 21-point performance in which he surprisingly made two three-pointers were dampened by the fact that he also committed a whopping 10 turnovers in this game.

Maldonado is an old school, throwback style player that seems to be a relic of an older era.  He’s a post-up guard, but most offense nowadays rarely post up their guards on the block.  He uses his size, strength, and savvy to make plays down low, which enabled him to be effective for his team during the regular season. 

However, he’s not very quick or athletic, and he hasn’t been much of a threat to knock down outside shots, and he’s never really been a great three-point shooter over the course of his collegiate career.  As a result, a combination of these things seemed to have really hindered his performances against stronger teams in college basketball.  He really struggled to create his own shot on non-post plays in the first half, and he became entirely too predictable in wanting to try to post up, or pass in non-post-up possessions.  He was able to score more on aggressive drives and spot-up situations later in the match, but that wasn’t enough to negate the immense amount of turnovers he committed over the course of this contest.

Maldonado was the most comfortable in scoring out of the post, and he did a decent job at that.  He would use his size and strength to slowly and steadily back down his opponents, and he would get deep position on the block.  That would enable him to use dribble moves to score on layups and jump hooks, and he showed that he can do so using either hand.  However, he had a tougher time scoring out of the post in traffic, especially against help defenders, and he would take tough, off-balanced shots that would lead to misses.  He especially struggled early on, and he ended up having plenty of shots blocked around the basket.

Also, Maldonado did a decent job of scoring off the dribble.  While he struggled to create off the dribble in the first half, he was able to find something of a stride in the second half, and he was able to sometimes capitalize when he would accelerate to the hoop.  He still played too wildly and out of control at times, but he had a couple of nice drives in the second half.  He managed to use a quick crossover move to score on an aggressive, right-handed drive to the hoop.  Also, Maldonado was able to drive hard to the hoop to draw fouls upon his defenders to get to the free throw line.  He missed wildly on one aggressive drive to the basket, but he was able to score on aggressive drives when he wouldn’t turn the ball over.

Surprisingly, Maldonado actually did a good job of shooting the basketball in this game.  He hasn’t shot the three-ball well over the course of his collegiate career, but he was able to get a couple of pull-up threes to fall late in this match against Indiana.  He dribbled to his right to make an open pull-up three.  He also ran off a ball screen to get the basketball, and then made a nice, step-back three while drawing an extra free throw afterwards.  While he isn’t really known for his jump shooting, Maldonado having made a couple of threes in his final college game is an encouraging sign, especially if he has aspirations to play in the NBA someday.

While Maldonado had run the point for Wyoming this year, it could be likely that he may not actually project to be a point guard in the NBA level.  For the positives, he is an unselfish player that can pass well out of the post, and he will throw skip passes and passes off the dribble to find the open man, and when he would play patiently he would be able to get assists.  However, he’s just not very athletic, as he would be unable to stave off swarming defenders, and he also seemed to make a lot of rash decisions that resulted in turnovers. 

He would usually struggle to create separation between himself and his defender, and he also tended to rush himself too much in this game.  Often times, he would struggle to handle the ball when pressured, and he would usually either fall and lose the ball after handling it off the dribble or in the post, or get balls poked away to commit turnovers.  He also would tend to throw hasty, inaccurate passes, and he would sometimes throw ill-advised jump passes off the dribble that would get picked off.  He also lowered his shoulder on another drive as he tried to clear out, but was called for a charging foul that time. 

In watching Maldonado play in the February 23rd game against Colorado State and tonight against Indiana, I think he’ll probably either have to figure out a way to handle quicker, more athletic defenders with the ball in his hands, or play more of an off-ball role and play the small forward position instead, which would likely force him to be more of a jump shooter and also to try to look to score more on backdoor cuts.  Either his way, his game doesn’t seem like it would transition very well to the NBA if it stays as is, and Maldonado will need to make significant adjustments to his game, and he will need to improve as an overall player moving forward.

Also, Maldonado was able to haul in boards on both ends of the floor to chip in on the glass.  He also played adequate defense.  He would contest shots off the dribble to force misses.  He also was able to intercept a pass to get a steal early on.  Sometimes though, he would be late on his rotations and get beat off the dribble, which would lead him to allow scores.

Overall, Hunter Maldonado didn’t have a great game, but honestly, I thought he played a little better than expected, which still isn’t amazing.  I didn’t think he would play well at all against Indiana, and while he turned the ball over very often, he did manage to make a couple of threes, and he kept competing in the second half despite the obvious turnover issues.  As an NBA draft prospect, I don’t think his game is a very good fit for the NBA right now, and he’ll need to diversify his offensive skills and improve his foot speed to make those adjustments.  He’ll definitely need to be a more reliable outside shooter on a consistent basis and he may need to show NBA teams that he can play in an off-ball role to fit into an NBA offense better.  On top of that, he’s only an average athlete, and he didn’t show that he can reliably run the post against upper-echelon opponents in big games.  On the other hand, he does have some skills that work in his favor.  Maldonado is a post-up guard that can score and pass out of the post, and his point guard mentality could enable him to play multiple positions at higher levels. Maldonado will have to prove himself by playing well at the Portsmouth Invitational (if he gets invited there) and in the pre-draft workouts.  Most likely, he will need at least a season in the G-League and/or overseas to hone his game, but persistence and dedication could pay off for him if he puts in the work to continue to develop and improve as an overall player.

Indiana’s guard, Xavier Johnson didn’t have his best game, but he is an athletic combo guard that was able to make some solid plays at times in his team’s win over Wyoming.  He was able to score on a couple of aggressive drives, and he also scored on a quick reverse layup on a drive in transition, but Johnson also would tend to miss on rushed, wild drives to the hoop.  Johnson also made an open three in transition, but he struggled to consistently knock down his outside shots.  He was able to draw a handful of free throws, as he drew free throws after the opposing coach was called for a technical foul, and Johnson would also get fouled intentionally late in the game when the other team would be trailing and desperate to try to claw back in it.

Johnson displayed satisfactory playmaking skills in this game.  He is a agile playmaker that has a quick first step to the hoop, and he can make an assortment of passes off the dribble to create scoring chances for his teammates.  He also threw a crisp, accurate lob pass to set up an alley-oop dunk for a roll man to notch an assist.  However, he was called for setting a moving screen once, and he also threw a rushed pass that got intercepted another time.

Also, he did a decent job of scoring the basketball.  Overall, Xavier Johnson didn’t have a great game, but he is an athletic combo guard that showed that he can comfortably run the point, and he was able to get assists and rebounds when he was on the floor.  He still can be too inconsistent in games, but his athleticism and improved ability to run the point could enable him to compete for a roster spot in the NBA sometime in the near future.

Wyoming’s 6-9 big man, Graham Ike also had his ups and downs in his team’s loss to Indiana.  Like Maldonado, Ike had a poor showing in the first time I saw him play against Colorado State on February 23rd.  I wasn’t really expecting Ike to perform that well, but I was hopeful that he would play better than the first time I saw him play.  I will say, I felt Ike played better today than how he fared on February 23rd, but he still has a long way to go as a prospect for the NBA.

Ike showed a satisfactory ability to score out of the post.  He would tend to get deep position, and sometimes he would use ball fakes and spin moves to get past his man.  He was able to score on a bevy of left handed, jump hooks, as well as on a turnaround jumper, and on an up and under move.  Sometimes though, he would struggle to find his shooting touch, which would lead him to miss jump hooks and turnaround jumpers, and sometimes awkwardly at that.

He also managed to score on a strong put back, while getting an extra free throw once.  However, he also had a couple of his shots blocked, and sometimes Ike would struggle to score around the basket.  In addition, Ike didn’t really show that he could knock down jumpers from outside of the paint area in this game.  Also, Ike was very turnover prone in this game.  On one good play, he managed to tip a ball to a teammate on an offensive rebound to help set up a score for his team around the basket.  Ike also set a screen to help his teammate score on an open jump shot another time.  However, Ike tended to be called for lots of traveling violations, and he tended to drag or shuffle his pivot foot too often.  Another time, he had a ball poked away when posting up, and he also was called for a charging foul when trying to score from the block on a separate possession.

Ike showed a solid ability to rebound the basketball, and he also brought the ball up effortlessly once off of a defensive rebound to show some handles.  On the other hand, he seemed to struggle defensively in this game.  For the positives, Ike would get his hands on passes to get steals and deflections.  He also would hold his ground and contest shots to force some misses when defending in the post.  However, he would sometimes be caught ball watching and be late on his rotations, and sometimes balls would go over his head, as he would just stand and watch his opponent score on dunks around the basket rather than try to make an actual defensive play.  He also would sometimes give up deep position when defending down low, which would lead him to commit fouls and allow scores.

Overall, Graham Ike did not have a great game, but he is a strong, mobile big man that primarily operates out of the post.  He will need to extend his shooting range, and improve his passing and on-ball defense in order to diversify his game.  He will need to make significant improvements to his overall game in order to increase his chances to make it to and succeed in the NBA.  Currently, he would likely project to be a borderline second round candidate whenever he decides to enter the draft.

Drake Jeffries did not play very well in his team’s loss to Indiana.  He didn’t shoot very well, and he just was not very memorable in this game.  He missed on all of his threes, and he couldn’t find his shooting stroke in this match.  Jeffries was able to get the ball around the basket after receiving a pass from a teammate, and he was able to score and get an extra free throw afterwards.

Defensively, he tended to gamble quite often, as he would tend to cheat off his man, and he would end up giving up too much space to shooters, which would result in scores.  However, he would often be the beneficiary of grabbing rebounds when opponents would miss their jump shots, and Jeffries did a very good job of rebounding the basketball, as he would attack the ball relentlessly to haul them in for his team.

Overall, Drake Jeffries didn’t play very well, but if anything, he rebounded the ball well, despite not shooting well in his team’s loss to Indiana.  He didn’t take many shots, but he also was just not very effective on offense in this game.  He’ll need to show that he can consistently shoot and defend well against upper-echelon opponents.  He will probably go undrafted in the 2022 draft, but Jeffries’ solid play during the regular season could enable him to carve out a role as a 3 and D type of role player in the G-League and/or overseas.

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