Trayce Jackson-Davis Is Focused on Helping Trojans Win It All This Season
Writer / Matt Roberts
Photographer / Brian Brosmer
Entering his junior year, Center Grove High School’s Trayce Jackson-Davis holds scholarship offers from five Big Ten universities — including Indiana and Purdue — along with other schools from the Big East and Atlantic Coast Conferences.
It is pretty good progress for a kid who was on the B team as an eighth grader.
“I was a late bloomer,” Jackson-Davis says. “Freshman year I grew four or five inches and started working with Coach Hahn.”
Trojans Head Basketball Coach Zach Hahn has seen kids hit growth spurts before, but the increase in height frequently comes at the expense of coordination and basketball skill.
“Even as he’s grown, he’s gotten even more athletic,” Hahn says. “He hasn’t lost any skill. A lot of guys growing that fast lose something. I watched Gordon Hayward (of the Boston Celtics) play basketball as a high school sophomore, and he was a pretty good 6-foot guard. Then when he came to Butler two years later, he was a 6-foot-7 freshman that was more athletic, and that made him a very dynamic player.
“Something similar has happened with Trayce, and it’s due to his work ethic,” Hahn adds. “He’s put in the effort and the energy, and now he’s reaping the rewards.”
Hahn’s expectations for improvement in his best player are limited but critical.
“More than anything, just being a leader emotionally,” Hahn says. “Last year, he’d go through games being unbelievable — one of the top five players in the state as a sophomore — and then he’d disappear for a couple games. But his maturity has grown tremendously over the summer, and he understands the game at a very high level.”
ESPN currently ranks Jackson-Davis as a Top-40 recruit in his class. To date, he’s visited Indiana (“a few times”), Michigan State (twice), Iowa, Xavier, Butler and Ohio State. But despite all the attention from colleges, the 6-foot-8 forward has pushed the process out of his mind for now.
“I’m not really focusing on that since our season started,” he says. “Next year, I’ll get more engaged. By the time I graduate, I could be a completely different player.”
It wasn’t long ago that Center Grove basketball was never mentioned in discussions of Indiana high school powerhouses. Despite its status as one of the largest schools in the state, the Trojans won only one sectional title between 1995 and Hahn’s arrival in 2014. Last season, Center Grove won 17 games and the sectional, falling to eventual state champion New Albany in the Regional semifinal by five points.
The recent success of the program has energized fans and players alike. Coach Hahn likes the new swagger he sees in his team as they begin the season competing in the ultra-tough Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference (MIC).
“Every team (in the MIC) has at least one, maybe two Division I college players,” Hahn says. “Lawrence has four or five. Carmel has two or three, Ben Davis two or maybe three. Pike will have a couple. Out of eight teams, there are 16 to 20 DI players, and most of the other starters could play NAIA or D2.”
Despite the brutal slate, Jackson-Davis thinks his team can compete with anybody in the state right now.
“I think we can win every game on our schedule,” he says. “We can make it all the way to the state championship, but we have to grind it out. There are no cupcakes, so we must come ready to play every day.
“I like how we’ve become one of the top schools and now both our football and basketball programs are top tier,” Jackson-Davis adds. “We’ve woken people up and they’re not saying, ‘Oh, Center Grove is just a football school’. Now it’s like, ‘those guys can play’.”