GREENFIELD, Ind. -- Forget, for just a second, that James Blackmon was once again a force of basketball nature.
Hold the thought that his Indiana-Kentucky Junior All-Star Game leading 27 points, including a cold-blooded, back-breaking three-pointer, sparked Friday night's comeback 108-102 victory at Greenfield Central High School.
Instead, consider Concordia's D.J. McCall, almost an afterthought on this nationally heralded group.
McCall is a 6-5 swingman good enough to average 17.3 points last year for Concordia, but you won't find him listed among America's top players in the Class of 2014, as you do with Blackmon (No. 47) and fellow junior all-stars Trey Lyles (No. 4), JaQuan Lyle (No. 17) and Trevon Bluiett (No. 46).
The 6-5 Bluiett, an Indianapolis Park Tudor standout, and the 6-4 Lyle, from Evansville Bosse, have multiple scholarship offers, including ones from Indiana and Purdue.
The 6-10 Lyles, who once was committed to IU, also has multiple offers, including Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina and Michigan State.
Still, McCall made an impact with nine points, seven in the second half. His aggressiveness made an impression with Indiana coach Brent Chitty, who didn't play McCall until the final five minutes of the first half, then started him in the second.
“He was the last guy to get in and before he went in I told him, make me look stupid (for not playing him sooner), Chitty said. “And he did. That's what I'm talking about. He had some big plays. He was attacking. That's a competitor. I'll take that kid on my team any time.”
He'll also take Blackmon, the 6-2 standout guard who committed to Indiana before ever playing a high school game. He's spent the last three years thriving at Bishop Luers, averaging 33.3 points last season to bounce back from the previous year's knee surgery. With his father and coach, James Blackmon Sr., now coaching at Marion, he'll be a Giant as a senior.
He certainly played big in the second half and overtime with 21 points. Chitty never took in out in the final 20 minutes.
“He was doing so many good things,” Chitty said, “I said, just leave him in there. We'll sub everybody else.”
That was fine with Blackmon.
“At the end, Coach had confidence in me so I had confidence in myself,” Blackmon said. “Once I score a couple of buckets that happens. You want to pick up on defense, do whatever it takes to win. I want it on my shoulders. I want to put the team on my back.”
Blackmon had a chance to win it at the end of regulation after Kentucky's Kelan Martin tied the score at 90-90 with seven seconds left. Blackmon missed a long, contested three-pointer.
“Coach told me I had to take the last shot. I like putting that pressure on myself. I thought I had a good look. I shot it too hard.”
This was just the latest in a series of events for Blackmon in the last month or so, including participation in the prestigious Nike Elite Youth Basketball League. He's set to play tonight in another game against Kentucky in Louisville. The Junior All-Stars also have a pair of games next week against the Indiana All-Stars. After that is an NBA camp in Virginia, and then a busy travel ball July with his Spiece Indy Heat team.
“It's been crazy with all the stuff we have going on,” Blackmon said. “That's something I have to get used to if I want to do this at the next level. It's good for me to play this summer because last summer I couldn't.”
Last summer Blackmon was still recovering from major knee surgery. He used the down time to improve his strength and basketball skills, and it shows.
“A lot (of his improvement) was motivation,” he said. “Seeing guys you think you're better than, you know you're better than, getting all that attention. You get hungrier.”
Hunger includes continuing his strong play.
“I want to get stronger, stay healthy and participate in these big events,” he said.
Indiana came in as the favorite, even more so considering Kentucky was missing its two top players in guard Quinten Snider (No. 29 in the Class of 2014) and forward Shane Hall (No. 108)
Still, Kentucky jumped on Indiana early. Indiana stayed within range behind Blackmon and Bluiett (who finished with 17 points). At halftime Kentucky led 45-39. Bluiett had seven points. Blackmon had six. McCall had two.
In the second half Kentucky surged to a 71-60 lead with 10 minutes left, before a Blackmon three-pointer sparked a comeback. McCall gave Indiana its first lead at 82-81 with a fast-break dunk.
Indiana pushed ahead for a 90-87 lead before Kentucky's Martin hit a tying three-pointer to force overtime.
One surprise was the lack of playing time for Lyle, the 6-4 standout from Evansville Bosse. Chitty said it wasn't because Lyle was injured. He didn't score.
“He's really good,” Chitty said, “but as we watched guys play, we wanted to give these kids a chance to win. Some guys got hot. JaQuan is for real. He'll bounce back.”
Also, the Indiana girls Junior All-Stars beat Kentucky 79-67. Concordia's Courtney Smith had six points. Canterbury's Kindell Fincher had three points.