“And toughness,” he adds.
You'd expect Hulls to give advice like this to a guy who might one day supplant him in Bloomington South High School basketball lore. Hulls, after all, did not build his formidable basketball reputation on the art of shut-down defense.
Hulls is the former Indiana Mr. Basketball from South who led the Panthers to a state championship, them became a thousand-point scorer for the Indiana Hoosiers. He's set to play professionally in Poland.
Blackwell, a 6-1 do-it-all guard, is preparing for his sophomore season after showing enough freshmen production and travel ball savvy for his Indiana Elite 2016 coach, Mark Adams, to say Blackwell might end up as the best player in South history.
MIGHT, of course, is the key word here, and one you won't hear from Blackwell. He's too busy training beyond his years.
Take, for instance, his approach to the July recruiting evaluation period, when college coaches from around the country gather in gyms to find players good enough to take them to a national championship promised land.
“I want to play my best, get as many looks as possible, shoot the ball, play great defense, do my best, work on my weaknesses and work out all the time,” he says.
Blackwell did all of that during Thursday's annual Indiana Basketball Coaches Association-IHSAA Top 100 Showcase at Ben Davis High School. Coaches such as Purdue's Matt Painter, Indiana's Tim Buckley, Michigan State's Dane Fife and St. Louis' Jim Crews were among those watching most of the top players in the state of Indiana.
“Considering this is my first year here, it's been a great experience,” Blackwell says. “It was really cool to get that letter in the mail. I filled it out. Here I am.”
As a high school freshman, Blackwell led South in scoring (11.7 points) and assists (73). He shot 49 percent from the field, 41 percent from three-point range. He made All-Conference Indiana.
Blackwell has also been an offensive and defensive force for Indiana Elite, which had been undefeated this spring and summer until last week's surprising loss in the adidas Invitational. Its star-packed lineup includes Merrillville guard D.J. Wilkins, Evansville North guard C.J. Hedgepeth, Indianapolis Park Tudor's Joey Brunk and Griffith forwards Anthony and Tremell Murphy. They all could end up with major Division I scholarships.
Blackwell's recruiting has just started heating up.
“New Mexico has contacted me. Xavier also contacted me. I'm going to visit them in August. I got a couple letters from IUPUI, Ohio State, Clemson, Indiana Wesleyan and smaller schools.”
It's likely that Indiana and Purdue will show more interest as Blackwell matures.
At 6-1 and 170 pounds, he is not physically imposing, although he says he's projected to grow another couple of inches before he's through.
In the meantime, he works on his game with the same relentless approach that helped Hulls achieve so much. That's not by accident. Hulls and Blackwell's older brother, Tanner, played together at South. The families are close. The goals are similar.
Hulls and Blackwell played with each other earlier this week during an open gym session at South High School.
“He comes back to South all the time,” Blackwell says. “He's always there.”
Blackwell knows because he's always there, as well. His hard-working approach is apparent, whether he's at the top-100 Showcase, or this weekend's Crossroads Challenge event in Fishers or in next week's tourney in Las Vegas.
“I try to get as much exposure as possible. I try to expose my weaknesses so I can get better at them. Have people tell me what to do, and then get better at that. I try to work on everything here. Use the time they give us.”
Other players who put Thursday's time to hard-working use include Purdue target Bryant McIntosh on Greensburg, Indiana and Purdue target Eron Gordon of Indianapolis North Central, Concordia's D.J. McCall and IPFW recruiting targets Jacob Johnson of Mooresville and Sean Sellers of Greensburg.