Grand Canyon freshman guard Jalen Blackmon giving a glimpse of future stardom

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Grand Canyon freshman guard Jalen Blackmon has been impressive in his moments on the court.
Grand Canyon freshman guard Jalen Blackmon has been impressive in his moments on the court.

Jalen Blackmon was on pace to becoming Indiana's all-time high school scoring leader. A knee injury limited his time on the court his junior year.

But Bryce Drew and assistant coach Ed Schilling never doubted the guard's abilities. They stayed on him hard during the recruiting process. Now, as a freshman, Blackmon has given glimpses of why GCU coaches were so enamored by him.

"We loved his confidence and his shooting ability," Drew said.

Blackmon, a 6-foot-3 freshman who holds the Marion (Indiana) High School all-time scoring record, knows his time will come.

For now, he's playing behind guards Jovan Blacksher Jr., and Holland Woods II, the team's leading scores on a perimeter-oriented team that is much different than the GCU team that leaned on the big men for its first trip to the NCAA Tournament.

He won't back down from the experienced, 20-somethings on the San Francisco basketball team Saturday at 5:30 at Footprint Center, where GCU (9-2) will take part in the return of the Jerry Colangelo Classic.

The tournament got under way Friday night when San Diego State took on Saint Mary’s College. On Saturday, there are two sessions: No. 5 Gonzaga meets No. 25 Texas Tech at 11 a.m., followed by Georgia Tech vs. No. 10 USC at 2 p.m. The GCU-USF game tips off the evening session, with San Diego and Northern Arizona wrapping things up at 8 p.m.

'Coach Drew and the other guards, I'm learning from them every day," Blackmon said. "Just being ready when my number is called."

Blackmon, for the most part, has been part of Drew's rotation.

Antelopes Guard Jalen Blackmon (5) goes for a layup during the first half against Western New Mexico University at Grand Canyon University Arena on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021, in Phoenix.
Antelopes Guard Jalen Blackmon (5) goes for a layup during the first half against Western New Mexico University at Grand Canyon University Arena on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021, in Phoenix.

He has played in 10 of the 11 games, averaging 11 minutes. His biggest output so far is 11 points and five rebounds against Life Pacific. He had nine points, making three of four 3-pointers, against Prairie View A&M.

His minutes in the last three games have been 23, 10 and 16.

"He's such a good shooter in our practices," Drew said. "We know the day is coming when he’s going to hit three or four in a row."

Blackmon learned to play from older brothers, James Jr., and Vijay, who played at Indiana. Jalen was a four-star recruit out of high school by ESPN. Growing up, Jalen was coached by his father James, who was Mr. Indiana runnerup to Steve Alford. The elder Black was a McDonald's All-American who played at Kentucky.

"My brothers were always in the gym," Jalen said. "They were always doing the right thing, doing their school work. That's just how I grew up. From a super young age, I grew up playing basketball, working out every day. They made me what I am today."

They also helped him get through the knee injury, a torn anterior cruciate ligament that limited his junior season to five games. Both of his brothers had the same injury, only to overcome.

"I honestly think it made me stronger," Blackmon said. "When I was hurting, I worked on my upper body and that got a lot stronger. It was helpful."

Blackmon said that he went to all of his brothers' Indiana home basketball games. He's experience that noise level, and now the Havocs at GCU, where it can be ear-piercing.

"I actually think GCU's crowd is better than that," Blackmon said.

That atmosphere and the way Drew and Schilling recruited him are what attracted Blackmon to GCU.

"I'm just having trust in the coaching staff that I’ll be able to get good minutes the rest of this year and next year," Blackmon said. "Being here in front of the crowd, you cant beat that."

Drew encourages Blackmon to take open shots when he is out there. But he's been mostly impressed by his shot selection.

"He's always been a confident player, playing with his older brothers all the time," Drew said. "We definitely want him to take open shots. In high school, he knows he can score every time. I think he's done a good job understanding shot selection and also gettting others involved.

"He's not afraid of big moments taking big shots."

11/9/2021, Phoenix, Arizona, GCU versus Grambling Basketball, Taeshon Cherry (#35) gets fired up about Jalen Blackmon's (#5) three pointer.
11/9/2021, Phoenix, Arizona, GCU versus Grambling Basketball, Taeshon Cherry (#35) gets fired up about Jalen Blackmon's (#5) three pointer.

Saturday's game

GCU (9-2) vs. San Francisco (10-0), at Footprint Center, 5:30 p.m., FloHoops TV, 1580 AM radio.

About the Antelopes: Their two losses have come against Wyoming (68-61) and Arizona State (67-62). This is a rematch of last year's game in which the Lopes lost 68-65. GCU is led by junior point guard Jovan Blacksher Jr. (15.9 points, 3.9 assists a game) and fifth-year guard Holland Woods II (14 points a game). Forward Gabe McGlothan averages 9.8 points and team-best 7.2 rebounds.

About the Dons: This is their best start since 1970, They're are coached by former Phoenix Sunnyslope guard Todd Golden, who led the Viking to a state high school title in 2002. They play in the West Coast Conference with NCAA Tournament notables Gonzaga and Saint Mary's College. The Dons haven't been to the NCAA Tournament since 1998. They're led by 6-foot senior guard Jamaree Bouyea, who was the WCC Player of the Week two weeks in a row. They're loaded with seniors or fifth-year players, even a sixth-year senior. They turn around and play at Arizona State on Sunday.

To suggest human-interest story ideas and other news, reach Obert at richard.obert@arizonarepublic.com or 602-316-8827. Follow him on Twitter @azc_obert.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: GCU freshman guard Jalen Blackmon making his move in first year

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