Player of the Year
Jalen Blackmon, Sr., Marion
When Jalen Blackmon first stepped on to the court in Bill Green Arena, he did so as a spindly freshman with the pressure of continuing the greatest family legacy in Marion Giant basketball history.
And he didn’t disappoint.
It’s almost a certainty, had Blackmon not endured a severe knee injury that cut his junior season to just eight games, this would be the fourth-straight season he earned county Player of the Year honors.
As it is, it’s his third recognition in four years.
Blackmon returned from injury with a vengeance.
Though he was unable to work on his game for a few months following surgery, Blackmon devoted himself to strengthening his body, and the results were noticeable.
A stronger frame allowed Blackmon to finish through contact much better, and most teams the Giants faced tried, mostly unsuccessfully, to stop Jalen by beating him up.
Blackmon averaged nine trips to the free throw line per game, and included 12 games where he had 10 or more free throw attempts. He made 81 percent (167-of-207) of his attempts, but it was just part of the reason he led the state at 33.5 points per game.
It seemed apropos that Jalen’s 1,898th-career point, the one that broke Marion’s all-time scoring record held since 1983 by his dad, James Blackmon, came with free throws on Jan. 29 against Logansport.
By necessity, Jalen was a volume shooter and connected on 51 percent of his shots from the field. He also made 40 percent of his shots from 3-point range and led the county with 85 makes from long distance.
Blackmon also averaged nearly four rebounds, four assists and more than two steals per game.
Although the Giants’ season ended with a loss to Lafayette Jeff in the opening round of Class 4A sectional 7, Blackmon closed his career with a flurry unlike any seen before in Marion history to finish the season with 704 points.
He averaged nearly 39 points over the last seven games. Blackmon scored 39 points against 2A state finalist Fort Wayne Blackhawk, then torched Hamilton Southeastern for 48, Fort Wayne Snider for 52 and tied the single-game scoring record at Marion with 55 against Lafayette Jeff.
Blackmon was named to the IBCA Senior Supreme 15 and was a first-team All-NCC performer. He will continue his career at Grand Canyon University, a first-time qualifier for the NCAA National Tournament in 2021.
By Scott Hunt, Chronicle-Tribune