This marks the 30th anniversary of USA TODAY recognizing the nation's top high school athletes. As we prepare to unveil the 2013 American Family Insurance ALL-USA Boys Basketball Team at the end of the season, we'll dig into the archives and check in with ALL-USA honorees from the past three decades. Today, we catch up with 1983 All-USA player James Blackmon.
His sons are putting up big-time numbers for Bishop Luers (Fort Wayne, Ind.), but there are plenty of people in Indiana who remember when James Blackmon was the one burning up the nets.
Blackmon, who coaches his sons at Bishop Luers, was an American Family Insurance ALL-USA first team basketball player in 1983. That year, the 6-3 guard led Marion to a state runner-up finish, scoring 52 points in the state title game, a record that still stands.
“People still talk about some of the games that I’ve played and it’s been more than 30 years,” he said. “My kids hear that too and they’re students of the game as well. They watch old tapes of me. One of the first things they talk about are the shorts, the long socks and the wrist bands. I needed those to wipe the sweat off my face. Those were not for looks.”
After Marion, Blackmon played four years at Kentucky, averaging 6.7 points a game. He went in the fifth round of the 1987 NBA draft but was cut by the New Jersey Nets and and played the next eight years for Continental Basketball Association and World Basketball League teams.
At 29, he became weary of hoping to make it to the NBA and he became a junior varsity coach at Marion.
“I played to the point where I didn’t feel enthusiastic about playing, but I still had love for the game of basketball,” he said.
After two years as an assistant at Marion, he spent five years as an assistant at St. Francis College in Fort Wayne. In 2004, he took the job as the boys coach at Bishop Luers. He’s 149-68 in nine seasons at Bishop Luers, with back-to-back state titles in 2008 and 2009. He also owns a real estate company along with his wife, Sailaja, who is a physician.
His oldest son, 6-3 junior guard James, Jr., has said he plans to sign with Indiana and is one of the top scorers in the state at 36.7 points per game. His youngest son, 6-1 freshman guard Vijay, is averaging 13.7 points per game and already has an offer from the Hoosiers. Last week, the pair scored 128 points over two games with James scoring 42 and 40 and Vijay putting in 25 and 21. Another son, Jalen, is a promising player in grade school.
“Coaching my sons is a thing of joy and at the same time it can be difficult,” Blackmon says. “As a parent, you have expectations for your child. As a coach, you want to be fair and treat everybody the same. Sometimes it is tough on your own kid. You’re constantly on him, nitpicking. They have to want to listen. Sometimes, you have to be able to put the parent part aside.”
Blackmon sees a little bit of his game in his sons.
“I was very explosive and I wondered if my boys would get my jumping ability,” he said. “But James has some unbelievable dunks going to the basket and Vijay is dunking. Both of them shoot the ball better than I did. As far as getting that competitive edge, they’re getting there.”