A year ago, North Alabama guard Jamari Blackmon became a fresh arrival to the men’s basketball team with a start to a new portion of his playing career. After going through his first year, one thing was certain that Blackmon could score. But in year two, the goal is to become the best all-around player he can be.
The 6’1 guard out of Hoover has been known for being a scorer since before his time at UNA. In his senior year for the Bucs, he averaged 25.4 points as a senior. Most would tend to believe that the transition from being a natural scorer in high school would make college play smooth and easy but for Blackmon, he learned quickly that would not be the case.
“Efficiency definitely matters,” Blackmon said. “In high school you never really pay attention to how many shots you took and how many you made but here there is definitely an emphasis on efficiency and percentages.”
This would lead the then freshman to average a team-high 14.6 points per game. More interestingly enough, he averaged 35.3 minutes per game, another team-high while starting in 31 of the 32 games. Last year’s men’s basketball team featured six freshmen that saw plenty of playing time including teammates Emmanuel Littles and Christian Agnew that both saw 20 plus minutes per night.
For Blackmon, being relied on heavily only would help him.
“I feel like it was very beneficial,” Blackmon said. “I just feel like it was a good thing.”
Blackmon’s play became noticeable on a nightly basis by the UNA community, but it certainly did not go unnoticed on a bigger scale.
During the first year of Division I play as well as Atlantic Sun Conference play, Blackmon was named ASUN freshman of the year and was the only unanimous selection to the ASUN all-freshman team. His season saw him finish seventh in scoring in the conference.
Blackmon has also been recognized as a Preseason All-Conference team member and is on watch for ASUN player of the year.
Though he receives multiple awards and much recognition, the sophomore remains humble through the praise and recognizes that the competition will be tougher on him as an individual.
“I’m ready for it,” he said. “I use it as motivation but I also don’t let it get to my head so I don’t want to look at that [awards] and make it seem like I made it so I keep it in the back of my head and keep working and moving forward.”
The off-season grind for Blackmon could play the biggest role in his second year. During his first year, Blackmon finished with only 87 assists and 56 steals, both team-highs for the Lions. Being known for his scoring ability has been one thing but his improvement as an all-around guard from his play-making and defense was a heavy area of focus during the time off.
“Becoming more of a true point guard and a leader,” said Blackmon on his off-season work.”I was working on my facilitating skills and getting to the rack with my left so i can be more versatile.”
Leadership roles have quickly varied within the Lions over the last two years during head coach Tony Pujol’s tenure thus far. The Lions during last year’s campaign only saw two seniors being Kendarius Smith and Kendall Stafford. Cameron Diggs is the only senior for the 2019-2020 season.
With such a mixture of youth, Pujol’s has looked at Blackmon, Agnew, and Littles all as the leaders regardless of their age which is a challenge that Blackmon says they have handled.
“The returns, coach has looked to us to lead the guys,” said Blackmon. “So we just look to really take that role.”
The Lions will enter the season with a massive increase in depth and talent due to their transfer players and players like Peyton Youngblood returning from injury. The increase in depth of the team has become challenging to Blackmon in practice.
From newly transferred
Jamari Blackmon: Developing An All-Around Game
defensive specialist C.J. Brim to returns such as Alesksa Matic, the mixture of players practicing against him has only better equipped him as well as his teammates for the season.
“When you have CJ, Tavon and Saucy(Agnew) digging in you everyday, it makes it easier when you go play,” Blackmon said. “The team is aggressive.”
The aggressive guarding has only led Blackmon to enjoy the high energy in practice even though he admits they can get mad at each other which no love is lost at the end of the day.
“All the time,” said Blackmon on how the intensity brings anger between all of them. “But we know, at the end of the day we are a team and family.”
Blackmon also cites coach Pujol as a big help in his game. The guard and his coach have built a great bond streaming from just how real Pujol keeps it with not only Blackmon, but all the players.
“It’s honestly amazing,” said Blackmon. “Coach is a man of his word. If he tells you something he means it straight up. He’s honestly my favorite coach I’ve played for. The care he has for us, it’s not fake love. It’s all real.”
The Lions will kick off their season Wednesday, Nov 6 as they take on South Carolina in their opening game.
Fans can catch Blackmon as well as the Lions in their first home action in Flowers Hall Sunday, Nov 10 when they take on Carver.
Jamari Blackmon was named ASUN Freshman of the Year during his first season for the Lions. He will be a key player as the Lions enter their second season in Division-I