The news came quick last week.
In the span of about 48 hours, IU went from over-signed by three players to an open scholarship for the 2022-23 team.
Khristian Lander, Michael Durr, Parker Stewart and Rob Phinisee all put their names in the transfer portal, and none of those decisions could be chalked up as a major surprise by anyone paying close attention.
Indiana has three class of 2022 recruits signed up for next season, meaning they have a net opening of one scholarship for the 2022-23 roster.
But we aren’t finished with the stay-or-go decisions from the 2021-22 team. In this era of college basketball, seemingly everyone is on a one-year deal, with the “free agency” of the transfer portal out there as a possibility, along with professional options for some.
Let’s take a look at the calculus for the remaining nine, most of which have not definitively announced their intent to return.
Trayce Jackson-Davis is the headliner from the group. For the third straight season fans await his next move. Following his freshman season the decision seemed fairly clear. But following a productive sophomore campaign and a coaching change, many assumed the 6-foot-9 All-Big Ten performer would move on. Now as Jackson-Davis contemplates a return for his true senior season (he has two years of eligibility left), there are new variables to consider.
The 22-year-old is a fringe NBA player right now, with elite athleticism but some shortcomings in his skill repertoire. He seems like a safe bet to enter the NBA Draft process, if only to get feedback, while preserving his option to return to college. NBA Draft projections have him anywhere from late second round to undrafted. The dynamics have changed for Jackson-Davis since his decision a year ago. While staying would mean he gives up another year of professional earnings, college NIL opportunities can compete with what he could make, at least in the NBA G-league. This one looks like it could go either way.
The deadline for early entry underclassmen wishing to declare for the draft is April 24. They must pull out by June 1 to retain college eligibility.
Race Thompson is contemplating a return for a sixth-year at Indiana. That aspect in and of itself is part of his decision process. Has he had enough of college life? Thompson could surely move on to play basketball overseas if he so chooses, or he could move on to other career ambitions. He showed his hand somewhat by participating in Senior Night, although he later said no decision has been made.
Thompson has some risk in returning, at least to Indiana. Jordan Geronimo’s natural position seems to be the four. If he returns, Thompson could getting bumped to the five if Jackson-Davis leaves, or bumped out of the starting five altogether if Geronimo continues to develop as most expect he will. Indiana is also recruiting a 5-star power forward, Malik Reneau, to compete for the spot, and freshman Kaleb Banks will present another potentially more versatile option at the four.
Wherever he plays next year, the key for Thompson would seem to be building on the magic he found late in the season when he went 11-of-23 from 3-point range over a 13 game stretch.
Jordan Geronimo seems like someone who could wait and see what Thompson does. Although he could certainly bump the veteran four out of the starting spot on his own, Geronimo might prefer a cleaner path to more playing time in his third year, that doesn’t include beating out a 62-game starter.
The other alternative for Geronimo is developing into the three role. That would require significant skill development, mainly in his ball handling and passing. But Geronimo likely has the highest ceiling on the team, so major strides in those areas won’t come as a surprise. But we like him as a small-ball four in any event, a role he thrived in on the defensive end late in the season.
Geronimo also has the unique pressure of being far away from his New Jersey home, something that seemed to weigh on him when he decided to enter the portal last season. Wherever he plays, his per-40 11.3 rebounds and 2.2 blocks, and team-high 11.9 percent offensive rebounding rate will be hard to keep off the floor.
Logan Duncomb is another player who seems to be heavily impacted by the decisions of others. He isn’t going to bump Jackson-Davis out of the starting five if the veteran big man were to return, and Duncomb likely doesn’t want to spend another year chained to the bench. The departure of Durr at least opens up the backup center minutes, which may be enough for the still just 18-year-old who probably should have been redshirted last season rather than playing just 20 minutes. A departure by Jackson-Davis would make Duncomb’s decision easy.
Miller Kopp is in a somewhat similar position to that of Thompson, and in his case, Kopp has competitive pressure coming at him from multiple directions. As mentioned, Geronimo could develop into his three-man role, and Trey Galloway, Tamar Bates and others could push him out of the lineup for more of a three-guard look. Kopp could also slide over to a small-ball four role.
Whatever the move, he is a known commodity at this point in his career — he’s a catch-and-shoot guy, and a pretty good one when the offense produces open shots. That’s something Indiana no doubt wants to keep around in some capacity. The only question is how hungry is Kopp for guaranteed minutes?
Anthony Leal tweeted out “Beyond blessed that God allows me to wear INDIANA across my chest. Back to work for next season” two weeks ago. We suspect that was the extent of what you’ll hear from Leal during the offseason on this topic. He’ll be back for next season, and there is certainly the opportunity for him to push Kopp and others on the perimeter as well.
Trey Galloway is another player widely expected to be back, and we suppose his “We will be back” post on Instagram, accompanied by pictures of him playing for Indiana was his announcement to that end. In a defense first system, Galloway worked his way into the starting five as a sophomore, and he could be right there when the 2022-23 campaign begins in November, especially if his perimeter shot comes along.
Tamar Bates is the player with the golden opportunity to make a major jump during his second season of college. The versatile wing fell into a midseason slump but is another young player with a very high ceiling for the Hoosiers. If the family challenges of being far from home aren’t a concern, expect Bates to come back with a renewed focus in year two. With Stewart and Phinisee out of the picture, Bates has a clear opportunity to seize upon.
Xavier Johnson’s finish to the 2021-22 season was one of, if not the major headline of Mike Woodson’s first season. His in-season improvement suggests a good fit with the IU head coach. It would be difficult to understand why Johnson would want to go elsewhere after the strides he made under Woodson’s tutelage. The only variable might be Jackson-Davis, who Johnson worked so well with late in the season.
He could prefer to have that elite big man to complement his game wherever he plays. But Johnson has a chance to be a first team All-Big Ten point guard next year, along with the opportunity to make an NBA case for himself if he can start making three-pointers off the dribble. Look for him to return and form a potent point guard duo along with 5-star freshman Jalen Hood-Schifino.
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