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Armaan Franklin: ‘Virginia checked all the boxes’

Armaan Franklin’s transfer portal decision ultimately came down to either staying at Indiana or going to Virginia. He had heard enough of what he wanted to hear from incoming Hoosiers coach Mike Woodson to feel comfortable about the idea of staying in Bloomington and knowing it wouldn’t negatively affect his career.

“There wasn’t anything I didn’t like about Indiana,” Franklin told The Daily Hoosier on Wednesday after keeping quiet publicly for the first several days after his decision. “… I don’t think there was a bad decision for me to make.”

But Indiana’s leading perimeter scorer in 2020-21 ultimately decided to make a change for 2021-22 and beyond because what he heard from Virginia and coach Tony Bennett was too good to pass up. He met with his mother India and his brothers, and they all believed Virginia was the best option for his future ahead of not only Indiana but Illinois, Louisville, Georgia and other programs that got involved after he entered the transfer portal in March following the firing of coach Archie Miller.

“I went with my gut feeling, prayed about it and everything,” Franklin said. “It just felt right. Praying about it, it just felt right in my heart, felt right in my gut. I went from there.”

It also felt right in his mind because the Cavaliers provided a lot of what he was looking for in a program when he entered the portal.

Under Bennett, the Cavaliers have been as stable over the past decade as the Hoosiers have been unstable. Bennett took over the program in 2009-10 and led them to the NCAA Tournament two seasons later. Since then, they’ve been to seven NCAA Tournaments, reaching the Sweet 16 three times, the Elite Eight twice, and claiming the 2019 NCAA title. They have won a share of five ACC regular season championships, including this season’s title.

“Going into the transfer portal, I had a list of things that I was looking for in a school,” Franklin said. “Virginia really checked all of my boxes.”

That included the Cavaliers’ style of play. Under Bennett, the Cavaliers have made a living off slow pace and pack-line defense. According to KenPom.com, Virginia has ranked in the top 10 in adjusted defensive efficiency eight times in Bennett’s tenure, finishing first in 2020 and 2018. They have also never finished higher than 316th in Division I in tempo according to KenPom.com and have been 336th or lower ever year since 2010-11.

However, when they have had offensive talent, the Cavaliers have been able to use it. The 2018-19 national championship team rated No. 2 in adjusted offensive efficiency and five other teams have rated in the top 30. This year’s team was No. 17.

So even though Woodson offered a more wide-open style that could showcase Franklin’s talents, he was confident in what Bennett could do to showcase his game. He made drastic improvements as a sophomore this season, averaging 11.4 points per game after scoring just 3.7 per game as a freshman in 2019-20 and shooting 42.4 percent from beyond the 3-point arc after making just 26.6 percent of his shots there as a freshman.

“I like the way they play,” Franklin said. “People say they play slow. But I see it as them getting the best shot available at the time. … I see how they get guys involved in their spots. A lot of catch-and-shoot and things like that, things I can bring. This year, they lacked some pieces this year, guys that can break defenses down and get their own shot, and I think that’s something I’m able to do.”

Franklin also said he liked the idea of playing in a defensive system he’d already played in. The Hoosiers also utilized the pack line under Miller, even though they weren’t nearly as effective as Bennett’s teams have been.

“I think the transition will be easier for that,” Franklin said. “Keeping the ball in front is always a big thing, trying to limit easy shots at the rim, not letting people get easy baskets, making them take tough contested shots, that should always work in your favor. If they’re hitting those all game, you just gotta live with it, but not everybody is hitting tough contested 3s all game. That’s really appealing, I like to keep teams from scoring.”

It shouldn’t be hard for Franklin to get playing time immediately, as the Cavaliers have some rebuilding to do with their roster. Forwards Sam Hauser and Jay Huff have both announced that they are leaving to enter the NBA draft and will play pro basketball regardless of whether or not they are taken after five years in college basketball. Guard Trey Murphy has entered the draft, though he is not hiring an agent and maintaining his amateur status. No one else on the roster averaged double-figure scoring in 2020-21, and even with Murphy, the Cavaliers currently have just nine players on scholarship due to transfers on top of those losses.

“I think there’s a need for me or a player like me,” Franklin said. “The opportunity is big right now. They also have their transfers and things like that. I think me being able to step in, work hard of course, but I can try to fill the role that they need me to be.”

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