Former IU basketball players caution about risks of adding wrong person from portal

As long as Indiana has an open scholarship and a perceived need for additional shot-makers, potential targets in the transfer portal will continue to generate buzz among IU fans.

Could the Hoosiers land someone like Caleb Love, Cam Spencer, or the latest scorer du jour who’s gone portaling?

It’s reasonable for the Indiana staff to keep surveying the landscape of possible additions for the right fit.  But it’s also not as simple as grabbing what you need off the shelf at the grocery store.

For every addition you make, there is a potential impact on the playing time of others, roles, team culture, and so much more.  Potential future recruits are watching how the staff handles all of this as well.

Indiana is in an interesting place right now with the 12 scholarship players on the current roster.  They’ve got several guys who project to be big time scorers next season — namely new additions Kel’el Ware and Mackenzie Mgbako.  They’ve got others who should also be very productive, like Xavier Johnson and Malik Reneau.

You can win with a bunch of guys who score 12 points a game, and that appears to be the kind of 2023-24 team IU has right now.  But it sure would be nice to add a proven volume scorer on the wing, right?  That’s the predicament the staff finds themselves in right now, and that’s what leaves the fan base a bit anxious.

It’s real easy to look at this roster and think that just one more piece to the puzzle would make Indiana a Final Four contender — because that’s actually true.

But it’s also true — with too many mouths to feed and too many individual agendas, the whole thing can collapse.  See:  North Carolina, circa 2022-23.

Former IU basketball star Christian Watford laid out the situation in a blunt manner on his “Ball from Assembly Hall” podcast with co-host and former teammate Derek Elston.

“We don’t want to have too much on the plate that messes up the team,” Watford said.  “All it takes is one bad apple to spoil it and the shit just goes downhill from there.”

If Indiana goes out and adds another perimeter scorer, what impact does that have on returning players like Trey Galloway, C.J. Gunn and Kaleb Banks?

And again, what message does it send?

“You’ve got to reward the guys that stay loyal to you too,” Watford said.  “I think you’ve got reward those guys and give them a chance.  I don’t think you can just recruit over them.”

Of course Indiana has already recruited over some guys.  Mgbako is a major threat to Banks’ minutes next season, and any shooting guard they’d add would bring a similar dynamic for Galloway and Gunn.

Competition for minutes isn’t a negative thing, necessarily.  And that’s what makes all of this a tightrope for the staff.

If the roles are too clearly defined, players can get comfortable.  But add the wrong piece and he could spoil that whole bunch.

“There is nothing better than a little healthy competition in your practices, because all that does is spark great play from players and getting them ready for the season, and I think that’s what we have,” Elston said.

“And the second you throw somebody in there who’s not coming out, ball dominant, ‘I’m going to do me first, worry about the team later,’ it’s like a cancer in the culture, and that’s the last thing this team needs.”

Anyone transferring to IU at this point is going to be coming to Bloomington with an expectation of getting significant minutes — and probably starting at the two.

So will they or won’t they add another shooting guard to the roster?

Elston said he has watched Galloway work out this spring and he’s shooting the ball well — with the obvious caveat that everyone looks good this time of year, and it only matters what you do when November rolls around.

Entering his fourth year at IU, Galloway took major strides last season, shooting 46 percent from three after making just 19 percent his first two seasons.  He also improved significantly when it came to cutting back on turnovers and fouls, while bolstering his rebounding production.  On the defensive end, Galloway often took on the most difficult perimeter assignment too.

Galloway has earned starts in each of first three seasons — with two different coaches.  And along those lines, Watford says it doesn’t matter much at this point if the Hoosiers add that 13th player. He thinks Indiana already has their guy, and sees another spike in production coming for the Indiana native.

“Ain’t nobody beating Trey Galloway out, not at this stage of his career,” Watford said.

“I think Trey’s going to average 10 to 12 points this year.”


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