The 2018-19 Indiana University men’s basketball season is right around the corner. To help get you ready, The Daily Hoosier is profiling every player on the 2018-19 IU roster. You can see all of our 2018-19 player profiles in one place here. If you are looking for the 2018-19 IU basketball schedule, you can find that here.
If there is an X-factor on this 2018-19 IU basketball team, it is probably Justin Smith. There is no other player on this roster with so much untapped potential to become a major star at IU.
The Illinois native came to Bloomington ranked No. 91 overall in the 2017 class by Rivals. As a senior in high school, he averaged 21 points and 10 rebounds. As a sophomore, Smith won the Illinois state title alongside Jalen Brunson, who went on to play at Villanova.
Smith played in all 31 games during the 2017-18 season for Indiana and started 9 times. He was third on the team in scoring in Big Ten play averaging 7.8 points.
Archie Miller highlighted the fact that Smith came back from the team’s December break focused and rejuvenated.
Not much later, with the team reeling from the news that De’Ron Davis would be out for the season, Smith had his best game of his freshman season and truly showed what he was capable of. He made his second career start at Minnesota and finished with 20 points including the go-ahead three pointer in the closing minutes.
Smith showed a knack for high volume scoring in limited minutes as the season wore on. He finished with 13 points and three rebounds in 13 minutes against Illinois, had 15 points and three rebounds at Iowa, had 16 points and eight rebounds at Nebraska, and he had 16 points and four rebounds against Ohio State.
- Height: 6-foot-7
- Weight: 220
- Position: Forward
- Class: Sophomore
- Hometown: Buffalo Grove, Illinois
- High School: Adlai Stevenson
- Minutes per game: 14.9
- Points per game: 6.5
- Rebounds per game: 3.2
- FG%: 55%
- 3FG%: 30%
- FT%: 67%
WHAT THEY ARE SAYING
Archie Miller on Smith at the IU basketball media day —
“I think the biggest thing for Justin in my mind is to obviously use that great talent and athleticism and get points on the board. So many times I think a year ago you saw the explosive jump but you didn’t see the two points get on the board, or you didn’t get the and-one, you had to go to the foul line and maybe make one, which to me was a very young — a guy who was very young and talented, but at the same time adding the value of style over production, and I think that’s something we’ve really hammered home with him in terms of his concentration level because he could probably put four to five more points on the board for us this season with the amount of repetitions he’s going to get, the amount of minutes that he’ll get, where Justin has a chance to really be one of the best finishers in our league. He has a chance to put more points on the board for us, and for him in general, I think that’s the difference between averaging six or seven and maybe 11 or 12, maybe 13 on a deep team.
We’ve also really focused in on his skill level, becoming more perimeter oriented, spending a lot of time on his shot, like we always do, becoming a better just perimeter-oriented player.
But just in knowing him, he’s a great kid. He’s really, really intelligent. He did show signs last year where he really belonged, and I think now it’s more consistency. It’s more approach of production, especially, like I said, finishing, but maybe finding a way this year where he’s a lot more skilled on the perimeter, especially if he’s open shooting the ball.”
WHAT 2018-19 SUCCESS LOOKS LIKE
Part of the reason why Smith was able to put up big numbers per minute later in the season was because he was able to play off of Juwan Morgan effectively. Whether it was crashing the offensive glass or cutting to the basket, Smith was very good at finding openings.
With a year under his belt and opposing defenses now focused on stopping two superstars, the potential for Smith to have a big season is very real. You may have even heard about his record breaking 48-inch vertical, which was all the rage this offseason.
The main area of necessary improvement for Smith is finishing better at the rim — an understandable deficiency as a freshman. If Smith has improved in that area, look for a special season. It sounds like the coaching staff has also been working on his perimeter game.
We think starting all year is the expectation. Something in the neighborhood of 25 minutes a game and averaging around 13 points and 6 rebounds isn’t unrealistic. That should put him on the fringes of All-Big Ten, perhaps honorable mention. It should also be a big reason why Indiana is contending for a conference title in March.
Previous Player Previews:
- Damezi Anderson
- Jake Forrester
- Jerome Hunter
- Romeo Langford
- Rob Phinisee
- Race Thompson
- Vijay Blackmon
- Al Durham
- Clifton Moore
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