Two seasons under head basketball coach Archie Miller.
Two major boxes left unchecked.
Big Ten size? Nope.
With 6-foot-8 Juwan Morgan and 6-foot-6 Freddie McSwain primarily manning the five spot over the last two years, that point is beyond debate.
Big Ten grit? We go back to this comment from legendary IU voice Don Fischer in January on The Dan Dakich Show:
“My biggest concern with this team right now is they don’t have an edge. There’s gotta be a fire in your gut. There’s gotta be an ability to go out there and be excited to play the game. I’m talking about the fire in the belly, the want to compete, the want to go out there and take somebody’s head off.”
For us, that is another concern that went back to the Miller’s first season, and had roots established before he arrived.
Sure, there are other lingering concerns, like three-point shooting, but there is no doubt that size and grit have been notably absent from the IU basketball program over the last two seasons.
Can one man fill both voids? With an emphasis on the word man, the answer appears to be yes.
While he is a new face to IU basketball, graduate transfer Joey Brunk is not your typical newcomer to a college basketball program. By the time the 2019-20 season starts in November, the Indianapolis native will be turning 22 years old.
Brunk appears ready to bring a much needed voice to the Indiana locker room, and that is something that Miller is particularly enthusiastic about.
“I’m really excited to be honest with you to add Joey,” Miller told reporters last week. “I think Joey has a really, really good personality that’s much needed in our locker room.”
“He’s got a voice and competes and think he’s going to bring a different element to what we have. We need some personality with these guys to juice them up a little bit.”
While he isn’t a shiny new five-star recruit, Brunk just might bring attributes to this team that correlate better with winning. The kind of qualities that you can only pick up after going around the block a few times like Brunk did at Butler. The kind of veteran qualities that Miller is referring to when he says things like this —
“To me, you have to get old in college basketball, and right now, we’re getting younger,” Miller said to the audience at Huber’s Winery last week.
More than just a voice, the 6-foot-11 Brunk, along with De’Ron Davis and Trayce Jackson-Davis are going to give IU something that they have rarely had over the last decade — size. Real size.
“Adding Trayce and adding Joey to what we have really for the very first time, we have Big Ten size inside,” Miller said.
The days of Juwan Morgan attempting to guard Michigan’s Jon Teske, or Race Thompson contending with Ethan Happ should be over.
No one should be pushing around these Hoosiers in the paint.
Indiana’s newfound size won’t come without complications, such as allocating the minutes between their big men. There are questions, such as whether they can guard the perimeter, stretch the floor on offense, and be on the court at the same time.
Those are questions that will have to be sorted out over the summer and into the fall, but for now, Miller can take solace in finally having legitimate size in a league that demands it.
And Brunk is more than just a bruiser.
“Joey’s very good in the low post as well, just being able to play against him and scout him, he’s another guy that can move around,” Miller said. “I think that’s an experience level and obviously another guy that’s played at a high level.”
As only a part-timer starter that played just 18.6 minutes per game in 2018-19 for Butler, some questioned why Indiana would bring in Brunk. How much value can a reserve averaging 7.6 points and 3.6 rebounds bring?
Every high major program has talent. At this level, basketball is about so much more than raw ability.
For Miller, when it came to Brunk it was about more than numbers, or size, and he talked about that with him during the recruiting process.
“We talked to him about it in recruiting to bring that passion and that personality to our team,” Miller said. “We need it.”
While you can’t make your roster old overnight, Miller sees Brunk as someone that can at least attempt to fill that void while his own high school recruits come up through the system.
And while Miller likely didn’t consult Indiana’s radio voice, it would appear that Brunk would check the box that Fischer’s sage eye knew was missing.
“I think he can really light a fire for us,” Miller said.
“He’s competitive, he’s played in the Big East, and I think he brings a very dominant loud voice to the floor, to the locker room and off the floor. We need more of an energy level. We need more of a personality. Sometimes when you get young, you’re quiet and you don’t say much.”
Joey Brunk isn’t young. And he isn’t quiet.
Oh, and he isn’t small either.
When he committed to Indiana, Brunk said that he grew up a fan of the program.
Like Fischer, he knows there have been better days.
And now as a veteran and vocal leader of the program, Brunk might just hold the keys to put IU on the right path to get back there.
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