Photo credit - IU Athletics

IU Basketball Annual Review Series: Three Things for Al Durham’s 2020-21 Season

Nine Indiana basketball players that saw the floor during the season will be back for the 2020-21 campaign as of this writing. 

While formal practices have concluded, the work never stops for high major college basketball players.  Growth and development happens in the offseason, in individual workouts and permitted organized team activities.

At the end of each season the coaches sit down and have one-on-one meetings with the players.  If you could talk to each of the nine returning players about their 2019-20 season and what they need to improve going forward, what would you say? 

We play Archie Miller for a day and give it a shot with the “Annual Review” series.


Quick 2019-20 Recap:

Aljami Durham
Credit – IU Athletics

Voted as a captain by his teammates prior to the season, Durham started all 32 games and averaged 9.8 points while shooting 44.1 percent from the field.  The Georgia product led the team from three-point range, hitting 38.3 percent of his long distance shots.

The 6-foot-4 guard averaged 2.5 assists against 1.9 turnovers per contest, both career highs.

Durham was fifth in the Big Ten in free throw percentage at 81.1 percent.

The Daily Hoosier Report Card

Al Durham (B) It was another season of growth for a player that just keeps getting better.  Durham increased his year-over-year production in scoring, assists, and rebounds while shooting higher percentages from two, three and the foul line.  But Durham was also more turnover prone and at times can be a liability on the ball defensively.  With a second point guard on the roster next year, Durham should be more comfortable playing in his natural shooting guard position on both ends all of the time.


“I thought he was comfortable on offense most of the game, and he made plays from the outside, made some really good shots. And I felt at the end of the game he was the most comfortable of having the aggressiveness to make a play to get to the basket and score.

But for Al, you know, he comes every day. He goes to work. Never says a peep. And to see a guy get rewarded with a couple go down like he had is always rewarding.  He was up to task and I thought he played a really nice game.”

— Archie Miller after a Jan. 23 win over Michigan State

Photo by Mike Schumann / The Daily Hoosier

Primary Developmental Needs:

1. Thrive off the ball.

For a variety of reasons, namely a lack of point guard depth and injuries, Durham was forced into becoming a primary ball handler at times during the 2019-20 season.

We learned two things about the junior guard during that experiment.  One, Durham is not comfortable playing in the Big Ten with the ball in his hands.  Never was that more apparent than in the final minute of the first half at Purdue.  Yes, the league allows defenders to get away with an absurd amount of contact, but that isn’t changing anytime soon.  Durham lacks the downhill speed, doesn’t handle pressure well, and isn’t particularly strong with the ball in his hands against physical, aggressive defenders.

But what we also learned is that Durham continues to develop and excel off the ball.  When coming off screens, or spotting up to take passes out of the post or in transition, Durham looks very comfortable.

Over his last eight games, Durham shot 52 percent from the field including 52.3 percent from three-point range as he seemed to find confidence.  He also gets to the free throw line at an impressive rate (No. 115 nationally), which gives him a nice dual-threat for opposing defenses to consider.

With two point guards likely on the roster next season, Durham should be able to move completely off the ball and perhaps become the reliable perimeter shooter that this team has needed for three years.

2.  Take over the team.

For each of the last two seasons, Indiana’s team captains have told reporters that they lead by example.  That simply cannot happen again in 2020-21.

Indiana has been desperately in need of verbal, in-your-face, player driven leadership.  The Hoosiers have lacked an identity, and the absence of a true verbal leader on the court seems to be a major part of what has been missing.

It might not be in his nature to be verbal, but Durham showed signs of taking the reins in 2019-20.  His teammates look up to him, as evidenced by Durham being voted a team captain as a junior.

He can still lead by example — playing with fire and an edge, but this team will need one or more players to hold everyone else to that standard — and Durham is just the guy to do it.

3. Become a more physical defender.

As a senior, Durham needs to become much more impactful on the defensive end.  With greater guard depth next year Miller will likely be able to find matchups that fit his senior guard more optimally.

While Indiana doesn’t play a defense that emphasizes steals, it is still notable that Durham only had 2 thefts in his last 8 games, and just 18 for the season.

While for the most part fundamentally sound with the pack-line principles, Durham was at times a step slow on the ball.  As a senior he’ll need to better utilize the tricks of the trade that others have used against him in the Big Ten — namely the hand checks, arm bars and hip checks that seem to be acceptable in the league.

What Success Looks Like in 2020-21

Durham’s IU career numbers form an impressive trend line that you’d hope to see with any player.  His progression reflects the every day work ethic that Miller has routinely commented on.

Consider these shooting numbers:

  • 2017-18:  40.9 FG% / 28.6 3FG%
  • 2018-19:  40.3 FG% / 34.8 3FG%
  • 2019-20:  44.1 FG% / 38.3 3FG%

Can Durham take one more step shooting the ball from distance along with improving his overall offensive efficiency?  The trends say yes, and with him moving more off the ball the opportunity will be there.

Durham also saw his turnover percentage trend up in 2019-20, although that seemed to be in large part driven by his struggles as a primary ball handler.

If Durham can continue the shooting trends while cutting down turnovers, becoming a more impactful defender and truly becoming a verbal leader, his senior year should be a success.


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