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:
The start was promising, and then seemingly with the flip of a switch, the apparent progress vanished.
Anderson started the season 17-of-36 (47.2 percent) from the field overall including 8-of-21 (38 percent) from three-point range through nine games. The South Bend product that came to IU with the reputation of a scorer-shooter appeared ready to take a nice step forward in season two.
Instead, Anderson would never make another shot the rest of the year and his minutes quickly faded. The 6-foot-7 forward would only play more than four minutes in a game four times over the last 23 contests, including 14 that Anderson never came off the bench.
On the whole Anderson saw a couple more minutes per game and most of his metrics improved slightly, but the overarching question remains why did his season suddenly go south.
The Daily Hoosier Report Card
Damezi Anderson (D) Anderson only saw more than 4 minutes of action once after Jan. 4, and never saw the floor again after playing briefly in mop up duty on Feb. 16. There were early moments when it looked like things might be clicking for Anderson, but an 8-for-35 (22.9 percent) season from distance for a three-point specialist tells the story.
“Damezi is a guy we have some hope for in that regard (shooting). As a sophomore, he’s going to have to have a role on our team. One of the best things that Damezi does is he can shoot the ball. You got to start with that with him.”
— Archie Miller at the IU media day in September
“He’s so much more prepared mentally to know what he’s dealing with.”
— Archie Miller at the Big Ten media day in October
Primary Developmental Needs:
From the easier said than done files, Anderson needs to become a more confident player.
How else do you explain someone finishing the season 0-for-18 from the field over his last nine games?
There were those two early season back-to-back double figure games where Anderson went 10-for-14 from the field, but that was against North Alabama and Troy. When the opposition got tougher and the games faster and more physical, the slide began, and Anderson could never recover.
Anderson also had 5 turnovers against 3 assists over those last nine games after starting the season with 14 assists and just 8 turnovers. Once again, another sign that a player isn’t comfortable.
We won’t pretend to know how Anderson can get back into and remain in a groove, but it seems obvious that his finding success at IU depends on it.
2. Improve the handle
Perhaps part of Anderson’s challenge is that he doesn’t fit neatly into a position. He isn’t big enough to be a Big Ten power forward, but that may be his natural position from a skill level.
Anderson doesn’t have the ball handling abilities to be a true dual threat on the wing — which puts a great deal of pressure on his ability to knock down shots. And that might factor into the confidence issue. Teams aren’t playing him to drive, and thus if Anderson cannot knock down contested shots he isn’t providing much of a threat on the offensive end.
As the season wore on Anderson’s time on the floor appeared to be a quick heat check. Could he knock down a three? If he can turn himself into a more versatile offensive player that might just open up more opportunities in other areas of the floor.
3. Bring the energy
There have been moments, flickers, when Anderson looked like a guy that was playing with a competitive edge on the defensive end, and aggressively hunting down rebounds. Does it all fade away when the shots aren’t falling?
Miller has described Anderson as a strong, physical player, but those haven’t always been attributes that he has used to his advantage.
Perhaps as another way to find confidence, Anderson has to bring the intensity on the defensive end and crash the boards every second he’s on the floor.
What Success Looks Like in 2020-21
First and foremost, Anderson needs to carve-out a consistent, meaningful and productive role. That’s always going to feel like it should be as a shot-maker until we see other strengths emerge.
It’s hard to put numbers on what a successful junior season might look like. Those first nine games are probably the best insight, and there were some respectable opponents in those contests including Louisiana Tech, Florida State, Wisconsin and UConn.
In the first nine Anderson played 15 minutes per game while averaging around 5 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists. If he could do that across an entire season with offensive efficiency and improved defense then year three would be considered a successful step forward.
MORE ANNUAL REVIEWS:
- Justin Smith
- Al Durham
- Joey Brunk
- Rob Phinisee
- Race Thompson
- Damezi Anderson
- Jerome Hunter
- Armaan Franklin
- Trayce Jackson-Davis
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