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 graduate transfer from Butler made an immediate impact and started 31 times in 32 games.
Brunk averaged 6.8 points and 5.2 rebounds (tied for second on the team) in 19.6 minutes per contest and shot 52.2 percent from the field. The 6-foot-11 Indianapolis native shot just 44.6 percent from the free throw line and averaged .3 blocks per game.
Brunk was also Indiana’s Big Ten Sportsmanship award winner during his redshirt junior 2019-20 campaign.
The Daily Hoosier Report Card
Joey Brunk (B-) The graduate transfer was IU’s second leading rebounder (5.2) despite only playing 19 minutes per game. That average was a career best for Brunk, whose work ethic and motor was never in question. Indiana needs to do a better job putting Brunk in matchups and lineups that best fit his strengths next year, even if that means less minutes.
“I think the big deal with Joey, he’s a thinker. He cares a lot about doing well. But I think he overthinks it sometimes. When Joe is at his best, he’s running as hard as he can and his motor is great on both ends of the floor in terms of trying to rebound.
He has great touch around the basket. I think recently he started to worry a little bit too much about making it rather than getting a good shot. He’s nervous that it’s not going to go in. Once he got a couple to go down, I think he settled in, you started to see him a little bit more powerful around the rim.”
— Archie Miller on March 4 after a home win over Minnesota
Primary Developmental Needs:
1. Lead the team irrespective of role.
Brunk’s role on the floor next year isn’t real clear. During the latter part of the season his minutes were reduced significantly due to the emergence of Race Thompson and matchups that were difficult. If more versatile players like Thompson and Jerome Hunter continue to develop, that could mean less playing time for Brunk.
There will be a clear need for Brunk to guard true post players that aren’t perimeter threats, and he will no doubt take on those assignments along with backing up Trayce Jackson-Davis at a minimum.
But irrespective of how many minutes Brunk plays, he has a clear leadership role to fill next year. Brunk transferred to IU because he grew up a fan of the program. He always wanted to play in Bloomington, and next year, as a redshirt senior, Brunk will be looked up to as a leader, an energy guy, and if he really embraces the role, someone that is demanding of his teammates and holds them accountable.
2. Develop a game ready jump shot.
Indiana’s offensive issues center around not being able to effectively space the floor, and Brunk could contribute to ameliorating the problem by becoming an offensive threat on the perimeter. As it stands, Brunk with the ball in his hands on the perimeter presents no threat from either the drive or a jump shot. That allows defenses to sag off and more easily double the post or cut off driving lanes.
Brunk isn’t likely to become a significant three-point threat, but the development of a reliable 15 to 18 foot jump shot similar to what we saw flashes of from De’Ron Davis during his senior year would make him a more valuable asset next season.
If Indiana can space the floor with better perimeter shooting, that will no doubt also give Brunk more room to operate in the paint where he has a nice array of post moves and can finish with both hands. His two-point percentage dropped year-over-year from 62.3 percent to 52.2, and that was no doubt fueled in large part by crowds in the paint that gave Brunk little room to operate.
3. Find answers at the stripe.
Brunk has never been a high level free throw shooter, but his 44.6 percent season at IU was well short of his three year average of 64.2 percent at Butler. Brunk didn’t make a free throw in Indiana’s last eight games, going 0-for-8 to close the season.
No one is going to ask Brunk to make 80 percent from the line, but a performance around 65 percent would make an impact. That would have given IU around 11 more points last year
Brunk’s shot is unorthodox and it could stand to be tweaked. But irrespective of whether or not that happens, the Hoosier big man has to step it up at the charity stripe.
What Success Looks Like in 2020-21
Much can change between now and November, but sitting here today it is difficult to imagine that Brunk will get nearly 20 minutes a game. Therefore success next season isn’t going to be about improving per game averages.
But things like improved offensive efficiency and becoming a better passer are clearly on the table. So is becoming more serviceable when Brunk is put in a position to hedge high ball screens and close-out on three point shooters.
Above all, perhaps next season the narrative that Indiana doesn’t play with an edge will finally die. If it does, Brunk’s leadership will likely be at the center of that change.
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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