Credit - IU Athletics

IU Basketball Annual Review Series: Three Things for Rob Phinisee’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.


Rob Phinisee
Credit – IU Athletics

Quick 2019-20 Recap:

Rob Phinisee was Indiana’s fifth leading scorer with 7.3 points in 23.2 minutes per contest.  He shot 37.3 percent from the field overall, 33.3 percent from three-point range and 72.5 percent from the free throw line.

The Lafayette product led IU with 93 assists (3.4 per game) while committing 52 turnovers (1.9 per game).  He was second on the team with 27 steals (1 per game).

Phinisee’s 28.3 percent assist rate was good for No. 107 in the country, and his 2.5 percent steal rate, No. 388.

The Daily Hoosier Report Card

Rob Phinisee (B-) For a second straight season Indiana’s point guard dealt with nagging issues.  A lower abdominal injury was just one of several setbacks that slowed Phinisee’s season as he started just 16 games.  All of the sophomore’s shooting percentages ticked up in year two, but they are still well short of what he is capable of.  Phinisee’s assists were up this season, especially on a per-minute basis, but so were his turnovers.  If he can stay healthy, Phinisee is a player that could make major strides as a junior.


“Rob Phinisee being in the game and being ready to go and looking like he did today, that’s a big deal for us.

Your guards set the tone, and Rob sets the tone for us.”

— Archie Miller on Jan. 11 after the win over Ohio State.

“You can see that he’s the heart and soul in this thing with that team.”

— Nebraska head coach Fred Hoiberg

Credit – IU Athletics

Primary Developmental Needs:

1. Stay the course.

Let’s face it.  Phinisee’s first two seasons have been full of challenges.  After losing a meaningful portion of his freshman year to a concussion, Phinisee faced a number of nagging injuries and ailments during his sophomore campaign.  Most notable was an undisclosed abdominal issue that Miller indicated before the season might linger.

Perhaps due in large part to those physical challenges, Phinisee’s numbers have been less than stellar in some respects.  Namely, he is a career 36.7 percent shooter from the field overall including 32.1 percent from three point range.  Although he was a prolific scorer in high school, nothing came easy for Phinisee as an underclassman at IU.

But the talent is there, as are the signs that there is much more to come.  Phinisee finished the season with 32 assists against just 9 turnovers over his last 8 games, including an amazing 14 assists and just one turnover in the final two contests of the season.  His shooting percentages overall, from three and from the foul line all improved year-over-year as well.

Phinisee just has to believe that he has had an unfortunate run of bad luck — and the best is yet to come.

2.  Finishing at the rim, and the mid-range shot.

For two straight seasons Phinisee has been below 40 percent on two-point shots.  Compare that to Michigan State’s Cassius Winston, who was never below 45 percent in a season and was above 50 percent for two years during his career on two-pointers.

Part of the problem is no doubt that Phinisee has faced opposing defenses that are packed tight in the paint.  The point guard could use an assist from his teammates.  If IU starts converting at a higher rate from the perimeter, driving lanes will no doubt start to open up.

Phinisee also suffers from a bit of tunnel vision when he attacks as well.  While his assist rate is respectable, it isn’t at an elite Big Ten level.  He’ll need to look more for teammates when the help arrives to keep team’s guessing.

3.  A changing of the guards?

Winston, Anthony Cowan, Zavier Simpson, and perhaps Marcus Carr will all be gone next year.  There is an opening for someone to step up and become the Big Ten’s top point guard.  For our money Phinisee will be the upperclassman on next year’s roster with the most upside.

Already an elite defender on the ball, if Phinisee can become a more efficient scorer and take his assist rate to the next level he can no doubt be right around the top of Big Ten point guards.

Part of what makes a good point guard is verbal leadership, and that is another area that Phinisee will need to take to the next level.

What Success Looks Like in 2020-21

A healthy Rob Phinisee appears primed to take a big jump in his junior season.  Part of that will come from what should be more floor time, as Phinisee was restricted for much of the 2019-20 season and he only averaged 23.2 minutes per contest.

If he plays more in the neighborhood of 28-30 minutes per game, a successful junior campaign could look like 9-10 points, and 4-5 assists with a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.  Continued growth in his shooting, with the two-point rate moving up several percentage points and a three-point rate of 35 percent or better would make Phinisee the efficient scorer that IU needs.

Of course Indiana will continue to look for Phinisee to be highly impactful guarding the ball, while taking on a much more prominent leadership role in year three.


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