BLOOMINGTON, IN - DECEMBER 26, 2020 - guard Khristian Lander #4 of the Indiana Hoosiers during the game against the Illinois Fighting Illini and the Indiana Hoosiers at State Farm Center in Champaign, IL. Photo By Missy Minear/Indiana Hoosiers

IU basketball assistant on Phinisee, Lander transfers: “It’s a sadness, but you want what’s best for the kid”

Two of Indiana’s three point guards from the 2021-22 season moved on to new programs following Mike Woodson’s first year in Bloomington.

Rob Phinisee and Khristian Lander formed the second and third levels of IU’s primary ball handling depth chart, and with Xavier Johnson back and true freshman Jalen Hood-Schifino in the mix, things were going to be too crowded to avoid turnover at the position.

Now Phinisee is at Cincinnati and Lander at Western Kentucky as both players look to rejuvenate their careers at the nearby programs.

Phinisee had an iconic moment during his fourth and final year at IU, deliver a career-high 20 points and a game-winning shot to beat his hometown school Purdue.  He rode out of town with that memory that will last a lifetime.

“I think it was good for him to get a breath of fresh air,” assistant coach Yasir Rosemond said last week on a podcast.  “I was so happy for him after the Purdue game.  He beat Purdue.  He had a good career.  He probably didn’t have the career that everybody thought he would have, which is fine, it happens.”

Phinisee was one of IU’s best perimeter defenders but struggled with offensive efficiency throughout his career in Bloomington. He averaged 4.5 points per game in 2021-22 while shooting 31.2 percent from the field in 18.3 minutes per contest.

“He had the best career that I think he could have here,” Rosemond added.  “It was a sense of relief.  Rob would have stayed, but I think he was just like, ‘maybe I need to do something new.'”

Lander came to IU in 2020 with a great deal of promise, but his decision to move up a year seemed to work against him, and the former 5-star was never able to carve-out meaningful minutes in his two seasons with the Hoosiers.

“Khristian, that one hurts because I feel like he still could have been successful here,” Rosemond said.  “I just don’t think he was patient enough.  Which I understand, it’s hard to sit on the bench and not get minutes.  That’s just hard.

“Talent wasn’t the issue, and Khristian is a great kid, he goes to school and got great grades.  It was just kind of figuring it out.  He was still just kind of trying to figure out how to play the position, which is not an easy position to play in college.”

The 6-foot-2 guard from Evansville played in 39 games over two seasons with Indiana and averaged 2.4 points in 9.7 minutes per contest.

Rosemond said he tries to keep in touch with Lander and tries to check in with him periodically.

“I think he’s a little bit bitter about the way his stuff went here, but down the line I think he’ll be fine.”

Phinisee and Lander were just two of four who transferred out of the IU program after the season.

It’s a new reality since the NCAA opened the transfer portal and eliminated the rule that required players to sit out a year.

“It’s a sadness, but you also want what is best for the kid,” Rosemond said of seeing the players leave.

But the portal is a two-way street, and schools can nudge players into it if they don’t see a fit.

One thing Rosemond says he has learned — not every kid is cut out for the bright lights and big stage at a program with a passionate fan base like IU.

That revelation has shaped the way he evaluates prospects on the recruiting trail.

“Not everybody can play here,” Rosemond said.  “Even guys that are really, really talented, they can’t play here.  So even now in recruiting, I’m looking for guys that can play in this bubble.”

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