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IU Basketball: Did a Lack of Vocal Leadership Derail the Season, and Has it Now Emerged?

It has been discussed ad nauseam to this point.  Something has been missing from this Indiana basketball team.  No, not the perimeter shooting.  That has clearly been missing.  But it has been more than that.  Something intangible.

At the same time, something has changed over the last two weeks since an embarrassing road loss to Minnesota.

Indiana finally picked up another win on Tuesday night against Wisconsin, and most would agree that over the course of the last few games this Hoosier squad is giving “unquestioned max effort” to borrow Archie Miller’s term.

Maybe something has finally clicked with this team?

But still, there is a larger story to this season.  With three games left in the regular season, IU is 14-14 overall and 5-12 in Big Ten play.  There was a pretty wide range of predictions for this for Indiana team coming into the season, but no one, No One, predicted that kind of record in early March.

Irrespective of whether they’ve discovered the missing ingredient, with the benefit of hindsight it now seems clear that there was a major void at the outset.

LEADING BY EXAMPLE

BTN’s Dave Revsine asked this question of Juwan Morgan and Zach McRoberts at the Big Ten basketball media day back in October —

“You guys are co-captains.  How do each one of you guys lead?”

You can watch their responses beginning at the 2:00 minute mark of the video.

Leaders. By. Example.

For Morgan, it almost sounded like he knew it wasn’t the right answer.

For McRoberts, it seemed more natural, and quite frankly what we have come to know of him.  Don’t read that as a slap-in-the-face.  If you can watch a healthy McRoberts play and not feel inspired to play harder, then there is something wrong with you.

Presumably these two players were selected as co-captains because of their ability to lead.  And their ability to lead by example is unquestioned.  We can’t think of anyone else on the team that gives better effort than Morgan and McRoberts.

Some people just don’t have it in their disposition to be a true vocal leader.  So this shouldn’t be read as a criticism of anyone.  It’s more of an observation, or an attempt to put together the puzzle.

But there are clearly unanswered questions.

And unless a late season turnaround for the ages is upon us, the question that will always remain is whether leading by example was enough.

HEARING IS BELIEVING

We weren’t looking to write this story.  If anything, it should have been written after the Minnesota game.

But without seeking out the quotes, we just happened to stumble upon three different observations in the last 24 hours that when taken as a whole served as a major eye opener in the context of this Indiana team and those answers by the senior co-captains before the season.

Without further building them up, this is what we heard —

Tom Izzo this week on Cassius Winston —

“The one thing about Cassius….he is a great case study to me of the process,” Izzo said.  The process of struggling a little bit as a freshman.  To me, Cassius is part of that process.  He’s growing.  The next part of the process is to become an even better leader.  He leads by example better than any guy in America, on the court, off the court, in the classroom, all the things he does.  But to be a great, great leader, you have to be able to rally people around you.”

“There’s a million different ways to lead….leadership by example is the one that I hate.”

“Cassius was a leader from the beginning, but what I’m trying to tell him is now you have to lead with your voice.”

Tom Allen yesterday on needing verbal leadership from his quarterbacks —

“Leadership to me has to be active, and a guy that’s in a position of a quarterback spot, it’s the same with linebackers on defense, but those positions demand production and they — they just demand verbal leadership,” Allen said.  “You can’t just be a great example.”

“I mean, everybody wants to be — well, he’s a leader; he leads by example. That’s awesome, but you can’t lead anybody if you don’t speak, you know, and so like I even told to our leadership counsel recently, I’m like, hey, you imagine a coach not saying a whole lot to the team? You know, there would be — he may be doing everything right but if he doesn’t ever speak, he’s not going to influence anybody around him and leadership is influence.”

“Some of these guys, and Michael (Penix) is one of them, he has to take that next step of verbally leading the team. That may not be what his personality is comfortable doing because he’s a quiet guy and you know, Peyton (Ramsey) is a quiet guy, too, so those guys have to learn and Michael is young and he has to understand about how do I lead.”

Marco Killingsworth on teams that play without emotion —

“It comes from the leaders, from the captains.  If the captain is one of those captains that leads by example, and doesn’t talk, that’s how the team is going to be.”

THE NEXT STEP IN THE PROCESS

You’ll note that Izzo is still working on developing the leadership skills of his senior point guard.  The “process” never stops.  Not late in the season, not late in a career.

It’s never too late.

Today Miller addressed the progress that this Hoosier team has made from an effort standpoint over the last two weeks.

“Yeah I think the accountability in practice has gone way up,” Miller said.  “The players have to do it.  That’s the accountability that we’ve been asking for the last three weeks for those guys to hold each other accountable from Juwan all the way down.  I think right now there’s a different type of accountability in what we’re doing every day, and that’s the change that needed to happen.”

Perhaps it’s too late to save a season, but that sure sounds like voices are emerging behind the scenes.  That would certainly help to explain the improved energy emanating from this team.

But the process never stops.  And it isn’t just Indiana feeling their way through it.

It’s going to take a loud chorus of Hoosier voices to take down another emerging voice in Winston and his No. 6 Spartans on Saturday.


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