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IU basketball: graduate transfer and redshirt options could be used for Indiana’s 2020-21 roster

Although many of the names have changed, when it comes to roster construction, a year later the overarching question remains the same.

Last May Indiana head coach Archie Miller didn’t seem terribly concerned when asked about utilizing just 11 of his allotted 13 scholarships.

“Guys fall out of the sky in August nowadays,” Archie Miller joked a year ago at IU’s booster event at Huber’s Orchard and Winery in Borden . “I mean, you just catch ‘em.”

IU didn’t catch any summer falling stars going into the 2019-20 season, and now it is one of their own that has put his name on the market relatively late in the cycle.

With Justin Smith’s announcement on Friday that he will graduate and transfer from Indiana, Miller finds himself precisely where he was a year ago, with 11 utilized scholarships going into the 2020-21 season.

Last May, Miller preached flexibility when it came to filling an opening late in the process.

“For us, to have some breathing room, to be able to do what we want, we would only use (a scholarship) if it was an impactful decision,” Miller said at the time.  “We’re not gonna use one that’s just gonna be hasty. We’ve had all spring to evaluate things.”

Obviously this spring has been quite a bit different for Miller and his staff.  While recruiting activity has carried on virtually, watching players live, something very important to Miller, has ceased.

A quick survey of the available transferring players that would be immediately eligible for the 2020-21 season leaves much to be desired.  With most transfers announced a month or two ago, the top names on the board have already committed elsewhere.

But as with Smith on Friday and the announcement by St. John’s forward L.J. Figueroa on Monday, new higher profile names are still entering the transfer portal on a somewhat regular basis.

Figueroa is an interesting case.  He led St. John’s in scoring with 14.5 points per contest, and the 6-foot-6 wing also led the Big East in steals.

If Indiana has a strong need on its current roster, it is a frontcourt player with perimeter skills — and Figueroa fits the bill.  He made 36.5-percent of his 197 three-pointers for the 2019-20 campaign.

LJ Figueroa
LJ Figueroa is an example of a the kind of player that Indiana could pursue late in the 2020 recruiting cycle. Photo credit – St. John’s Athletics

Smith’s departure gives IU a great sales pitch in the transfer market, as he started every game and led the team in minutes.  All of that is now ostensibly available.

Figueroa is an example of that impactful type of player that Miller alluded to last year.  We expect Indiana to get involved with him and others like him in the coming months.

The other route IU could go to bring in a player late would be reclassification.  That is the same approach that turned Khristian Lander into a 2020 recruit.

Indiana got a commitment from Race Thompson in the summer of 2017 via the reclassification route and he joined the team right away.

While no one that Indiana is recruiting in 2021 has stated publicly that reclassification is on the table, players such as IU offer recipients Trey Patterson and John Camden have at least discussed the option.

Miller also expressed concerns about morale last year when asked about carrying more than 11 scholarship players.

Basically, no one rolls with a 13 player rotation on the court, so naturally a few guys are going to be left out.

“Sometimes when you have 12 or 13 on scholarship, if someone isn’t redshirting or injured, sometimes you have some real dynamics you have to deal with for playing time,” Miller said.

Although it isn’t used often in today’s game, the redshirt is one way to utilize a scholarship without the expectation of playing time.

Miller used that approach with Thompson for the 2017-18 season, and Purdue’s Matt Painter had two true freshmen redshirt in 2019-20.

Painter has used the playing time issue to help convince the odd men out to take the redshirt year rather than waste a year of eligibility riding the bench.

Most high major college basketball players arrive on campus believing that they are ready to go on day one, but IU might have a few exceptions in its 2020 class.

For various reasons, arguments could be made that each of Anthony Leal, Trey Galloway and Jordan Geronimo could benefit from a redshirt 2020-21 season.  While they all bring strengths to the program, none of the freshman trio projects to be a high impact player from the jump.

Ultimately it is up to the player to accept the redshirt season, and all three seem grounded enough to accept that reality if it is suggested to them.

Especially if Indiana is able to secure a 12th scholarship player late, it won’t be terribly surprising to see one of those three freshmen go that route.

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