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IU basketball: Jordan Geronimo believes he’s in the right place to reach his vast potential

When it comes to the reasons why he returned to Bloomington rather than enter the transfer portal, it isn’t enough to just say Jordan Geronimo is working on moving his game out to the perimeter where the hope of more playing time with Indiana awaits.

Truth be told, Geronimo could have secured more assured playing time at a number of places who would have welcomed him with open arms, whether he played the three or the four.

With three more years of eligibility remaining, Geronimo still has plenty of time to reach his sky-high ceiling fueled by his NBA-level athleticism.

Although his vertical and wingspan allow Geronimo to play much taller than his 6-foot-6 height, those are attributes that are relatively commonplace at the next level.  So because he’s 6-foot-6, Geronimo does indeed need to become a small forward if he wants to play professionally in the U.S., and he’s got a fairly long way to go from a development standpoint to get there.

So when Geronimo says his college head coach, who spent 25 years as a coach in the NBA, was one of the main reasons he came back, it comes across as more than just a smart kid who knows the right talking point.

“The ultimate factor of me coming back (to Indiana) was I have trust in Mike Woodson,” Geronimo said.

Geronimo knows he has plenty of time to develop in college, he knows his head coach has a keen eye for what that necessary development looks like, and in the meantime he can maximize his potential for playing time on a deep roster by proving his ability to perform at multiple spots.

And while the transfer portal has provided an easy exit for some, there’s also a different reality for others like Geronimo.  The New Jersey product committed to Indiana on site during his first recruiting visit, and that love affair seems to be continuing.  He has developed a bond with his teammates and the program.

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Hopping in the portal for a quick change just didn’t feel right.

“I have trust in the program that, you know, like it’s bigger than myself, really,” Geronimo said.  “I want the program to be successful and to — we’re fighting for a championship. We’re fighting for that. So, I want to be a part of that program, and seeing other players that came in, everybody that’s coming back, and I’m like, I feel like it’s something I can’t be not a part of.

“I trust the coach and I trust the staff, the players, and I feel like it’s a good decision to come back.”

Geronimo might actually have less competition for playing time next season at his original power forward spot.  Race Thompson will of course be difficult to pass on the depth chart, and freshman Malik Reneau is clearly in the mix as well.

Out on the wing at the three however, multiple players are battling to see the floor including Miller Kopp, Tamar Bates, C.J. Gunn, Kaleb Banks, Anthony Leal and Trey Galloway.

The competition at small forward seems fairly wide-open, and Geronimo’s length and athleticism clearly give him some attributes Woodson prioritizes, especially on the defensive end.  It was those abilities that gave Woodson the comfort to play Geronimo at least 19 minutes in each of the last three games he was available during the 2022 postseason.

He is of course working on the things you’d expect, shooting and ball-handling, to prove his abilities on the perimeter.  Geronimo says he has improved in both areas.

“I’m not going to say I’m like Kyrie Irving but it’s (his ball handling) just better, you know what I mean,” he said.  “It’s getting better and seeing improvement is a good sight.”

But it’s the next level aspects of playing on the perimeter that might just determine Geronimo’s readiness.  The challenge of being ready to play two spots entails knowing the nuances of each position, and being ready to adjust on the fly depending on which role he is being asked to take on.

“It’s learning things like transition defense. As a big man, as a four I guess, I would just run to the rim, you know what I mean, protect the rim on transition,” Geronimo said.

“As a three I would be able to try to stop the ball in transition, so that’s something that I keep in mind. Also, I’m fighting over ball screens now, so that’s the kind of stuff that’s different.

“But also, the plays. The fours and the threes have different positions and plays, so I have to remember all that kind of stuff. So, it’s a lot to it.”

Last year Geronimo struggled at times on the perimeter with judgment and knowing where he was supposed to be.  None of that is necessarily surprising for someone who played center for much of his relatively short early experience with the game.

Those are some of the next-level aspects of playing the three that he’s emphasizing right now.

When it comes to winning playing time at the small forward spot, it’s about much more than just getting shots up and improving his handle right now.

“In terms of decision-making, like that goes both ways, on-ball and off-ball,” Geronimo said.  “On-ball, meaning like I’m getting better at just, you know, knowing when to try to attack, knowing when to shoot the ball, knowing when to pass the ball, you know what I mean.

“But off-ball, knowing when to cut and knowing when to set some actions like down screens, off-ball screens, something like that. But those are the kind of improvements I mean when I say I’m getting better in decision-making.”

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