With Trayce Jackson-Davis and Race Thompson back, and promising 5-star freshman Malik Reneau on board, minutes won’t be easy to come by in Indiana’s frontcourt.
Junior forward Jordan Geronimo has waited patiently for his opportunity. His minutes inched up from 8.1 per contest as a freshman in 2020-21 to 12.6 last season.
But an extra year of eligibility meant Thompson could return, and his decision to do so had many wondering if Geronimo would seek an opportunity elsewhere.
He did — on the perimeter.
Geronimo announced his decision to return to the program in late April, after Thompson’s announcement and Reneau’s commitment. His choice to stay in Bloomington was fueled by the opportunity he sees to play at the small forward position, a spot at 6-foot-6 he’ll need to gravitate to sooner than later anyway if he wants to play at the next level.
“I’m working on my guard skills,” Geronimo said on the popular IU show Crimson Cast. “I’m trying to be a three this year so I can expand my role as a player. This offseason I’m working on improving my handle, reading situations that I’m going to be in from the three. Of course my jump shot (too).”
While his athletic gifts are undeniable, Geronimo has struggled at times when he has the ball away from the basket. He frequently made bad passes and had a 21.3 percent turnover rate, highest among the forwards on the team. Geronimo also had the lowest assist rate on the team.
“I think for him it is just about decision making and being able to handle the ball better,” Thompson said of Geronimo last week. “He’s an elite defender. Everybody knows that. That’s not an issue. I think it just really comes down to being able to handle the ball and make good decisions.
“He’s been doing well in practice, improving every single day, and it’s fun to watch him from being a person who didn’t really handle the ball to being able to make a move, get by a defender, pump fake, one-dribble pull-up and being able to do that just in one summer is very impressive, and hopefully he can keep building on that and he can help us a lot.”
Geronimo says he is starting from a good place coming off of his sophomore campaign. He had 10 points in 13 minutes in a late season game at Minnesota, averaged 12 points and 6.5 rebounds in the two NCAA Tournament games, and Geronimo had two blocks and was on the floor as part of an elite team defensive effort as IU rallied against Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament.
“My confidence was at an all-time high, being able to help my teammates win however I can,” Geronimo said of his lates season surge. “Being able to end the season knowing that I helped my team go farther is a great feeling. I’m just trying to use that to motivate me to keep getting better.”
To get himself ready for his transition out to the perimeter, Geronimo is watching film.
“I watch a lot of film with (assistant) coach Kenya Hunter, we watch the practices that we had and I’m learning about the things that I used to do that I shouldn’t be doing, and just learning about the new role as a three-man.”
Since he was in high school, Geronimo has liked to watch one player in particular who developed into a perimeter player to compliment his size and athleticism.
“When I was in high school I looked at De’Andre Hunter who graduated from UVA (Virginia) and plays for the Atlanta Hawks. I just love his game,” Geronimo said. “I feel like the stuff that he’s doing at the NBA level is something that I can do if I put myself in that position. I like his game a lot.”
Hunter led Virginia to the 2019 national championship before leaving for the NBA.
Geronimo isn’t ready to make national title predictions for the 2022-23 Hoosiers, but he can see it first hand — the talent level is different this year.
“We play a lot of pick-up games with this team, and just seeing us play, I feel like the potential we have with this team is crazy,” Geronimo said.
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