It has been nearly seven months since the 2017-18 Indiana basketball season ended. That’s a long time to be left to wonder what is going to change year over year.
Of course we have filled the void with countless hours of speculation about this year’s team — but that’s all it is — speculation. Then, on a day like yesterday’s IU basketball media day, we are blessed with a treasure trove of information from inside the program regarding player development, who has been impressing the coaches and their fellow players, and much more.
Here’s what stood out to us.
ARCHIE MILLER SEES FRESHMEN THAT ARE PHYSICALLY READY TO PLAY
You never really know what you have with freshmen, but IU head coach Archie Miller sees guys that are ready to contribute.
I think the one thing that stands out about the five freshmen, genetically, physically, they’re gifted. There’s size, there’s strength, there’s athleticism. It’s a group that can come in and compete in college physically, which is always a good thing….But we’re very pleased with them. All of them are great guys, and like I said before, they’ve added value in a lot of ways but one. I just think from a talent perspective they make us bigger and stronger and deeper.
Juwan Morgan had similar thoughts, and noted that this freshman group is different than previous years.
I think just first off their willingness to learn and get better. I think for the previous classes they kind of was a little timid coming in, didn’t really want to ask questions, but they’re not afraid to ask questions, and they’ll do things wrong, but they’ll do it going as hard as they can, and I think that’s just a good — pretty much good mentality to have, especially on the defensive end. If you’re just going hard sometimes, just going hard will be the right play to do.
ARCHIE MILLER ON THE TEAM’S DEPTH
A big question on this team is how the minutes will be allocated with so many talented players. Miller spoke on that topic.
When you have depth and you have competition level that I think we can have, every day you’re going to have to earn it, and that’s how teams really grow. We talked a lot about how this team has to progress, and part of it is if you are maximizing your effort level, your concentration level, you’re giving everything you have, you’re pushing yourself to a new limit individually, then obviously you’re going to push somebody next to you to do the same, because if not, then the guy is going to stand out in a negative fashion.
But if you can ever get a group of, like you said, 10, 12, 13 guys always doing that, trying to push themselves to be the best, which results in others around them having to respond in that type of manner, your environment becomes one of which is very competitive. When you have that every day, you get better. When you have that, you generate a mutual respect for one another.
How you earn minutes is obviously through production, and if you can get it done every day in practice, typically with the way we do things, I think it translates to the floor. When it translates to the floor when you have your opportunities, you continue to grow your role.
But without question, competition is going to be something that we hold dear to our heart this season. Not that we don’t do it every season, but this is a season in particular where there’s a lot of guys with expectations.
ARCHIE MILLER ON WHAT IS DIFFERENT IN YEAR TWO
We’ve written on the topic of how it has historically taken time for even the best coaches to get things going in the right direction. Miller spoke about his greater comfort level at the helm with a year under his belt.
There’s such a different comfort level with everybody. That’s with me all the way down. Just understanding who you deal with every day and who you talk to every day, how your family is doing every day. It’s a huge adjustment, whether you want to admit it or not, and once you get through it, you get through it, and as you start to approach the second coming or second season together, you’re obviously much more relaxed in things that you never would have really worried about a year ago.
We’re in a much different place. I do like our returning guys. I think that’s the most comforting thing is our returning guys really understand sort of how we do things, what we’re doing, the steps that need to be taken. And our younger guys have people that they can watch where you’re not having to teach not only your coaches but every player. Right now it’s more or less along the lines of trying to do things we’ve done in the past the best we’ve ever done them, and then having everybody roll in the same direction where we can get sped up with our younger players sort of viewing by example at times, which no one had a chance to do a year ago.
ARCHIE MILLER SEES A PASSION IN JEROME HUNTER
Perhaps the most overlooked player on the team is freshman Jerome Hunter, who has the talent to have a great career at Indiana.
Jerome loves the game of basketball, more than any guy that I’ve probably been around in a long time. He can’t get enough of the gym, which is a great sign as a young player. It’s a great sign, an attribute to deal with me or our staff. You’ve got to love the game. Jerome loves basketball.
Hunter is working on transitioning his game out to the perimeter, and Miller sees big things in his future there.
He’s going to develop from that combo forward to more of a wing perimeter-oriented guy, which that’s a tough change in terms of ball handling and guarding smaller players. So he’s going to go through a bunch of that, but he has as much upside and talent as any guy that we’ve got, and I think within time here, he can develop into a terrific Big Ten player, all-conference type player in his time. He’s a much better three-point shooter than I ever imagined he would be coming in.
ARCHIE MILLER ON WHAT STANDS OUT ABOUT ROMEO LANGFORD
Miller sees world class athleticism in Langford, and made some eye-catching comparisons.
Just how talented and gifted he is athletically. I think you can probably say he’s very athletic or watch him play and say, wow, but he just does things so easy and so smoothly. If he was a football player he’d be Randy Moss. If he was a track athlete, he’d probably be Usain Bolt or one of those guys. Just the stride, the elevation, quick jumps, second jumps, the — just the knifing through people, covering ground from rim to rim, things just like that that just — he probably takes for granted but in most cases you watch him and he really makes it look easy.
ARCHIE MILLER ON FRESHMAN JAKE FORRESTER
Forrester is coming in under the radar, but Miller identified the reason why he just might see the floor as a freshman.
Well, Jake is a livewire. He really is. He is a livewire. He as energetic, as vocal, as high-strung of a guy as I’ve had come into college in a while. He provides instant energy. He provides instant energy, he provides instant talk. He can be the life of the room, and in practice just more so than anything, you really need life in practice, which I love. With that motor, he’s also a guy that’s not afraid. He’s going to challenge you on both ends of the floor, whether he’s trying to dunk on you or whether he tries to block your shot, which is another great attribute to have.
ARCHIE MILLER BELIEVES DEVONTE GREEN HAS TURNED A CORNER
There may not be a more critical player on the 2018-19 team than Devonte Green, and Miller has noted important development.
If you ranked our players top to bottom in consistency, it would be very hard for me to tell you that Devonte didn’t have as consistent as an off-season as any guy. How that translates as we start practice and games start looming and minutes start to be handed out, that’s where as a junior you’d hope he would be the guy that could really see the light at the end of the tunnel. He’s got a great opportunity to have a great role on this team, and he’s just got to embrace what we’re asking him to do.
Juwan Morgan sees a difference in Green as well —
Devonte has just become more under control and not making home run plays but making more singles than he has before.
ROMEO LANGFORD HAS LOFTY GOALS
My expectation is to win a National Championship. I don’t go into any season just trying to win a couple games. I go in trying to win the whole entire championship. Really my expectation for myself for bringing to the team is just be whatever — be the best I can be, and I feel like me doing that is going to help the team be successful down the road.
It isn’t about whether or not the expectation is realistic, right? If you are going to do something you should attempt to be the best at it.
AL DURHAM’S GAME HAS TAKEN BIG STRIDES
Another player that stood out to Morgan is sophomore guard Al Durham, Jr.
Al is a lot more confident in his game, and he’s added so many aspects to his game.
Durham talked about his development.
I just tried to amp my game up completely from last year, bring certain things to the table that I just wasn’t comfortable with last year, just making sure I was expanding my game all around, even in the weight room, on the court, and just bringing different things to the team, just so we could be a better team as one.
ROB PHINISEE HAS IMPRESSED JUWAN MORGAN
Pushing Durham and Green for minutes will be freshman point guard Rob Phinisee. Juwan Morgan believes the Lafayette, Indiana native is ready now.
I would say Rob has impressed me the most, just from his ability to read the game, especially adjusting to the pace of the game. He just pretty much got it as soon as he came in, and I think he’ll get like more of the reads and terminology as we go on to say with all of them. But I think he’s come the most far so far.
DE’RON DAVIS INTENDS TO BE BACK FOR THE FIRST GAME
Of course a big question has been whether De’Ron Davis will be ready for the first game coming off an Achilles injury. Based on his and Miller’s comments, it sounds like that is possible, but his conditioning might still be trailing a bit.
I feel pretty good. I’m just trying to experience a little discomfort, but other than that, this process has been smooth. Really I’m just planning on being back by the first game. I don’t know how healthy I’ll be just yet. The timetable is still kind of weird looking. But I’m just trying to contribute to anything and everything I can.
EVAN FITZNER IS A TALENTED THREE POINT SHOOTER….AND MORE
Don’t forget about the final addition to this team full of newcomers. Ask anyone about this 6-foot-10 graduate transfer forward, and the first thing they’ll mention is his 3-point shot. De’Ron Davis sees much more to his game.
He gets to the rim real smoothly. I think he’s going to be able to spread the floor, and I think people underestimate his postgame, too. He has a real smooth and like majestic postgame.
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