With the majority of Indiana’s offseason roster changes behind us, we bring back our annual tradition of taking a closer look at the players expected to return to the program.
First up is guard Tamar Bates, who is training for his sophomore 2022-23 season.
THE 2021-22 NUMBERS
Bates played in 32 of Indiana’s 35 games in 2021-22, with all of his appearances coming off the bench.
The 6-foot-5 true freshman averaged 3.9 points while shooting 33.8 percent from the field overall and 29.8 percent from three. Bates added 1.3 rebounds and .6 assists in 14.5 minutes per contest.
WHAT WENT WELL
There were flashes of brilliance from Bates that started during the team’s foreign trip to The Bahamas where he averaged 11.5 points, and continued into the early part of the season. He arrived at IU with five-star recruiting accolades, and got off to a good start, averaging 7.5 points after consecutive double-figure scoring games in November.
He scored 11 against St. John’s and 13 against Nebraska, which seemed to be early indicators Bates was ready for high major college basketball. The Kansas City, Kan. product scored from three, in the mid-range, at the rim and in transition.
Bates also shot 83 percent from the free-throw line, a good sign that he can become a much better perimeter shooter down the road.
OFFSEASON DEVELOPMENTAL NEEDS
1. Develop into a lock-down defender. Head coach Mike Woodson made a decision very early. After surveying his roster and recognizing he didn’t have the shooters he needed, he pivoted to a defense-first focus. The opportunity was there for Bates to supplant Parker Stewart or Miller Kopp in the starting lineup, as neither were high-level defenders. But with that pair serving as ostensibly IU’s best hope to make threes, and Bates unable to prove he was ready to be an impact-defender, the freshman was unable to carve-out consistent minutes.
Bates has all the tools to be good defender in the Big Ten. He’s a good athlete with length who plays with an aggressive mindset. But he needs to get stronger, play with a more physical style without fouling, and not let executing the gameplan cause him to think away his competitive instincts.
2. Become one of Indiana’s go-to 3-point shooters. A quick look up-and-down IU’s projected 2022-23 roster suggests the Hoosiers could be perimeter shooting challenged once again. Top-shooter Parker Stewart has moved on, and IU has no one else in its backcourt who has proven that they can be an efficient high-volume 3-point shooter. Bates has that ability in his repertoire. He made 40 percent or more of his threes in each of his last two seasons of high school.
Freshmen often struggle from long-range at the high major level, but if Bates can start making threes at a high clip he should earn a starting role. That’s exactly how Stewart earned the job. And with his versatile, three-level scoring game, Bates should be able to give IU a much more productive and difficult to defend scoring option on the wing.
3. Get the mojo back. Bates only turned 19 in February, and he had his hands full during his first year in college. He lost his uncle in December, was planning for the birth of his daughter, and he fell into a shooting slump as he tried to adapt to coming off the bench. Bates arrived at IU confident, but he referred to his extended slide as “humbling” during the season.
But there were moments that told you he can be something very special at this level. Before things went sideways, Woodson referred to Bates as a “cocky kid” who seemed to be on his way to big things. He had a six-game early season stretch where he averaged more than 22 minutes and eight points per contest. Bates is too talented to believe his college career will look like his freshman season. And the next step is for Bates to recognize that and focus on the future.
With his mind right, Bates will need to look to be much more assertive on both ends of the floor. He was often just another player on the floor as a freshman. Year two should be his season to break out and realize his potential.
WHAT SUCCESS LOOK LIKE IN 2022-23
While Bates had the look of someone who could come and make a big impact in year one, freshman-season challenges are nothing unusual in high major college basketball.
A year-over-year improvement like we saw from Armaan Franklin certainly seems within the realm of what’s possible for Bates. Franklin went from averaging 3.7 points while shooting 26.6 percent from three as a freshman, to 11.4 points and 42.4 percent from long range in year two.
If he can post offensive numbers in that ballpark while making the necessary improvements on the defensive end, Bates will have himself right back on the path towards eventual stardom at IU.
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