IU basketball: Why Khristian Lander’s early summer arrival in Bloomington is important

Every day that Khristian Lander is in Bloomington this summer is a good day for Indiana’s 2020-21 basketball season.

While Lander is a five-star recruit who oozes potential, the 6-foot-2 guard is still built like a kid about to enter his senior year of high school.

That is, of course, because Lander should be entering his senior year of high school.

IU basketball head coach Archie Miller was effusive in his praise for Lander when describing him on a recent podcast with radio voice Don Fischer.

But he also voiced some caution.

“He’s going to have to get physically ready to go, that will be a big challenge for him,” Miller said.

Indiana announced that Lander had signed his national letter of intent in May, making it clear that he had officially reclassified from the class of 2021 to 2020 and play for IU during the 2020-21 season.

That answered the “if” question, but there was still the question of “when.”

As in when would Lander arrive on campus.

At the time of the May announcement there were still classes to finish and administrative details to iron out.

The uncertainty faded on Sunday when Lander let it be known that he was on campus in Bloomington.

Lander could not begin working with the team until he had completed all of the courses that were tied to him being eligible in 2020.  And the course load that Lander had to complete to be eligible now was no small undertaking.

With the academic challenge behind him, Lander can now focus on the next big hurdle that playing up a year presents — the physical development.

If Lander had arrived in Bloomington at the start of the fall semester in eight weeks he would have missed all of the summer training program.

Now Lander can focus on strength training and other aspects of his physical development with few other distractions until school starts.

If he can attack the weight room with the same intensity that  Lander put towards his academic requirements, we might be in for a big transformation in the coming months.

In an ordinary year Indiana’s freshmen arrive in Bloomington during the first week of June.

That allows for five full months training with Director of Athletic Performance Clif Marshall prior to the start of the season, including more intensive summer sessions.

And we’ve seen the before and after photos when players spend time with Marshall.

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Although he arrived a little later than his teammates and a month later than the typical season, Lander will still have four months with Marshall before the start of the season.  That should yield much better results than a late August arrival.

F.J. Reitz had Lander listed at 165 pounds on their 2019-20 roster.  That’s a full 20 pounds less than the lightest players on Indiana’s roster last season.

(Update:  In a Twitter post in response to this story, Lander’s mother indicated that he arrived at Indiana at 178 pounds).

The Big Ten is a big, physical league, and added muscle should do wonders for Lander when it comes to fighting through ball screens and playing through contract when he attacks off the dribble.

There is also an adjustment period when rapidly adding muscle for a basketball player.  Lander is going to need to get used to playing with the added mass and work out any kinks in his game that result from the training program.

Beyond adding weight, Lander should have plenty of time to alter his body composition, improve his diet, improve athletically, and much more in the coming weeks.

Oh, and then there is basketball.

Now in Bloomington, Lander can now compete daily against high level competition including guards that have been through the rigors of a season like Al Durham, Rob Phinisee and Armaan Franklin.

Lander can also learn and adapt to trying to score against Big Ten size.  Four months trying to produce at the rim against the likes of Trayce Jackson-Davis, Joey Brunk, Race Thompson and Jerome Hunter will be good for Lander’s development too.

Lander’s speed and skills should help IU play faster and be more efficient this year, but he has to be able to survive the physicality of the Big Ten.

His July 5th arrival might be just enough to make the difference.

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