Things are going well so far for Indiana when it comes to securing talent via the transfer portal.
The Hoosiers have landed a pair of big men — Oregon transfer Kel’el Ware and Payton Sparks from Ball State. That haul gives IU the seventh best portal class in the country as of Monday morning according to On3.
But Indiana still has three available scholarships on its 2023-24 roster, and a still anxious fan base.
And unless the six returning players from a year ago make massive strides during the offseason, that anxiety seems justified. The Hoosiers still have major needs.
The portal target IU appears to be the strongest with as we begin a new week is Harvard combo forward Chris Ledlum. The Brooklyn, N.Y. product visited IU last weekend at the same time as Ware, and he followed that up with visits to Tennessee and St. John’s this weekend. It won’t be surprising if the 6-foot-6 Ledlum wraps up his process this week, and it wouldn’t be shocking if he transferred to Indiana.
Whether or not IU lands Ledlum, the Hoosiers are in pretty good shape in the front court right now. And with Ledlum’s 18 points per game and versatility, they could be pretty prolific up front along with Ware, Sparks, Malik Reneau and Kaleb Banks.
But where IU has the most significant needs are in the two and three spots, assuming point guard Xavier Johnson gets a medical hardship waiver and returns to Indiana for a sixth season of college basketball. The waiver could only be formally requested after the national championship game. Other waivers have been decided in recent days, so the news on Johnson should be coming soon.
With Johnson and freshman Gabe Cupps at the one, along with Trey Galloway, who has demonstrated he is capable as a point guard, Indiana should be in good shape when it comes to primary ball handlers.
The Hoosiers certainly already have players at the two and three spots — namely Galloway, Anthony Leal, C.J. Gunn, and freshman Jakai Newton.
But collectively that group brought IU just 8.9 points a year ago, with 6.7 of that total coming from Galloway. That same foursome made just 32 threes a year ago, with 30 coming from Galloway. In fact, players who delivered 144 of the 200 3-pointers IU made in 2022-23 are no longer with the team. This was already a team that struggled to make a high volume of threes and score from the wing spots, and most of that capability they did have has moved on.
Indiana has to replace a total of 63.7 points per game it lost from the seven players on the 2022-23 squad who won’t be around when the ball tips in November. That’s a ton of production, and it isn’t clear that they’ve got anyone who can become a high volume scorer, especially when it comes to the wing spots.
So who else is on the radar at this time to fill Indiana’s obvious needs?
Northern Colorado transfer wing Dalton Knecht is someone IU has been trying to get on campus for weeks, so far to no avail. Through the weekend Indiana was still trying to secure a visit from Knecht. He’s visited Oregon and Tennessee to this point, and he told multiple outlets on Sunday he has nothing else scheduled at this time.
The 6-foot-6 Knecht is a big guard who averaged of 20.2 points per game and was also second in the Big Sky with 77 three-pointers made. That would be just what the doctor ordered.
IU also had an in-home visit with Towson transfer guard Nick Timberlake, but that pursuit appears to have died off. There was also recent interest shown in Louisville’s El Ellis, but he’s trending toward Arkansas. Other wing pursuits have fizzled out as well.
There are other high scoring wing portal prospects who have been tied to IU, such as Notre Dame’s Cormac Ryan and Florida State’s Matthew Cleveland, to name a couple. But beyond Ledlum, there are no recruitments IU is involved with that feel like they are about to pop.
Of course the same could have been said about Ware a week before he announced his transfer to Indiana. That’s just the way things work in portal recruiting, where much is back-channeled before it reaches the public.
There continues to be at least a couple more guard prospects who it looked like could enter the portal with heavy IU interest, but to this point that hasn’t happened. The portal is still open for new entries for nearly another four weeks, so anything remains possible in this Wild West postseason.
There are also other opportunities for IU beyond the portal, and at least noise in the system about some possible reclassification prospects from 2024 to 2023 IU could pursue, along with 2023 recruits who have made, or could make last minute changes.
At this moment Indiana doesn’t appear to have an NCAA Tournament caliber team assembled for 2023-24.
But it also doesn’t seem like a time to panic just yet.
When it comes to securing talent out of the portal, the IU staff has done as well as just about anyone to this point. They filled major voids in the frontcourt with good players.
And now the fate of next season seems to ride on whether they can keep things rolling with two or three more quality additions out on the wing.
Indiana’s current voids should be attractive for wings like Knecht, Ryan, Cleveland and others, especially when paired with a veteran point guard like Johnson, and a talented big man like Ware. There’s an opportunity to step right in and score a bunch of points on a big stage.
But for now, we wait.
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