BOZICH | Five Takeaways From Indiana's Basketball Practice
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WDRB) – Tom Crean opened Indiana University basketball practice to about 25 media members (as well as several NBA scouts and high school coaches) Monday in Assembly Hall.
I'll share Five Takeaways from what I saw during more than 2 ½ hours of workouts.
1. Yogi Ferrell won't make half of IU's three-point shots again: There were a string of alarming statistics from Indiana's 17-15 season a year ago. This one belongs at the top of the list:
Ferrell, IU's point guard, made exactly half of the Hoosiers's 176 three-pointers.
No knock on Ferrell, a junior ranked among the top 10 players in the Big Ten. He made 40 percent of his three-point attempts. I'm certain he'll continue to have the green light. He should.
But I'll predict Ferrell will not launch 220 threes again. The number one thing Crean learned while watching his team struggle last season is that he never wants to be short on shooters again.
Indiana will be short on size this season. It won't be short on guys who can make three-point shots.
“We won't be the biggest, but we will be one of the quickest,” said Troy Williams, IU's sophomore forward. “We've got multiple threats. We've got shooters. We've got drivers. We've got people who can shoot or drive.”
Crean said that whenever he has two non-scorers in the lineup, he would always surround them with three guys who can score from the perimeter.
James Blackmon Jr. and Robert Johnson, the program's prized freshmen guards, can do more than make shots. They can separate to create their own shots. So can Ferrell. Crean hasn't had three guys on the same team who could do that during his first seven years at IU.
Nick Zeisloft, the junior transfer from Illinois State, is a catch and shoot guy. He'll have to be set up by somebody who can demand a double team. Ferrell, Blackmon and Johnson can do that.
There's one other guy who looks like an emerging three-point threat. But that takes me to the next item.
2. Troy Williams will be IU's Most Improved Player – There were several serious flaws in Williams' game last season. Too many turnovers (57). Too much emphasis on making the spectacular play.
And no legitimate jump shot. He was 6 of 29 from the three-point line. There's no reason to keep launching if you're a 21 percent guy.
I'm not certain if Williams will eliminate the turnovers or if he has learned that a well-placed five-foot bank shot is worth as many points as difficult dunk in traffic.
But his jump shot looks considerably better, the result of Williams working overtime with IU's assistant coaches and making 10,000 three-point shots from the end of the season through Oct. 3.
“I'm not going to stop my driving and all,” Williams said. “I'm still going to keep driving. Once that gets cut off, I have another way to pose as a threat.”
Some have suggested that Williams is primed to make the kind of improvement that Victor Oladipo made at Indiana. That's unrealistic. Few players will match what Oladipo did, playing himself from a guy ranked 115th in his recruiting class to the second pick in the NBA Draft.
Remember two things: Oladipo's biggest jump was between his sophomore and junior seasons. Williams is only a sophomore. And they're different players. Williams is three inches taller and belongs on the wing, not at point guard, where Oladipo did some of his best work.
Crean will need Williams to rebound and defend. The frontcourt is undersized and lacks experienced depth.
3. Stanford Robinson, another sophomore, has changed hands on his shot – I cannot remember another player who has flipped his shooting hand in the middle of his college career, but Robinson is now shooting with his right hand, instead of his left.
In fact, at the end of Monday's practice, Crean ordered every member of the group that lost the final workout segment to shoot two free throws. If they made both shots, they would not be required to do extra running.
Robinson shot his free throws right handed, a move that was first suggested to him by former teammate Will Sheehey.
What's going on?
“The way I was shooting with my left-hand it was kind of like, ‘Sh***, what else can you do?' “ Robinson said. “You know, it's like … what else can you do the way I was shooting it? You might as well switch. I was just full go with it.”
For the record, Robinson made only 3 of 16 threes last season. So he did not consider himself a three-point specialist.
Robinson does attack the rim. That means he gets fouled. In fact, Robinson was third on the team in free throw attempts, even though he was only sixth in minutes. He made only 60 percent of his attempts. He needs to do better.
4. Emmitt Holt was a solid late pick-up – Crean did not finish his 2014 recruiting class until August, when IU added Holt, a 6-foot-7, 225-pound forward from Webster, N. Y.
Don't expect Holt to deliver big numbers this season. But he should be able to provide 8-to-12 minutes per game as a back-up to Devin Davis and Williams at forward.
His shot and ball-handling need work, but Holt has the shoulders and resolve to try to score through contact. He also has the wingspan to rebound.
In fact, in terms of being contributors this season, I'd rate the IU freshmen this way: 1. Blackmon; 2. Johnson; 3. Holt; 4. Max Hoetzel; 5. Tim Priller and 6. Jeremiah April.
I rank April, a legitimate 7-footer, last because he missed IU's summer trip to Montreal with a foot injury. He still was not participating in practice Monday, even though he was dressed in practice gear and wearing sneakers, not a walking boot.
5. Hanner Mosquera-Perea understands how much he is needed – If Ferrell is IU's Most Valuable Player and Williams is the Most Improved, Mosquera-Perea is the Most Indispensable.
He's the primary post presence Crean has, especially on the defensive end. His hands still need work, but Mosquera-Perea appeared more confident. At 6-9, he is Indiana's only legitimate size near the basket.
No Cody Zeller. No Luke Fischer. No Noah Vonleh. No Peter Jurkin.
Mosquera-Perea, a junior, will get every minute of playing time that he can handle. He averaged one foul per 6.6 minutes he played last season. He'll have to improve his ability to stay on the court.
“If he keeps playing the way he is, if he keeps being consistent how he is, it's crazy the leap he took in a year,” Blackmon said.
“Rebounding, just being more aggressive, all around post play. When he gets it in the lane, he's not scared to go up with it.
“I feel way better just after playing against great players that are in the NBA right now, just going against those guys every day,” Mosquera-Perea said.
“It makes me feel way better knowing that my team believes in me. They feel like I can be there to help them. That makes me feel a lot better.”
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