How much pressure rests on Jordan Hulls this season is a matter of opinion, depending upon whom you believe.
Conventional wisdom said that his late-year form combined with a crucial offseason to get bigger and stronger meant, at the very least, Hulls would split time with Jeremiah Rivers at point guard again, with the former receiving a larger share of the minutes.
But in August, Tom Crean was asked, essentially, who he thought would be running the point for Indiana. Hulls’ name was mentioned, Rivers’ was not, skewing the situation in a direction most of us probably did not expect.
Now would probably be a good time to point out that Tom Crean’s offense doesn’t always require a point guard so much as a conduit, an initiator who can handle the ball and also score, and push the team into a particular offensive set.
So it’s not altogether surprising that Crean’s answer to the aforementioned question was Hulls, Maurice Creek and Verdell Jones. And it also doesn’t mean we’re never ever going to see Jeremiah Rivers, who still possesses a physicality both on offense and defense that none of those three provide.
But where does that leave Hulls? Well, the answer depends on a number of factors:
1. How much stronger is Hulls? Can he effectively force his way through traffic without turning the ball over when driving into the teeth of a defense?
2. How valuable is Hulls as a scorer? Beyond Matt Roth and perhaps Creek, Hulls is Indiana’s best 3-point shooter. It seems safe to presume that there will be moments when Hulls’ shooting ability is more valuable than his skill as a point guard.
3. Who else steps up? If Creek isn’t 100 percent, either at the point or the off-guard spot, Hulls stands to see more playing time. If Rivers does solve some of his turnover problems and reasserts control of his position, Hulls’ playing time probably suffers to an extent.
4. Last, but most definitely not least, how effective is Hulls at point? Tom Crean convinced Bloomington South’s favored son to stay in town for college in part by selling him on an up-tempo offense, one many probably expect Hulls to be captaining in a full-time role this year. Hulls was fifth on the team in minutes last year, but of those top five, he had the lowest turnovers-per-game average (1.2), bettering Creek (1.5), Rivers and Jones (both 2.8). But at the same time, all three of those players possess some edge on Hulls in either size, or scoring ability, or both.
Ryan kicked us off yesterday with Guy-Marc Michel, and he offered a best-case, worst-case scenario that I’ll extend to Hulls here.
Best-case: Hulls picks up where he left off last year, shooting well and playing with as much confidence as he ever has. His success demands major minutes and installs him as the starting point guard, presumably for the next three years.
Worst-case: He struggles again with the size and strength put in front of him, particularly in Big Ten play. He starts rushing shots again and turns the ball over too much to be the lone option in what becomes a point guard-by-committee set-up.
Quotable: “I’m a lot smarter. I have a better feel for what to look for. From a physical standpoint, I’m a lot stronger than I was last year. With me and my teammates, we’re definitely a lot more mature. We’ve got a lot under our feet since a lot of us got to play as freshmen last year.” — Jordan Hulls
Previous Player Profiles: Guy-Marc Michel
Filed to: Jordan Hulls