An early look at the 2011-2012 backcourt

It’s been a quiet couple of weeks since the conclusion of the July evaluation period, but it’s time to ramp back up once again as the official start of basketball practice is less than eight weeks away.

We’ll have comprehensive player-by-player previews as the start of the season grows closer, but here’s an early look at some of the storylines to keep an eye on with next season’s backcourt:

– A battle for minutes: Of the twelve scholarship players on Indiana’s roster, eight will fight for minutes in the backcourt rotation. And for the first time since his arrival in Bloomington, Tom Crean should have enough depth to allocate minutes to those will defend the best on a consistent basis. An inability to stop penetration from the perimeter or close out on shooters were two of the many reasons the Hoosiers finished as the worst defensive team in the Big Ten last season. If Indiana hopes to climb out of the conference cellar in season four of Crean’s tenure, progress will be largely determined by an improved defensive presence in the backcourt.

– Will Jordan Hulls take the leadership reigns? Recent comments by Derek Elston suggest that the junior guard from Bloomington is taking on the role of team leader this offseason and if that spills over into the season, it will be a huge positive moving forward. The Hoosiers have been without a player that the coaching staff can rely on as an on-court extension of themselves the past three seasons. Many believed Jeremiah Rivers might develop into that role upon his arrival from Georgetown, but that never materialized. In Hulls, the Hoosiers might finally have that guy.

– Last call for Verdell Jones: It was a mixed bag of results for the Champaign native in his junior season in Bloomington. On one hand, Jones became the 33rd player in school history to surpass the 1,000-point barrier. On the other hand, his 83 turnovers were a team-high and Jones struggled from both the foul line (67.2 percent) and the 3-point line (29.8 percent). The 6-foot-5 guard has been at his best in an IU uniform when he relies on his solid mid-range game. The scoring and ball handling burdens may lessen on Jones as a senior, but improved efficiency and better decision making will go a long way in defining his final collegiate season.

– Maurice Creek’s health: Injuries have cost the junior guard significant portions of his first two seasons, but will this be the season Creek returns to the form he displayed during that brilliant 12-game stretch as a freshman? No one knows yet. Updates on Creek’s progress have been scarce as he recovers from surgery on a stress fracture suffered in his right patella during last season’s 80-61 home win over Michigan. If Creek can return to play major minutes, his presence could significantly alter the course of Indiana’s success in 2011-2012.

– The other guys: Besides the aforementioned Creek, Hulls and Jones, five guys — Austin Etherington, Matt Roth, Remy Abell, Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey — will all be in the mix to play a role. Both Oladipo and Sheehey have, based on reports from the Indy Pro-Am League, made important strength and conditioning gains. Both should play major roles. Abell, the final addition to IU’s 2011 recruiting class, is an adequate ball-handler that excels at getting to the basket. And Etherington and Roth, depending on who has the hot hand, should get looks when the Hoosiers need a shooter.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jon-Robling/100000258874944 Jon Robling

    Definitely the best depth at guard that we’ve had in the Crean era. 

  • Anonymous

    Given two statements made here, 1.) “eight will fight for minutes in the backcourt rotation,” and 2.) “Both Oladipo and Sheehey have, based on reports from the Indy Pro-Am League, made important strength and conditioning gains,” I’d look for those two to log minutes in the frontcourt, as well.  With only four (five if Jeff Howard has progressed to the point of providing minutes when needed,) frontcourt guys, there will be times when someone else is needed.

  • Anonymous

    I’d say Alex summed it up quite nicely.  If there is one thing I would give a bit more emphasis to its that I think Oladipo and Sheehey make huge leaps this year in regards to the impact they have on the game, which is great for IU.  Couple that with Hull’s leadership, an improved Verdell, support from Creek and a capable pair of freshman coming off of the bench.  If we tighten up the defense we will be poised for to make a run for the tournament. 

    This season will be exciting. 

  • unclekerfuffle

    Marcus:

    I have been wondering the same thing.  Depending on how the PF rotation works out, I could see Will or VO playing the SF quite a bit; especially if CTC decides to try and press and/or run some teams into the ground.

    If Jordy does takes charge of the team on the court, regardless of him being at the PG or SG position, then all sorts of possibilities open up with quick, athletic wings along with CZ and CW as the bigs in a high-low game. Of course, I’m just focused on the offensive side of the ball with that possibility.

  • unclekerfuffle

    Marcus:

    I have been wondering the same thing.  Depending on how the PF rotation works out, I could see Will or VO playing the SF quite a bit; especially if CTC decides to try and press and/or run some teams into the ground.

    If Jordy does takes charge of the team on the court, regardless of him being at the PG or SG position, then all sorts of possibilities open up with quick, athletic wings along with CZ and CW as the bigs in a high-low game. Of course, I’m just focused on the offensive side of the ball with that possibility.

  • unclekerfuffle

    Marcus:

    I have been wondering the same thing.  Depending on how the PF rotation works out, I could see Will or VO playing the SF quite a bit; especially if CTC decides to try and press and/or run some teams into the ground.

    If Jordy does takes charge of the team on the court, regardless of him being at the PG or SG position, then all sorts of possibilities open up with quick, athletic wings along with CZ and CW as the bigs in a high-low game. Of course, I’m just focused on the offensive side of the ball with that possibility.

  • Anonymous

    Victor’s head is in the right place.Driven. Look for him to avg double digits this year off the bench.

  • Anonymous

    Victor’s head is in the right place.Driven. Look for him to avg double digits this year off the bench.

  • HoosierDadE

    Victor’s head is in the right place, hopefully above the rim dunking on people…from the way he looked in the Pro Am, I have a hard time believing you can keep VO out of the starting line up all year.  But what a player coming of the bench if neccessary.

  • HoosierDadE

    Victor’s head is in the right place, hopefully above the rim dunking on people…from the way he looked in the Pro Am, I have a hard time believing you can keep VO out of the starting line up all year.  But what a player coming of the bench if neccessary.

  • HoosierDadE

    Victor’s head is in the right place, hopefully above the rim dunking on people…from the way he looked in the Pro Am, I have a hard time believing you can keep VO out of the starting line up all year.  But what a player coming of the bench if neccessary.

  • HoosierDadE

    Victor’s head is in the right place, hopefully above the rim dunking on people…from the way he looked in the Pro Am, I have a hard time believing you can keep VO out of the starting line up all year.  But what a player coming of the bench if neccessary.

  • HoosierDadE

    Victor’s head is in the right place, hopefully above the rim dunking on people…from the way he looked in the Pro Am, I have a hard time believing you can keep VO out of the starting line up all year.  But what a player coming of the bench if neccessary.

  • Aceman_Mujezinovic_07

    I’m not sure Vic has the natural strength and size to bang down low but Will definitely showed an ability to guard bigger players down the stretch last season and rebound in traffic as well.  There’s potential for a 3 there who can guard bigger 3′s and even small 4′s.

  • http://twitter.com/jhadley1986 James Hadley

    I really want to see creek healthy.  If he is not healthy I think you sit him another year and keep two years of eligability for him. 

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, it will be interesting.  I think it will be hard to keep VO off of the floor if he is as improved as I think he is.  Too why I think people underestimate how difficult it will be for the 2012 class to take spots from VO and Will thier freshman and sophomore years.  Niether have the sort of personality that lends themselves to getting beat by freshman, regardless of who they are (even Gary Harris).  A good dynamic for the program in my opinion.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, it will be interesting.  I think it will be hard to keep VO off of the floor if he is as improved as I think he is.  Too why I think people underestimate how difficult it will be for the 2012 class to take spots from VO and Will thier freshman and sophomore years.  Niether have the sort of personality that lends themselves to getting beat by freshman, regardless of who they are (even Gary Harris).  A good dynamic for the program in my opinion.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, it will be interesting.  I think it will be hard to keep VO off of the floor if he is as improved as I think he is.  Too why I think people underestimate how difficult it will be for the 2012 class to take spots from VO and Will thier freshman and sophomore years.  Niether have the sort of personality that lends themselves to getting beat by freshman, regardless of who they are (even Gary Harris).  A good dynamic for the program in my opinion.

  • Anonymous

    I agree. Do not play Mo Creek this season until everyone: Mo, the coaches, the medical staff, etc. is sure that he is not only 100% healthy and recovered from his two injuries, but “basketball strong” to allow him to play great on the court. It was unfair to watch Mo hobble around at 60-70% last year and then have an injury caused, in part, by compensating for his lack of strength and mobility. Maurice Creek is a tremendous talent. IU can wait 1 more year if that will allow him to be great.

  • Anonymous

    I view the roster a little bit differently. Hulls, Abell, and Jones are the guards (and Mo Creek when he is totally 100% and strong). Roth is just a shooter. Watford, Oladipo and Sheehey are “wings”. They have to carry a big load of the rebounding and pressing defensive duties. But they are not very good at defending a strong post-up offensive player. But aside from that one weakness, they can defend and rebound against bigger opponents because of length (Watford) and speed and jumping athleticism (Oladipo and Sheehey). I hope that Austin Etherington becomes a tenacious defender and rebounder and joins this group of wings. With his great shooting potential, he can be a real contributor if he defends and rebounds. Our Bigs are Zeller, Pritchard and Elston (with Watford by default). One Big with three wings and a guard can win 20+ games this season as easily as 2 Bigs, 1 wing and 2 guards (or 3 guards). We have a good 10 man rotation, with a 3-point shooter and a great player still in injury rehab. I am counting on Zeller to be great-probably unfair to a freshman. I am counting on Jordy to be a great leader- this is his wonderful value. I am counting on Watford to really show his NBA talent coupled with a strong will to win-this is his breakout year. But Victor and Will’s play will lead the Hoosiers to the NCAA if we get there this season.

  • Anonymous

    I view the roster a little bit differently. Hulls, Abell, and Jones are the guards (and Mo Creek when he is totally 100% and strong). Roth is just a shooter. Watford, Oladipo and Sheehey are “wings”. They have to carry a big load of the rebounding and pressing defensive duties. But they are not very good at defending a strong post-up offensive player. But aside from that one weakness, they can defend and rebound against bigger opponents because of length (Watford) and speed and jumping athleticism (Oladipo and Sheehey). I hope that Austin Etherington becomes a tenacious defender and rebounder and joins this group of wings. With his great shooting potential, he can be a real contributor if he defends and rebounds. Our Bigs are Zeller, Pritchard and Elston (with Watford by default). One Big with three wings and a guard can win 20+ games this season as easily as 2 Bigs, 1 wing and 2 guards (or 3 guards). We have a good 10 man rotation, with a 3-point shooter and a great player still in injury rehab. I am counting on Zeller to be great-probably unfair to a freshman. I am counting on Jordy to be a great leader- this is his wonderful value. I am counting on Watford to really show his NBA talent coupled with a strong will to win-this is his breakout year. But Victor and Will’s play will lead the Hoosiers to the NCAA if we get there this season.

  • MillaRed

    If the rumors are true, and DEFENSE is what earns these kids the start at the guard/wing spots, it will be very interesting to see the starting 5.

    Because as much as I love Jordy and Verdell, defense is not their gig. I still think Jordy starts but I am hoping its at the point so there is plenty behind him defensively.

    A defensive mindset put VO at the 2 spot without debate. Furthermore, Remy at the backup point (if he indeed is a stopper as advertised).

    I still think CWat is at the 3, and hope he has focused on D. If not, Will goes in there regularly. Based on what I saw last year, and what I haven’t seen this season, I think this is our best defensive lineup.

    PG – Remy
    SG – VO
    SF – WS
    PF – CZ
    C – TP

    If we are getting our butts kicked defensively, I think the above will be the best team we can field to slow someone down. Just food for thought……….

  • MillaRed

    If the rumors are true, and DEFENSE is what earns these kids the start at the guard/wing spots, it will be very interesting to see the starting 5.

    Because as much as I love Jordy and Verdell, defense is not their gig. I still think Jordy starts but I am hoping its at the point so there is plenty behind him defensively.

    A defensive mindset put VO at the 2 spot without debate. Furthermore, Remy at the backup point (if he indeed is a stopper as advertised).

    I still think CWat is at the 3, and hope he has focused on D. If not, Will goes in there regularly. Based on what I saw last year, and what I haven’t seen this season, I think this is our best defensive lineup.

    PG – Remy
    SG – VO
    SF – WS
    PF – CZ
    C – TP

    If we are getting our butts kicked defensively, I think the above will be the best team we can field to slow someone down. Just food for thought……….

  • MillaRed

    If the rumors are true, and DEFENSE is what earns these kids the start at the guard/wing spots, it will be very interesting to see the starting 5.

    Because as much as I love Jordy and Verdell, defense is not their gig. I still think Jordy starts but I am hoping its at the point so there is plenty behind him defensively.

    A defensive mindset put VO at the 2 spot without debate. Furthermore, Remy at the backup point (if he indeed is a stopper as advertised).

    I still think CWat is at the 3, and hope he has focused on D. If not, Will goes in there regularly. Based on what I saw last year, and what I haven’t seen this season, I think this is our best defensive lineup.

    PG – Remy
    SG – VO
    SF – WS
    PF – CZ
    C – TP

    If we are getting our butts kicked defensively, I think the above will be the best team we can field to slow someone down. Just food for thought……….

  • http://twitter.com/IUgrad07 DaMitchellBoy

    Skills and ability goes a long way. On court Leadership is a must have for a competitive program.  Our best player is Watford he should be the Leader. 

  • Anonymous

    Its a good plan, but does not have the same ability to be effective as it was when Nolan ran it. The ridiculous amount of time-outs in the game (mainly media, but still too many team timeouts) breaks the game into 4 minute segments. With atleast a break every 4 minutes (and regularly more), you can no longer just run a team out of the gym.

    Maybe some teams still could, but a rarity. And not this team.

  • Anonymous

    Its a good plan, but does not have the same ability to be effective as it was when Nolan ran it. The ridiculous amount of time-outs in the game (mainly media, but still too many team timeouts) breaks the game into 4 minute segments. With atleast a break every 4 minutes (and regularly more), you can no longer just run a team out of the gym.

    Maybe some teams still could, but a rarity. And not this team.

  • Anonymous

    Its a good plan, but does not have the same ability to be effective as it was when Nolan ran it. The ridiculous amount of time-outs in the game (mainly media, but still too many team timeouts) breaks the game into 4 minute segments. With atleast a break every 4 minutes (and regularly more), you can no longer just run a team out of the gym.

    Maybe some teams still could, but a rarity. And not this team.

  • Anonymous

    Its a good plan, but does not have the same ability to be effective as it was when Nolan ran it. The ridiculous amount of time-outs in the game (mainly media, but still too many team timeouts) breaks the game into 4 minute segments. With atleast a break every 4 minutes (and regularly more), you can no longer just run a team out of the gym.

    Maybe some teams still could, but a rarity. And not this team.

  • Beard

    Based on your comments Milla  I think it would be nice to see a depth chart that looked something like this:

    PG — Hulls / Abell
    SG — VO / Jones
    SF — Watford/Sheehey
    PF — Zeller / Watford
    C — Pritch/ Elston

    That would be a 9 man rotation for the majority of minutes.  It keeps the best scorer in Watford on the court the most (man if he can play adequate defense this works well).  The problem I see is that CTC seems to love him some Jones so I don’t see VJIII only getting 15 to 20 minutes.  Do you think that the combination of Hulls/VO is so good it forces CTC to limit VJIII’s minutes like that?

  • Anonymous

    Most of last year..Crean had Jones bringing the ball up..never understood that. He is slow and deliberate with the ball where Hulls is quick if not fast. The offense always moves better..the passing is crisiper when Jordy is setting up the plays. Sure you want him in a position to take the three..but Hulls can initiate and still run thru some screens to get open. MSU and WIS have  excellent 3-point  plays using screens..IU doesn’t or at least hasn’t shown their effective use in a game. When I watched Yogi in that Addias LA matchup…it was like a clinic on what you need in a point guard (except more height) Let’s start the season with the offense in Hulls hands and see what happens. With an inside score option now…we might be surprised.

  • Anonymous

    Gustin..what’s HN…and what have you heard about Creek?

  • unclekerfuffle

    Aceman:

    You may be right on that one.  It would be curious to see which one of them is actually stronger after this summer and the training over the next couple of months.  Either way, both of them are going to get some serious PT.

  • Anonymous

    It’s nice when that happens, but it doesn’t always work out that way.  Coverdale, for example, was much more a team leader than Jeffries.

  • MillaRed

    Beard your lineup is pretty much what I threw in there in another thread. We’re on the same page.

    There is major Crean love for VJ. Unfortunately to a fault. But if we put ourselves in CTC’s shoes, where would the program have been without VJ? Even it was a lot of bad. Who the H else was going to score?

    At the end of the day, the player’s performance should dictate playing time. I’m just not sure if that is the case yet at Indiana.

  • MillaRed

    Maybe the best shooting 2 guard on the team.

    But not the best defensively, penetrating and rebounding.

    I really hope Remy can take over that 2nd PG position.

  • cooper

    Still don’t have a player who can play all facets. Hulls, Roth and Jones are horrible on D, Oladipo and Sheehy struggle on offense and with the handle and freshmen are freshmen.

    Hopefully, Hulls and Jones worked on their strength quickness and D.

  • Aceman_Mujezinovic_07

    He got up really easy in a video I watched of him at the Indy Pro-Am recently.  He actually had to bend his arms to dunk the ball, but the key was Vic hit him on the run in stride.  He doesn’t have the athleticism to get up quick and dunk like a Hanner Perea.  He’s an in stride dunker.

  • Anrhill

    Please god let the defense improve.  These guys should provide ample scoring all season long, but can they move laterally?  Can they close in on a shooter coming off help defense inside?  I hope the reports on Oladipo and Sheehey’s offenses are confirmed, because one or both of them has to be out on the floor just about all the other, otherwise we have four high school level defenders guarding the arc. 

    We finally have inside/outside options on offense.  We finally have some depth.  We finally have experience.  We still lack in the overall athleticism.  The big question mark is will team defense improve.  If so, this team won’t be at the top of the Big 10, but should be poised for a solid bounce in record.  Can’t wait.

  • Anonymous

    Jordan Hulls being a leader on the court this year will be key to this team’s success.  Through the last few years, I only remember a few times when someone seemed to step up, but no one has been a consistent leader, hopefully Hulls can be that guy.  

    If Remy Abell can handle the point guard position against B10 competition, that should allow Hulls to get more shots off the ball.  Also, Abell sounds as if he is a pretty solid defender.

    I know there are a lot of people who do not want Jones to touch the ball, but he has one of the best pull up jumpers around.  There have been many times the offense has broken down and he has pulled us out with two points because of his ability to pull up.  I do not think he should be the primary ball handler, but he needs to have the ball in his hands a considerable amount.

    I am really looking forward to the improvements that Oladipo and Sheehey have made in the off season.  And hopefully we will have a healthy Creek.  I look for considerable improvement this year because of the depth and experience that a “Crean Era” team has not had.

  • Anonymous

    Jordan Hulls being a leader on the court this year will be key to this team’s success.  Through the last few years, I only remember a few times when someone seemed to step up, but no one has been a consistent leader, hopefully Hulls can be that guy.  

    If Remy Abell can handle the point guard position against B10 competition, that should allow Hulls to get more shots off the ball.  Also, Abell sounds as if he is a pretty solid defender.

    I know there are a lot of people who do not want Jones to touch the ball, but he has one of the best pull up jumpers around.  There have been many times the offense has broken down and he has pulled us out with two points because of his ability to pull up.  I do not think he should be the primary ball handler, but he needs to have the ball in his hands a considerable amount.

    I am really looking forward to the improvements that Oladipo and Sheehey have made in the off season.  And hopefully we will have a healthy Creek.  I look for considerable improvement this year because of the depth and experience that a “Crean Era” team has not had.

  • http://weeklycritiquely.blogspot.com/ IUfanPurduePhD

    Watford seems to lack the on-court tenacity needed to be a leader like previous ones, such as DJ White.

  • http://weeklycritiquely.blogspot.com/ IUfanPurduePhD

    Watford seems to lack the on-court tenacity needed to be a leader like previous ones, such as DJ White.

  • http://weeklycritiquely.blogspot.com/ IUfanPurduePhD

    Watford seems to lack the on-court tenacity needed to be a leader like previous ones, such as DJ White.

  • Anonymous

    Hulls is likely going to start the season at point. There just isn’t a better option, I am sure the coaching staff has worked at adapting the offense to get him more looks, but this is the only way to get our best 5 players on the floor. I just was looking at Jordan Taylor’s stats he avg 1 ppg as a freshman, 10 as a sophmore, and 18 ppg as a junior. Hulls was at 5ppg as a freshman, 11 as a sophmore, where could he end up as a Junior if given the opportunity in the offense?

  • Anonymous

    I’m not sure how Vic would do guarding a big, but he was a better rebounder than Sheehey down low and especially on the offensive glass.

  • Anonymous

    Crean’s supposed irrational love for VJIII is grossly overstated. Hulls was first in mpg last year. Watford was second. VJIII was third, and it wasn’t that close. Who should’ve played ahead of VJIII last year that didn’t? Crean is going to play his best players the most. VJIII will probably be bumped down to at least fourth in mpg this year. If VO or Sheehey have surpassed his ability to contribute he could slide further.

    Last year we didn’t have the depth to sit VJIII a lot, but we had enough talent to cut his minutes, and CTC did. Depending on how he has improved vs. our other guards he could see a bigger cut this year. Or he could earn his way into being 4th in mpg.

  • Aceman_Mujezinovic_07

    I just think Will looks like a better in-traffic-rebounder. 

  • Aceman_Mujezinovic_07

    I just think Will looks like a better in-traffic-rebounder. 

  • shime

    Totally agree Remy is a ball player that will do some really nice things this year. people he is  for real seen him play . Lightning quick and goes non-stop, exploseive jumper etc…

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