All eyes on Bryant as Hoosiers head into new season

  • 07/29/2015 3:51 pm in

Thomas Bryant has only been on campus since June 13, but he’s already making his mark on the IU basketball program.

The 6-foot-10 freshman forward is the fifth McDonald’s All-American Tom Crean has signed for the Hoosiers. His addition is being viewed by many as the missing piece that could elevate Indiana into the top 15 this season.

But to live up to those expectations, Indiana’s defense must improve significantly. The Hoosiers had the Big Ten’s worst 2-point field goal percentage defense last season in conference play. Crean believes Bryant can help change that.

“The one area statistically that I think will change is our field goal percentage defense because now we’re going to be a little bit better at the rim, which is going to enable us to get out and pressure the ball a little bit more,” Crean said Tuesday on a conference call for the Maui Jim Maui Invitational. “We didn’t block shots very well last year. I think we blocked a shot about one out of every 23, 24 possessions. A team like Kentucky blocked a shot one out of every 11 or 12. You’ve got to have rim protection, so right away he brings that.”

But what many fans may not know is the versatility Bryant possesses as a player who can also make plays on the perimeter. Throughout his high school career, the Rochester (N.Y.) native showed an ability to step out and make shots and also make plays with the ball in his hands away from the basket.

His coach for his first two high school seasons, Jon Boon, told Inside the Hall earlier this year that playing outside of the paint was one of Bryant’s primary strengths during his time at Bishop Kearney.

On Tuesday, Crean said Indiana hopes to use that versatility to its advantage as much as possible.

“He’s an emerging shooter and a guy that’s going to be able to not only shoot catch-and-shoot 3s, but a guy that’s going to be able to shoot it off the move,” he said. “We’re going to be able to do a lot of things in the ball screen with him, and eventually –I don’t know if it will be by November – but it will eventually lead with him handling the ball in the ball screen.”

The signing of Bryant, coupled with the decisions of Yogi Ferrell, James Blackmon Jr. and Troy Williams to return to school, have shifted Indiana from a program that was picked by many to finish 10th in the Big Ten in 2014-2015 to one of the conference favorites entering the fall.

ESPN.com ranks the Hoosiers No. 14 in its early top 25 for next season and CBSSports.com has IU at No. 13.

In an interview with Inside the Hall for the most recent edition of Podcast on the Brink, IU athletic director Fred Glass said he embraces those lofty expectations and mentioned Bryant as a major reason why.

“I’m certainly optimistic and I think Thomas is a big reason why,” Glass said. “I think we need to be a little careful not to put too much pressure on the poor guy … walking in and he’s billed as a savior in some quarters. I think he’ll be a real big plus. But I think we need to have some patience and let him grow.

“He’s a great kid. Even before he was on campus, just a real pied piper for Indiana basketball and kind of has a magnetic personality. I think he’s somebody our fans will love. I know he’s somebody that his teammates love.”

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  • Drew

    3 McDonalds All-Americans, 2 more top 50 recruits, and excellent contributors in Collin Hartman, Emmitt Holt, and Nick Zeisloft. Crean has assembled a talented roster, let’s see if it will pay dividends. I can’t wait for the season to start!

  • IMSKRONG

    Well see what he’s got this year. And he could be going up against some good bigs early in Maui with Vandy having Jones, KU having a few that includes Diallo, UNLV with Zimmerman and Goodluck and UCLA has Parker.

  • Tyler T

    Big fan of TB already. So excited to see his contributions on the floor this season. Go Hoosiers!

  • IU Hoosiers # 34, 1979-83

    Right on!!! Can’t wait!! IU should be ranked higher than 13 or 15th according to the polls I have read.

  • marcusgresham

    When I think of Bryant being a capable shooter I think of how much that would have helped in the Purdue game. If you can force Hammons to follow his man out on the floor it will help everyone. I know they can leave Swanigan back down low but he’s nowhere near the shot-blocker Hammons is (and if you can get Swanigan on Williams then Troy should be able to run him ragged.)

  • marcusgresham

    Not just Parker, UCLA is going to have a lot of size. They have 5 guys on the roster taller than Parker. Thomas Welsh, the 7-footer, is back, and they have 4 guys who are 6’10”.

  • IMSKRONG

    But Parker can be very very good and is a big boy.

  • SCHoosier

    Hammons won’t move out of the post…Painter will change defenses if he has too and let Bryant have the three ball..make him make it before PU worries about it. I’m more concerned about foul trouble for TB when we play PU.

  • marcusgresham

    Oh yeah. None of them are “bigger” than Parker, just taller.

  • edwardkchase

    That and the easy dunks Purdue can have on use with their 3 BIG men. We saw what happened with the mismatch last year…we came out on the losing side.

  • IMSKRONG

    None of them are 6-9 260.

  • Dooteetime

    I hope IU really has a great season (Capt Obvious). I do think this is a big year for Coach Crean with all of the expectations of this year and the disappointments of the previous years. If IU just has an average year or worse then I could see Crean getting fired. I think IU (barring injuries) will need to make the tourney and win a game or 2 for Crean to keep his job. What do you guys think? GO IU!

  • At the Quarries

    I don’t think it helps to give ultimatums. All it will do is push people to implement short term fixes in desperation.

  • Icecreamncrimson

    “But what many fans may not know is the versatility Bryant possesses as a player who can also make plays on the perimeter”

    Somebody better tell Crean. He seems to have missed that memo when Zeller came in.

  • TomJameson

    That’s exactly right. I think Glass has things in hand, and he is not a short-term thinker. I can’t see him making a knee-jerk reaction to a bad season. Now I can see him looking at the big picture, making plans and adjustments, and proceeding in a non-hurried way that is best for IU … and not being swayed by a bloodthirsty mob of angry BB fans (okay, bloodthirsty mob was maybe over the top, but it sounded cool … right? LOL)

  • At the Quarries

    With pitchforks, LOL!

  • Bill Graham

    That awkward knee and hip movement still scare me. Not being a pessimist this kid is a baller… but he still does not strike me as being as naturally athletic as a Z or NV.

  • IU-Buckets!!

    Thomas Bryant is the last piece of the puzzle. I doubt he’ll be a one and done. Which is a good thing. I’ve watched some mixes and highlights of him on Huntington Prep and he is an energetic player with athleticism. Great Fundamentals and feel for the game. In my opinion, the starting five would be Ferrell, JBJ, Williams, Bielfeldt, asnd Bryant. Which could be a great spread for the team. Can wait to see IU get into some play! This year might be a great year for the guys, expect a lot!