Troy Williams enjoying attention following IU commitment
Since his verbal commitment to Indiana last Sunday afternoon, Troy Williams says he has been feeling the love from Indiana fans on Twitter.
“It’s like non-stop hype,” Williams told Inside the Hall via text on Sunday. “I love it though. It means they’re really a basketball state and I like that.”
It’s the “hype” surrounding the IU basketball program that convinced Williams to commit to play for the Hoosiers next season. Williams said that before he visited for Hoosier Hysteria on Oct. 19, IU was only a member of his top three (with North Carolina and Louisville).
“But that had a lot of impact on me after that,” Williams said.
Ultimately, though, Williams said it was his relationship with Tom Crean that pushed IU above the other suitors. Even though the Hoosiers didn’t start recruiting Williams until July, Crean managed to make a strong impact in a short time.
“I got along with him better than I did with [North Carolina] coach Roy [Williams],” he said. “Plus, he didn’t just tell me what I was good at but also what I can improve on and more.”
Williams has had a strong start to his senior season for Oak Hill Academy, scoring 21, 28 and 18 points in his first three games. But the 6-foot-7 forward knows there are areas in which he must improve before he gets to the collegiate level.
“Shooting and defense,” Williams said. “That’s the two I wanna improve on.”
Williams also said he has a strong relationship with 2013 target Noah Vonleh, the 8th-ranked player in the class, according to ESPN.com.
There’s no shortage of offensive firepower with the Hoosiers, and the great thing about Tom Crean is that he’s never afraid to use it. Indiana was well inside the top half of the country in tempo last season, and with an extra year of chemistry it’s a good bet they’ll play even faster this time around. It’s no surprise, then, that Ken Pomeroy projects them first in offensive efficiency; they’re going to score and score and score. There are no cracks in the Hoosier facade, and they’re on the right side of the philosophical divide between fast and slow.
Notebook: Creek shines in return from injury
Maurice Creek got off the bench and walked toward the Assembly Hall scorer’s table with just over 11 minutes left in the first half of Thursday night’s exhibition game against Indiana Wesleyan. Creek checked in with the official scorer, then waited patiently for the moment he’s been thinking about for more than 20 months — the moment he’d walk back onto Branch McCracken Court in a game.
A dead ball came at the 10:57 mark, and Creek entered to a standing ovation. He couldn’t help but smile.
“A standing ovation?,” Creek said afterward. “That’s big time, that’s love. I can’t do nothing but thank them, thank everybody.”
Creek played in a game for the first time since Jan. 15, 2011 on Thursday after missing all of last season with a torn Achilles. The redshirt junior guard wasted little time making up for lost time.
Creek scored a team-high 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting — including 2-of-4 from 3-point range — in just 15 minutes on the court.
“I felt great,” Creek said. “Being with these guys is what I always wanted. … I thank these guys every day to give me the strength to go through the rehab, go through the rough times and rebuild to get to this point.”
Added Indiana coach Tom Crean: “I was really excited for Maurice. It was emotional watching the crowd react to him. It wasn’t surprising because it’s Indiana, but you can’t take it for granted. … It’s been a long road, but he’s earned it. He’ll be better for it, and I think you’ve seen he can really help this team.”
Crean understands he’ll have with be careful not to push Creek too hard too fast after his three surgeries, but he also wants Creek to be part of the regular rotation. Crean knows finding that balance will be one of his major challenges with Creek this season.
“When he shows that burst, that shows that the legs are getting a little stronger,” Crean said. “He’s still a ways away, and I’m getting more conscious of that. It’s going to be a long year and we want him to be strong for the whole thing.”
Hoosiers overcome slow start
It wasn’t exactly the start you may have expected to see from the No. 1 Hoosiers, but they quickly found their groove.
IU fell behind 13-4 early against Indiana Wesleyan due, in part, to poor defensive execution. The Hoosiers lost some shooters on the perimeter, and paid the price.
“It’s just not being up into your guy,” Crean said. “It’s not like they were out of position. We weren’t bringing enough pressure to the game. We’ll get better at that. We don’t practice like that. We were just off a step a little bit, and then we fixed that.”
The Hoosiers fixed it, indeed, outscoring the Wildcats 37-17 the rest of the half. After a sluggish start, IU showed more defensive intensity as the game went on and regularly turned their defense into offense.
“Going down 13-4 never really helps you,” said IU junior forward Will Sheehey, “but we saw that and knew we had to pick it up on D. I don’t think that’s going to happen very often from here.”
Eligibility status of Mosquera-Perea, Jurkin still uncertain
Indiana freshmen Hanner Mosquera-Perea and Peter Jurkin have yet to be cleared to play by the NCAA and Tom Crean was asked to provide an update on their status following Thursday’s 86-57 exhibition win over Indiana Wesleyan.
The process of determining the eligibility for both players is still ongoing based on Crean’s comments.
“What I can say about that is that we go through a lot in a program,” he said. “There’s situations that are always going to arise and every one of them has got a process to it. And we’re in the middle of that process. We just are. That’s the extent of it. They’re two great kids that are trying to get better every day and it’s not like it’s anything that we’re dealing with that just came up. It’s been a process for some time. And that’s really where we’re at with it.”
Mosquera-Perea, who was in uniform, sat out against Indiana Wesleyan with a left foot injury that has hampered him for much of the summer and fall.
Jurkin, a native of the Sudan, played 11 minutes, scored four points and grabbed one rebound. Crean said he was encouraged by how Jurkin played, but acknowledged that he’s very much a work in progress.
“He’s gotta learn how to play,” Crean said. “There’s not one guy on the team that doesn’t want to see him succeed. And what I need is, I need them to start being harder on him because he’s pretty good. Again, he needs to play. He needs that time. He needs to learn how to use his length and he’s not strong enough yet. There’s no way around that, but he needs the chance to play so that he can grow into it because he’s an extremely willing learner.”
I. It was enough that Maurice Creek, for all his body’s endured (broken knee caps and a torn Achilles), even stepped out onto the Assembly Hall court this evening. But after the warm reception from the IU faithful which included a quick chant of his name upon checking in, Creek scored to tie the game. He hit a three to give Indiana its first lead. He nailed a runner. Seven points in eight minutes of first half action. It didn’t stop there. Creek knocked down another 3-pointer in the second half and connected on two free throws. He even registered a block. Creek led all Indiana scorers — this vaunted, much buzzed about offense — with 12 points.
Raise your hand if you called this one before the game.
It’s too early to say if this ends up as an anomaly or a sign of things to come. But damn if it wasn’t heartwarming to see.
II. This much was known before Yogi Ferrell’s debut: The young man is a blur with the ball, has excellent vision and passing instincts, can get to the rim or hit a J — either mid-range or beyond the 3-point arc. And he’s strong to boot. Still, seeing him in the cream and crimson tonight was almost jarring. In the Crean era, there’s simply never been a player anywhere near like him at the point of attack. Yes, there were some freshman errors. He finished the night with four turnovers, as there were a few passes — pretty as they looked — he might have been wise to hold back on.
Still, Ferrell was energetic on both sides of the ball this evening and had some really nice moves in the mid-range for buckets. And with so many players with the ability to pump in points, it’ll serve Indiana well to have a legitimate orchestrator to its offense.
III. Speaking of offense, Indiana had an interesting night with the ball in its hands. They were poor beyond the arc (5-of-19, 26.3%) and from the line (17-of-29, 58.6%). But the Hoosiers also got a healthy dose of looks in and around the basket, which helped offset their deficiencies in the aforementioned departments. Some of these came on the break (16 fast break points). Some came because they rebounded on the offensive end well (48.6 OR%, 19 second chance points). As such, they finished the night with a 57.5 eFG% and scored 1.29 points per possession.
That’s a recipe for offensive success most nights.
Some weirdness, though: Jordan Hulls didn’t score. He only attempted one shot in 22 minutes — a 3-point attempt which missed.
With No. 1 Indiana’s one and only exhibition game set for Thursday night at Assembly Hall, here are some things to watch for in the Hoosiers’ first game action of the year.
1. Starting lineup
It has been one of the most discussed and debated topics during the offseason, and we’ll finally get some answers on Thursday night. Who is going to start?
I continue to maintain that Tom Crean is going to go with Yogi Ferrell and Jordan Hulls in the backcourt with Victor Oladipo, Christian Watford and Cody Zeller up front. Now, just because Crean starts with a lineup against Indiana Wesleyan doesn’t mean he’s going to run the same lineup out there on Nov. 9 against Bryant. You just never know. But IU fans should get a good idea what sort of rotations the Hoosiers plan to play with on Thursday night.
If Crean does decide to go with Ferrell and Hulls together in the backcourt, watch to see how they work together, specifically on the defensive end. Offensively, that duo could be a treat to watch.
“When we’re on the court at the same time, I’m always looking for him,” Ferrell said of Hulls. “If someone leaves him, that’s a bad thing for them. I’m gonna find him for sure, and I know he can definitely knock down a jumper for me.”
2. The freshmen in action
Sure, they’ve played in front of crowds for Hoosier Hysteria and Haunted Hall of Hoops, but playing a game against another opponent is an entirely different story. Ferrell, Jeremy Hollowell, Hanner Mosquera-Perea and Peter Jurkin will get to suit up in the candy stripes for the first time, and there certainly could be some nerves.
Keep a close eye on Ferrell, who figures to play the most minutes of the four freshmen. In the few times we’ve gotten to see him in the preseason, Ferrell has looked very comfortable playing alongside his new Hoosier teammates. Will he look the same way against a different opponent? Oladipo thinks so.
“He’s ready,” Oladipo said. “I watch him every day, and I’ve been watching him grow since the first day he got here. He’s gotten stronger and he’s gotten smarter. I’m pretty sure he’ll perform at a high level. I believe in him and we believe in him.”
It’s unclear if the NCAA has ruled on the eligibility of Jurkin and Mosquera-Perea, but both are expected to play on Thursday night, according to a program spokesperson.