“Freshman Focus” is an Inside the Hall series on each of Indiana’s four incoming freshmen. Over the next couple of weeks, we will take an in-depth look at all four newcomers. Today: De’Ron Davis. (Previously: Grant Gelon, Devonte Green)
Overland High School coach Danny Fisher first met De’Ron Davis as a fifth grader.
The journey the two have been through together is one that Fisher will not forget. It’s a relationship that extends beyond basketball.
Fisher met Davis not long after the IU signee’s father passed away. He was his coach when he was ranked one of the top players in the country early in his high school career and the scholarship offers began pouring in. He was there when Davis struggled with his weight and as a result, tumbled in the rankings and saw his recruitment cool off. And together Fisher and Davis, Colorado’s Mr. Basketball in his final prep season, put Overland in the record books by leading the school to consecutive Class 5A state championships.
“Shortly after his father died, I met him,” Fisher told Inside the Hall. “So his transformation from that point to now has been something that has really been cool to be a part of. Just how he’s matured, how difficult that (his father’s death) was, how much it changed it his life. And then just seeing him make sense out of everything, getting himself realigned and really making a full commitment to basketball. It’s been an awesome journey.”
The journey, at least as player and coach, will conclude at some point in the next month. Davis is expected to complete his remaining academic requirements and move to Bloomington to join his teammates at Indiana.
The relationship between Davis and the Indiana coaching staff grew roots because of loyalty. When the Hoosiers offered Davis a scholarship early in his prep career, Fisher acknowledges that he believed it was a fluff offer to just get on the radar with his star player.
But as adversity hit Davis and other schools soured or moved on to other prospects, Indiana didn’t alter its approach.
As Fisher recalls it, Davis hit a lull in his prep career. He gained weight as a result of a poor diet and a busy travel schedule. His explosion suffered. And as a player many viewed as one of the nation’s best, he was scrutinized and his profile nationally suffered.
“In all honesty, it was true,” Fisher said. “And it hurt him. But I think ultimately, it kind of drove him and helped him step back from all of the ranking systems and how much stock he was putting into all of that. It helped him focus more on who De’Ron is and what he needed to do to be the best version of De’Ron.”
Indiana never lost the vision it had for Davis when Tom Crean offered him a scholarship before his freshman year of high school. Other schools came and went in his recruitment.
Indiana was the constant.
“That meant everything. I think that was the deciding factor,” Fisher said. “That was the piece that really helped him develop a deeper relationship with coach Crean and his staff through those tough times. When a kid is on top of the world, everybody loves them. But a kid doesn’t have a chance to build a real relationship with someone when they’re on top of the world.
“He was able to build a relationship with them through adversity. When you have an opportunity to do that, it’s real.”
Fisher has also been with Davis through his latest journey – his unexpected summer in Colorado.
While Devonte Green, Grant Gelon and Curtis Jones prepare for their first collegiate season in Bloomington, Davis is finishing up academic requirements back home.
He’s with Fisher five or six days per week for eight or nine workouts. Indiana assistant coach Chuck Martin was in to see Davis at his home earlier in the week just to check in.
“He’s finishing up some academic requirements and making sure he’s 100 percent cleared by the NCAA,” Fisher said. “He had to do some summer stuff for that. He’s on the path that we all need him to be on.”
There will be ground for Davis to make up once he arrives in Bloomington in terms of basketball. As his teammates have worked out all summer with Lyonel Anderson and the coaching staff, Davis has done his best to stay on track with Fisher’s help.
But Fisher can’t simulate what Davis will encounter in those workouts or the benefit he’ll receive from playing against Thomas Bryant, OG Anunoby and Juwan Morgan every day.
“I can’t wait to see what that does for him every single day,” Fisher said. “I think at the end of his freshman year, midway through his freshman year, we’re going to see a completely different player. He’s truly going to see what he’s capable of. It’s going to make everybody go back and look at those rankings and say ‘how did we miss on this kid?’ Because De’Ron is a kid who gets better through adversity and when he’s challenged.”
For Fisher, Davis moving on is bittersweet.
It’ll be a new era for Overland basketball. Fisher says he’s excited for that challenge while also acknowledging that he may never coach another player as talented as Davis. Overland’s defense, a trademark over the last two seasons, won’t be nearly as formidable without the presence of Davis.
But when Fisher speaks about what he’ll miss most about his star player, the basketball aspect isn’t the first thing that comes to mind.
“I’m going to miss his leadership, I’m going to miss his smile,” Fisher said. “His ability to control the temperature of the entire gym, the mood and the energy of the entire gym.
“As he got older, we became a lot closer. As he became more of a man, we were able to have men conversations. I’m going to miss him as a friend. That’s something we developed over the last year or so. We went from coach and player and were able to turn that off and simply talk about things and life that were bothering us, things that we were going through. Every aspect of who De’Ron Davis is, I’m going to miss it heavily.”
Video: Justin Smith Nike EYBL highlights
Class of 2017 Stevenson (Ill.) and Mac Irvin Fire wing Justin Smith has visited Bloomington multiple times and is one of the program’s top wing recruiting targets. Smith averaged 8.8 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game this year on the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL) circuit.
With the help of Krossover, we recently broke down some film of Smith to provide Indiana fans with a feel for his game and style of play.
The Big Ten will have several teams that are retooling next season. The conference lost four of its top five players to graduation in Denzel Valentine, Yogi Ferrell, Jarrod Uthoff and A.J. Hammons. However, reinforcements are on the way for several programs.
In no particular order, here’s a look at five newcomers we expect to make an impact next season in the Big Ten:
· Miles Bridges, Michigan State: The jewel of Tom Izzo’s 2016 recruiting class, Bridges was a must-have recruit for Michigan State. A native of Flint, Bridges spent his final three high school seasons at Huntington Prep in West Virginia. He had his pick of any school in the country, including Kentucky, which recruited him diligently. But ultimately, Izzo and the Michigan State staff won out in the battle for Bridges.
So what does Bridges bring to East Lansing? Given what the Spartans lost – Valentine, Bryn Forbes, Deyonta Davis and Matt Costello – he might be the best player on Michigan State’s roster right away. The 6-foot-6 forward plays with an incredible motor and finishes above the rim with ease. He’s also a very active rebounder, which should translate well in Michigan State’s system. The No. 10 recruit nationally in the final RSCI rankings for 2016, Bridges enters the season as a frontrunner for Big Ten freshman of the year.
· Josh Langford, Michigan State: Not far behind Bridges in the recruiting rankings is Langford, the No. 20 recruit in the final RSCI rankings for 2016. He joined Bridges on the 2016 McDonald’s All-American team. The duo are the 13th and 14th players who have earned that honor to play for Izzo at Michigan State.
A 6-foot-5 combo guard, Langford is a very good ball handler. He’s also an elite shooter. Without Valentine and Forbes around to fill it up for the perimeter, Langford will be a go-to option for Michigan State immediately. Perhaps the most impressive trait in Langford’s offensive game is that he can score not only from distance and at the rim, but he can also operate in the midrange.
· Amir Coffey, Minnesota: Let’s be clear: Minnesota will have little impact on the Big Ten race next season. But that’s part of what earns Coffey a spot on this list. His opportunity to make an impact will be significant. The Golden Gophers return a solid contingency of guards and wing players, but none of them have the potential of Coffey, the No. 40 player in the final RSCI rankings for 2016.
At 6-foot-7, the versatile wing led his high school team, Hopkins, to a class 4A title as a senior on his way to being named Mr. Basketball in Minnesota. He was also named a Jordan Brand All-Star. In a critical season for Richard Pitino, he’ll need to sell the future to keep his job (and the few supporters he has left in the fanbase). As a result, Coffey should be featured prominently.
· Kevin Huerter, Maryland: Huerter is another top 55 recruit coming into the Big Ten and his presence on the list is due to the combination of his talent and opportunity in College Park. The 6-foot-6 shooter from New York is a member of the USA U18 men’s team currently participating in the FIBA Americas U18 championships in Chile. Mark Turgeon is an assistant for the team, but Huerter’s inclusion on the roster wasn’t a favor to Turgeon. Huerter’s play in the training camp for the U18 team already has NBA scouts keeping close tabs on him.
Maryland is going to look much different next season without Diamond Stone, Jake Layman, Robert Carter and Rasheed Sulaimon. But the return of Melo Trimble should allow Huerter to flourish as a shooter. Teams won’t be able to help off of Trimble and Huerter will benefit as a result. And there will be plenty of shots available with the graduation of Sulaimon and Layman.
· Josh Newkirk, Indiana: The lone transfer on our list, Newkirk has been drawing favorable reviews this offeason from the IU coaching staff and teammates. He returned from microfracture surgery earlier this year and is expected to compete for a starting job in Bloomington. After a disappointing sophomore season at Pittsburgh, Newkirk opted to transfer to Indiana and the system he’ll operate in under Tom Crean should be a much better fit for his style of play.
A speedy point guard, Newkirk is capable of thriving in the open court and shouldn’t have a problem finding shooters on the perimeter. His perimeter shooting is a question mark, but his defense and experience will earn him minutes on a team that should be right in the thick of the Big Ten race.
Around the Hall: Big Ten coaching stability, Bryant’s return, more
Around the Hall is recommended reading from the Inside the Hall staff.
Over at ESPN Insider ($), Jeff Goodman takes a look at coaching stability for Big Ten coaches. The piece ranks John Groce and Richard Pitino as the two coaches in league on the hottest seats:
It doesn’t look great for Pitino at Minnesota these days. He has a new athletic director in Mark Coyle, is coming off an 8-23 season and has dealt with several off-court issues with his players (some now ex-players). The AD who hired him, Norwood Teague, is gone — as is his right-hand man and former associate AD, Mike Ellis. Pitino, 33, is under contract through 2021, but he can’t go 2-16 in Big Ten play again and expect to keep his job.
At one point after a thunderous putback, I told a colleague that Williams’ nickname was “Helicopter.” This does not appear to be the case, but maybe we should make it so. Williams spent much of his time in Vegas above the rim, at least when he wasn’t hoping to prove to possible NBA suitors that he’s also capable beyond the arc. (Williams shot 26.3 percent on 3-point attempts, but 74.1 percent on 2s, mostly dunks.)
Per the NCAA, the top overall seed in the NCAA tournament will get to choose where they play the first weekend of the tournament. Teams considered to be in the running for the top overall seed will submit their preferences to the selection committee well in advance of Selection Sunday, so there won’t be any knowledge of possible opponents at that time.
While this is a change to how the NCAA has done things in past brackets, going primarily by mileage when looking to place top seeds as close to their campus as possible, this isn’t exactly a seismic shift since the top overall seed won’t be known until Sunday. But it does give those top teams an option, with designs on it being an additional perk that those programs will have earned.
11. Indiana Hoosiers: James Blackmon Jr.
One of the most impressive aspects of Indiana’s success last season was that it came with Blackmon, Jr. spending most of the season on the bench because of injury. Blackmon, who has averaged 15.8 points and shot 42.5 percent from 3 in his 46-game career, is a smooth offensive talent, a knockdown shooter who can create his own looks to boot. With Yogi Ferrell gone, expect the ball in Blackmon’s hands early and often in 2016-17.
The boom began in 2012–13, when 30 up-transfers became eligible, including Luke Hancock, who jumped from George Mason to Louisville, and then was the Most Outstanding Player of the 2013 Final Four. In a column prior to that season, I coined up-transfer to describe a trend that would keep on growing. From ‘12–13 to ‘16–17, the average number of up-transfers becoming eligible is 37.2—a 389% jump from the previous five-year period. In comparison, the overall transfer market has grown by 35–40% between those same five-year periods, according to my estimates based on data from the NCAA and VerbalCommits.com.
In this edition of the show, Morris and Inside the Hall editor Alex Bozich are joined by Sports Illustrated NBA editor Matt Dollinger to discuss the play of former Indiana players in the Samsung NBA Summer League in Las Vegas.
Among the topics discussed:
· Troy’s play in the Summer League and what stood out
· Whether the play of Williams in the Summer League can translate to the NBA
· Troy and Yogi going undrafted: Was it actually a good thing?
· What type of contract and money Williams could command from an NBA team
· How the Summer League was a better platform for Yogi than it was for Troy
· Noah Vonleh’s development and how he fits in Portland
· What’s next for Verdell Jones
· Victor Oladipo’s future in Oklahoma City
Summer League roundup: Troy Williams dominates final three games
The Samsung NBA Summer League wrapped up on Sunday in Las Vegas. Here’s Inside the Hall’s look at how the four Hoosiers who participated – Yogi Ferrell, Troy Williams, Noah Vonleh and Verdell Jones – performed:
· Troy Williams, Phoenix Suns: Williams started slow in Las Vegas, but finished with three straight statement performances. Over Phoenix’s final three games, the former IU forward averaged 20.3 points, 6.6 rebounds and two steals per game. He also made 19 free throws over those three contests, including 14 in Sunday’s finale against Minnesota.
Once he put his head down and got some momentum behind him, there was little Minnesota could do to stop Williams on his way to the basket. The 6-7 forward earned a game-high 15 free throw attempts and made good on 14 of them. He was also 5-of-6 inside the three-point arc, using his athleticism and creativity to score over, under and through defenders.
Williams is a free agent, so it will be interesting to see if Phoenix or another NBA team invites him to training camp.
Final numbers (six games): 12.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.7 steals in 22.3 minutes per game. Shot 54.3 percent from the field, 26.3 percent on 3s and 79.2 percent from the free throw line.
· Yogi Ferrell, Brooklyn Nets: Given Brooklyn’s large contingent of guards on its Summer League roster, Ferrell sat out two games to provide a more balanced rotation.
Overall, his play in Vegas wasn’t particularly strong as he scored in double figures just once and only had one game with more than two assists.
Will that be enough for Ferrell to earn a serious look from the Nets or another franchise in a training camp this fall?
Final numbers (four games): 8.8 points, 1.8 assists, 1.5 rebounds in 17 minutes er game. Shot 43.8 percent from the field, 18.2 percent on 3s and 71.4 percent from the free throw line.
· Noah Vonleh, Portland Trail Blazers: As a Summer League veteran, Vonleh appeared in just four games, but scored in double figures in each contest. He also had double figure rebound totals in three of the four games.
“No, I’m not too happy with how I’ve played,” he said following the Blazers loss to the Utah Jazz on Wednesday. “I rebounded the ball well, but there’s just some things that I want to have translate for next season so I can get some playing time. Like reading the play, doing the right thing.”
The Blazers made moves to bolster their frontcourt in the offseason, adding Festus Ezeli to join an already crowded big man rotation with Mason Plumlee, Meyers Leonard and Ed Davis. Throw in the fact that the Blazers want to get Al-Farouq Aminu regular minutes at power forward and it is clear playing time could be an issue for Vonleh.
“It’s going to be tough,” he said. “We’ve got a great group of guys coming in so everybody is going to be fighting for playing time. If you don’t come ready for training camp, you’re not going to play. I got to get my mind right and get ready for that.”
Final stats (four games): 12 points. 8.8 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.8 blocks in 31.5 minutes per game. Shot 46.3 percent from the field, 23.1 percent on 3s and 70 percent from the free throw line.
· Verdell Jones, D-League Select: Jones started just one of D-League Select’s five contests and is probably looking at going overseas unless he wants to give the D-League another shot.
D-League Select finished 3-2 and Jones logged double figure minutes in two of the four games he played in.
Final stats (four games): 5.2 points, one assist, 0.8 rebounds, 0.8 steals in 11.2 minutes per game. Shot 53.8 percent from the field, 50 percent on 3s and 85.7 percent from the free throw line.
(Photo credit: Getty Images)
Video: 2017 guard Chaundee Brown Peach Jam highlights
The Academy School (Fla.) and Nike South Beach guard Chaundee Brown is the newest member of the 2017 class to receive a scholarship offer from Indiana. The Hoosiers offered the 6-foot-4 scorer over the weekend. Ranked the No. 44 player nationally according to the 247Composite, Brown averaged 22 points, six rebounds and 1.4 assists earlier this month in the Nike EYBL Finals at the Peach Jam.
With the help of Krossover, we recently broke down some film of Brown, who shot 46.2 percent on 3s at the Peach Jam, to provide Indiana fans with a feel for his game and style of play.
Video: 2017 wing Jordan Tucker Peach Jam highlights
Class of 2017 Archbishop Stepinac (NY) and NY Rens forward Jordan Tucker is one of the nation’s top wings. The Indiana recruiting target averaged 15.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and three assists per game at last week’s Nike EYBL Finals at the Peach Jam.
With the help of Krossover, we recently broke down some film of Tucker, who made an unofficial visit to Bloomington this past spring, from the Peach Jam to provide Indiana fans with a feel for his game and style of play.
Q & A: Five-star M.J. Walker talks USA Basketball, Indiana
One of the top backcourt players in the class of 2017, Jonesboro (Ga.) guard M.J. Walker, is a new name to emerge on the Indiana recruiting radar this summer.
Walker, ranked the No. 23 player nationally according to the 247Composite, began hearing from Tom Crean in recent weeks. He’s also a member of USA Basketball’s U18 team that will compete in the FIBA Americas U18 championships later this month in Valdivia, Chile.
Inside the Hall talked at length with Walker in a one-on-one interview earlier this week about a variety of topics, including what he’s been hearing from Indiana’s head coach. Here’s a full transcript of our conversation:
What’s the experience been like so far with USA Basketball?
“It’s definitely a honor to play with USA Basketball, just to even be invited. This is actually my first time, so I’m definitely not taking it for granted. Each and every day, you’re playing against good competition. Everybody is bringing something to the table, so you can’t just come out here and mess around. You’ve got to give it your all. It’s a blessing to be out here and just the whole experience of being coached by great coaches, staff and being around great players and people as well.”
This is a little different than the high school or AAU setting because everyone out at USA Basketball is usually the best player on their respective team. How do you adjust to being surrounded by that level of talent?
“Basically, I feel like if you play hard, the game will come to you. In AAU, I’m a scorer that gets my teammates involved by making plays. There’s a lot of people out here that can do the same thing. So you’ve just got to play hard and be active, cut and just do the dirty work and your game will come to you.”
What’s this summer been like for you so far? What have been some of the highlights thus far?
“It’s been probably my busiest summer so far. I had the Under Armour sessions as well as camps, the Steph Curry camp and the Under Armour All-America camp. I feel like the Under Armour All-America was probably the highlight. I played really well there. I was scoring the ball really well, playing good defense, things like that. It’s just been a busy summer overall. I’m probably going to have to get used to it down the road because it’s probably going to be the same way or probably get worse.”
What was the experience like at Steph Curry’s camp?
“That was my actually my third year there. Steph is a great guy. I’m definitely thankful to be coached by him and learn different things from him. It was definitely a fun camp, picking up the different drills he does to prepare for his games. The training that he does is very intense. It’s something I can take home and work on. The whole experience with Steph was great.”
You recently expressed in an interview that Indiana has started to show some interest. When did that start and what have they said to you to this point?
“They actually texted me probably two days before the Under Armour All-America camp started. They were just saying that they like the way I play off of pick-and-roll, the way I get downhill off the pick-and-roll. Coach (Crean) was just telling me things to work on. He’s going to break down my game and he said he was watching film on me from the AAU season. He said he’s going to break down some film for me and tell me some things I can get better at. He just felt like I was a great player as far as pick-and-roll action, getting downhill and getting assists.”
Have they kept up with you since?
“They’re still sending me texts. I’m not sure they can call because of the evaluation period. They’re still texting me every couple of days and staying involved.”
The recruiting process in general, how are you managing that process? And is it something you enjoy?
“Before my dad was handling all of the recruitment as far as the coaches and everything, the calls. But he’s letting me get involved now with texting the coaches and just getting a feel for which program I may like and what system is the best fit for me. So I’m starting to get involved now talking to some of the coaches and just getting a feel for them.”
(Photo credit: Ned Dishman/Under Armour)
Video: 2017 guard Andrew Platek Peach Jam highlights
Class of 2017 Northfield Mount Hermon School (Mass.) and Albany City Rocks guard Andrew Platek is one of the nation’s best shooters. The Indiana recruiting target averaged 10.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and two steals per game at last week’s Nike EYBL Finals at the Peach Jam.
With the help of Krossover, we recently broke down some film of Platek from the Peach Jam to provide Indiana fans with a feel for his game and style of play.