It’s time for Inside the Hall’s player-by-player breakdown of the 2010-2011 Indiana Hoosiers. Today: Verdell Jones.
So about a year and a half ago, I wrote a column that I cannot currently locate, which said that I thought Verdell Jones should be named the 2009 Big Ten Freshman of the Year. Call it blind homerism, call it bad journalism, call it whatever you want, but I wrote it, and it’s probably still hurtling through cyberspace somewhere, waiting to pop up and surprise me.
But I stood by it then, and I’ll bet I look a fair bit smarter now. That’s what I tell myself, anyway.
It wasn’t exactly sage to pick Jones as a big part of Indiana’s future. He scored 11 points per game his freshman year, and pushed that number to almost 15 last season.
More than that, though, is the ways Jones scores. “Ways,” that’s the key word. He’s versatile, and makes up for a lack of size (still listed at 185 in his third year in college) with exceptional body and ball control when attacking in the paint. He has range that he’ll show on occasion, but Jones’ best work is done inside the arc, just short of the rim.
In addition, Jones has become more comfortable running the offense, although his turnover numbers (2.8 per game) are still too high.
What’s most important about Jones, inarguably, is his leadership skill. One of the lasting images of his sophomore season is Jones gathering his teammates at big moments on the court during Indiana’s 81-78 overtime win against Minnesota at home. Jones’ steadying presence on the court, accompanied by some clutch points in the game’s dying moments, all but carried Indiana to victory.
There’s no denying there are holes in Jones’ game. The turnovers speak loudly, and Jones still gives up size when he’s guarding bigger players, and speed when he’s guarding quicker ones. But Verdell Jones, who has turned into the jewel of Tom Crean’s first recruiting haul in Bloomington, is one of the unquestioned leaders on a team that needs unquestioned leaders, which makes him invaluable.
It’s time for Inside the Hall’s player-by-player breakdown of the 2010-2011 Indiana Hoosiers. Today: Mo Creek.
I’ll be honest: It wasn’t until working on my piece for Maple Street Press’ Hoosier Tip-Off 2010-11 — available now! — and chatting with the Big Ten Geeks that I fully appreciated just how stellar Maurice Creek’s cut-short freshman campaign was, and how much the team could have used him during Big Ten play.
Creek appeared in all 12 non-conference games; his season-ending knee injury occurred in the second half against Bryant on Dec. 28, the last game before IU started their conference slate against Michigan on New Year’s Eve.
Now, it’s likely Creek’s numbers would have taken somewhat of a hit had he played all season and competed in the Big Ten against overall tougher competition. But stick with me here: For players with a minimum of 12 games last season, Creek’s effective field-goal percentage of 64.12 percent was good for 26th in the country. Not for freshman. For all of Division I.
Creek shot 52.7 precent from the floor, and nailed an impressive 44.8 percent of his threes. He also averaged 1.4 steals a game, showing he can be an agitator on the defensive end. If kept up for the whole season, he would have led the team. (Jeremiah Rivers finished the year with 1.3 steals per game, the team’s leader otherwise.)
Perhaps nowhere was Creek’s shooting acumen more on display than IU’s Dec. 12 loss to Kentucky, where he poured in 31 points in a losing effort against the Wildcats (9-of-14 from the floor, 5-of-8 from distance, 8-of-8 from the line).
Creek proved to be a highly efficient scorer last season, something IU sorely lacked as they trudged through that 10-game in-conference losing streak. A healthy Mo Creek gets this team more victories last season.
So what to expect from Creek this season? Well, as the Geeks told me, it’s probably too much to expect Creek to match his stellar numbers from a year ago. And really: That’s OK. Even if Creek’s percentages aren’t quite as high, a drop likely still keeps him as IU’s most prolific offensive weapon. And if defenses are showing him more attention, that should open up things for his teammates.
We’ve had a few emails and have noticed some comments asking for clarification for the start time for Hoosier Hysteria. Here are the details, per IU:
Doors will open at 6 p.m. with an autograph session scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. Admission is free, but fans are encouraged to bring a non-perishable food item to benefit Hoosier Hills Food Bank.
In addition, fans may visit Cook Hall throughout the day as the Pfau-Shine Legacy Court hours will be extended to remain open until 7:30 p.m.
And since we’ve been confirming and tracking the recruits expected to be on hand for Hoosier Hysteria for the past week in the sidebar, here’s the complete list we’ve compiled thus far by class:
Austin Etherington, Hamilton Heights (Committed to Indiana)
Greg Lewis, St. Frances (MD) (Per Evan Daniels, unconfirmed by ITH)
Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell, Park Tudor
Barnett Harris, Gateway Senior (PA) (Per Evan Daniels, unconfirmed by ITH)
Charles Harris, Lake Forest (IL) (Per Evan Daniels, unconfirmed by ITH)
Jeremy Hollowell, Lawrence Central
Ron Patterson, Broad Ripple (Committed to Indiana)
D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, North Central (Per Evan Daniels, unconfirmed by ITH)
Darryl Baker, Jeffersonville
Devin Davis, Warren Central
Darryl Hicks, Louisville Trinity (KY)
Zak Irvin, Hamilton Southeastern
Brenton Scott, Ft. Wayne Northrop
Bryson Scott, Ft. Wayne Northrop
Basil Smotherman, Heritage Christian
James Blackmon Jr, Ft. Wayne Luers (Committed to Indiana)
Trevon Bluiett, Park Tudor
Ernie Duncan, Evansville Harrison (Per Evan Daniels, unconfirmed by ITH)
Trey Lyles, Arsenal Technical (Committed to Indiana)
Bryant McIntosh, New Castle
It’s time for Inside the Hall’s player-by-player breakdown of the 2010-2011 Indiana Hoosiers. Today: Derek Elston.
It’s difficult to pinpoint, precisely, the reason for the inconsistency of Derek Elston’s playing time as a freshman.
Perhaps it was the mental lapses he suffered regularly, as most freshman do, on defense. Or maybe it was something we didn’t see behind the closed doors of practice in Assembly Hall.
Whatever the case for the sporadic minutes, Elston was arguably Indiana’s best player down the stretch as he delivered 40 points and 24 rebounds in the team’s final three games. (The efficiency numbers don’t lie, either.)
Those late-season performances, coupled with his versatility at 6-foot-9 to play multiple positions, make Elston the prime candidate to take the biggest step forward of any Hoosier as a sophomore.
That aforementioned versatility affords Tom Crean the flexibility to run with a variety of lineups, depending on the situation.
If Crean elects to go small with three guards and Christian Watford, Elston could find himself, for stretches, guarding an opponent’s five. Sure, it’s not ideal, but if there’s one thing we’ve learned from watching Crean coach for two seasons, it’s that he’s not one for always trotting out a traditional lineup. (Tijan at the top of the 1-3-1, anyone?)
On the other hand, it’s not inconceivable that Elston will also log his fair share of minutes at the three if the matchups align correctly and Elston proves capable of staying in front of opponents on the perimeter.
Hypothetical scenarios aside, the optimism for a large step forward for Elston stems primarily from the eye test that he passed with flying colors when he was on the floor as a freshman. He mixed it up in the paint. He knocked down 3-pointers. He showed, at times, a solid midrange game. He displayed a solid handle for a kid of his stature. He battled, admirably, on the glass. And in all, he was Indiana’s most efficient player from a statistical standpoint.
Bottom line: Elston might not start or finish the season in IU’s starting five, but his play will earn him considerably more minutes than he saw as a freshman. Given how well he played at times last season when given the opportunity and how desperately Crean is seeking grit, intelligence and toughness, look for Elston to emerge and accomplish big things as a sophomore.
Quotable: “In the Big Ten in early practices, I didn’t even feel involved. But I finally put my foot down and said I’ve got to start doing something, and like you said, my minutes went up, and then I got some confidence back, and then I started to roll with it.” — Derek Elston.
Previous Player Profiles: Jordan Hulls, Guy-Marc Michel
This one comes from our friend Jeff Goodman at FoxSports.com. According to this report, Baylor assistant coach Mark Morefield “sent dozens of texts to Hanner Perea’s AAU and high school coaches in July while they were coaching events,” a violation of NCAA rules. The coach in question wasn’t supposed to be recruiting off-campus at the time anyway, a restriction placed upon him by the university for “previous texting infractions.”
The most damning part of the report, at least in the realm of public opinion, might be this:
Morefield also sent a text to LaLumiere coach Alan Huss, which was obtained by FOXSports.com, saying that if Perea didn’t go to Baylor, he wouldn’t be back in the United States.
“I guarantee u if he does [commit to another school] he will be in Colombia for the spring and summer and next year. Don’t forget it,” the text said.
You might recall Baylor coach Scott Drew, who ran the family business as coach at Valparaiso for one year before taking over the troubled program in Waco in 2003. He inherited a team in tatters after the murder of one teammate by another.
Since his arrival, Drew has managed to rebuild the Bears, and last year took them all the way to the Elite Eight, led by Ekpe Udoh, Tweety Carter and LaceDarius Dunn. The last of those was expected to lead Baylor this season, but his status right now is rather unclear following a domestic violence incident.
Perea, a touted and talented recruit in the 2012 class, has listed Indiana and Baylor as his top two schools. He enrolled at LaPorte (Ind.) La Lumiere this fall, and has played his AAU basketball in the Indiana Elite program since coming to the United States.
Hoosier Hysteria is on the horizon and it’s time for Inside the Hall’s preseason All-Big Ten team. Today: Purdue’s E’Twaun Moore.
It’s been three years ago now that I was sitting in my mother’s dining room reading the Lafayette Journal and Courier sports section, and happened upon a story about Purdue’s 2007 recruiting class. In it, the author (whose name I do not remember) essentially made the assertion that, while Indiana’s ’07 class had the star power, (Eric Gordon) Purdue’s had the staying power, and was therefore better.
It was sort of laughable at the time, easily written off as hometown bias. But the more you thought about it — and the more you saw E’Twaun Moore, Robbie Hummel and JaJuan Johnson play — the less preposterous the claim seemed.
This season really is now or never for that same talented group that Matt Painter took to calling the “Big Three.” They’re now probably three of the top 5-7 players in the league, and E’Twaun Moore scores the most of any of them.
The lanky shooting guard from East Chicago has led Purdue in scoring each of his three years in college, and it doesn’t seem likely he’ll relinquish that role in his final college season.
Moore is a guard’s guard — he’s a wonderful spot-up shooter who can hit a nasty streak, and he’s strong off the dribble (though not quite so talented as when he’s catching and shooting). As a compliment to the wide, tall Johnson and the multi-faceted Hummel, he has developed into the perfect foil.
What will be interesting to watch in Moore’s game this year is how much develops into the match to his offense’s kindling. When Hummel was lost last year, Moore assumed a much more focal role in the offense — by design — pushing the Boilermakers into different sets and trying to initiate action on that end of the floor, with mixed results.
With Chris Kramer now gone and Lewis Jackson, frankly, still untested, it stands to reason that we could see more of Moore (my bad on the wordplay) in that sort of role.
It’s certainly one Purdue will need someone to fill, and if Moore can be that someone, then the Boilermakers will find themselves in even higher cotton. Moore alone stands as an All-Big Ten first-teamer purely on talent. If his role in this offense can be enhanced, Purdue is in incredibly good shape hitting the winter.
Previous Super Happy Fun Time All Big Ten Previews: Robbie Hummel, Kalin Lucas, William Buford, Demetri McCamey.