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Roundup: Former Hoosiers start NBA training camp

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Opening night of the NBA season is less than a month away and training camps have opened across the league this week along with media day events taking place.

Here’s a look around the league at former Indiana players and their start to the 2014-2015 season, which includes some video interviews, quotes and links:

· Victor Oladipo is expected to take on larger role in his second season in Orlando and will look to help bring along rookie Elfrid Payton, who has a similar background in many ways.

· In Charlotte, rookie Noah Vonleh is still recovering from surgery to repair a sports hernia, but is hoping to get medical clearance soon.

According to the Charlotte Observer:

Vonleh said he was playing pickup basketball on Indiana’s campus when he felt a “pop,” which he thought was just a groin pull. But the pain grew worse, and he had an MRI that revealed a tear. Vonleh is now able to work out on an elliptical machine and start some light shooting and jogging. He says he’s feeling much better in the last week.

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2014-2015 ITH season preview: Nebraska Cornhuskers

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With the start of college basketball season on the horizon, we’ll be taking a long look at the conference at large as well as Indiana’s roster over the next month. Today, we continue our look at the Big Ten with the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

There was no team in the Big Ten last season that surprised more than Nebraska. In year two under the energetic Tim Miles, the Cornhuskers saw the emergence of several stars, the opening of their new arena and an NCAA tournament appearance, all after a 5-13 Big Ten mark just one season prior.

Under Miles, the 2013-14 Big Ten Coach of the Year, the Cornhuskers have taken off as one of the hottest programs in the Big Ten. Last season, the team only lost once in the new Pinnacle Bank Arena — beating the likes of Indiana, Ohio State and Wisconsin at home — and pulled off a significant road win at Michigan State, one that clinched the program’s first NCAA tournament berth since 1998.

Nebraska also saw the emergence of former Texas Tech transfer Terran Petteway, who was playing his first season in Lincoln. Petteway went on to average 18.1 points and 4.8 rebounds per game, earning first team all-Big Ten honors. Petteway used 31.7 of Nebraska’s possessions as a sophomore, the highest of any Big Ten player last season.

Other standouts from last season’s team, guard Shavon Shields, forward Walter Pitchford, guard Tai Webster, forward David Rivers and guard Benny Parker, are all back, as well. Shields is one of the Big Ten’s best in terms of getting to the foul line (60.5 free throw rate) and Pitchford was the least mistake prone player in the conference last season with a turnover percentage of just 6.8.

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2014-2015 ITH season preview: Ohio State Buckeyes

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With the start of college basketball season on the horizon, we’ll be taking a long look at the conference at large as well as Indiana’s roster over the next month. Today, we continue our look at the Big Ten with the Ohio State Buckeyes.

The Aaron Craft era in Columbus is over and his departure, along with the loss of Lenzelle Smith Jr. and LaQuinton Ross, means there is plenty of production that Thad Matta must replace to keep the Buckeyes in thick of the Big Ten race.

The Craft and Smith departures (both graduated) were much easier to plan for than the loss of Ross, who made the head-scratching decision to declare for the NBA draft and is now in Italy. The production vacated by the trio is substantial: 36 points, 14.6 rebounds and seven assists per game.

So who is ready to step up and fill the void? Matta returns three seniors with starting experience in Sam Thompson, Shannon Scott and Amir Williams.

Scott, a former McDonald’s All-American, may be the Big Ten’s best returning perimeter defender (4.6 steal percentage), but is offensively challenged. He hit just 30.2 percent of his 3s as a junior and is turnover prone (22.2 TO%). Thompson is the team’s leading returning scorer and despite being one of the league’s best finishers, he hit just 49.7 percent of his 2s as a junior. And Williams, another former McDonald’s All-American, has been a disappointment so far in Columbus. As a junior, Williams averaged 7.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game, but only averaged 23.1 minutes per game.

Beyond those three returnees, Matta has some other pieces to work with including sophomore Marc Loving, senior big man Trey McDonald and redshirt freshman Kameron Williams, a combo guard. Loving will need to shoot it better to see the floor regularly (25.9 percent on 3s as a freshman) and Williams is likely to earn a role as a backup guard in the rotation.

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2014-2015 ITH season preview: Michigan State Spartans

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With the start of college basketball season on the horizon, we’ll be taking a long look at the conference at large as well as Indiana’s roster over the next month. Today, we continue our look at the Big Ten with the Michigan State Spartans.

Michigan State started the 2013-2014 season as the favorite to win the national championship. Tom Izzo, no stranger to building Final Four teams, constructed a roster that had talented veterans (Adreian Payne, Keith Appling and Branden Dawson) to go along with a young superstar (Gary Harris).

And while the Spartans ultimately fell short of their goal, Izzo and his company still enjoyed plenty of success including a trip to the Elite Eight and the Big Ten conference tournament title.

This year’s version of the Spartans will certainly look different than the group we last saw in Madison Square Garden in March. Payne and Harris are now in the NBA after being taken in the first round of the draft in June. Appling will be in training camp with the Los Angeles Lakers. Three other players, Kenny Kaminski (dismissed), Alex Gauna (opted not to return) and Russell Byrd (transferred) are gone.

But as we’ve learned in the past, despite the uncertainty, it’s never smart to count Michigan State out of the Big Ten race.

The prized returnee for Izzo is Dawson, a former McDonald’s All-American who is entering his final season of eligibility. The 6-foot-6 senior is one of the Big Ten’s best rebounders and defenders, but needs to show off a more polished offensive game as three of the team’s four leading scorers are gone. Dawson is very efficient (61.5 percent on 2s), but will need to morph into a guy who is capable of hitting midrange shots with consistency.

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2015 guard Shake Milton recaps his official visit to Indiana

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Heading into last weekend’s official visit to Indiana, 2015 Owasso (Okla.) guard Shake Milton said he knew Indiana fans were passionate about Hoosiers basketball. But he had yet to see the full extent of it in person, having taken an unofficial visit to Bloomington during the summer in June.

This past weekend, though, Milton said he got a better understanding of how passionate IU fans truly are. And he left Bloomington on Sunday impressed, saying the visit “went really well.”

“Me and coach (Tom) Crean were walking back from the football game and we were trying to have a conversation but couldn’t because everybody was coming up asking for pictures and saying they can’t wait for the season and stuff like that,” Milton told Inside the Hall on Sunday night. “I like the fact that it’s a real basketball school and people there are really passionate about basketball.”

The 6-foot-4 Milton is the No. 84 prospect in the 2015 class, according to the 247Sports Composite, and took his official visit to Indiana as his final one. During the visit, which was shortened due to his flight being cancelled on Friday from the FAA radar fire in Illinois, Milton was able to see campus, speak with strength and conditioning coach Je’Ney Jackson and spend time with this year’s team. Milton also had the chance to play with the team on Saturday, calling the experience “a lot of fun.”

But for Milton, perhaps the most valuable part of his official visit came on Sunday, during a “pretty personal” conversation with Crean.

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Podcast on the Brink: Offseason thoughts, Canada recap

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Podcast on the Brink is back for another season with host Jerod Morris of The Assembly Call.

Morris is joined by Inside the Hall editor and co-founder Alex Bozich, to discuss a variety of topics, including:

· How this offseason compares to last offseason
· A recap of Indiana’s five-game exhibition tour of Canada
· Hanner Mosquera-Perea’s importance to the team for the upcoming season
· Discussion of the potential impact of transfer Nick Zeisloft
· A rundown of IU’s 2014-2015 roster with observations from Canada

So tune in and enjoy. As always, feel free to drop the show a note at jerod@assemblycall.com.

Listen in the embedded media player below, download the episode, subscribe via iTunes or subscribe to the RSS feed.

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2014-2015 ITH season preview: Illinois Fighting Illini

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With the start of college basketball season on the horizon, we’ll be taking a long look at the conference at large as well as Indiana’s roster over the next month. Today, we continue our look at the Big Ten with the Illinois Fighting Illini.

As John Groce enters year three in Champaign, an intriguing mix of talent allows for some cautious optimism about a return trip to the Big Dance.

After losing seniors Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson off his first-year squad that advanced to the round of 32 of the NCAA Tournament, the Illini suffered through an eight-game losing streak during conference play last season. But it rebounded to finish out the season a respectable 6-6 — a record that included an opening round victory against Indiana in the Big Ten Tournament and one against Boston University in the NIT.

And while the team took a hit earlier this month when senior point guard Tracey Abrams suffered a season-ending injury (torn right ACL), there are a pair of transfers available to pick up the slack.

With Abrams out at point, Oregon transfer Ahmad Starks — who averaged 10.4 points per game in 2012-2013 — could step up and take the starter’s role. Aaron Cosby, a transfer from Seton Hall, will also be eligible to play this season and has the ability to give minutes at the point guard position as well.

The duo will be joined in the backcourt by Simeon product Kendrick Nunn. Nunn emerged towards the end of his freshman campaign, as Groce gave him more minutes during the team’s final 12 games. Nunn finished the year as the team’s second-most efficient scorer (54.1 eFG) and scored in double-digits seven of the team’s last 12 games after failing to do so once before the final stretch.

Wing Rayvonte Rice, who sat out Groce’s first year as a Drake transfer, was the team’s top scorer as a redshirt junior a season ago (15.9 points) and also led the team in minutes played (32.7). Rice could stand some shooting and efficiency improvement (48.0 eFG percentage /29.5 percent from 3-point range), but figures to be the team’s top returning offensive threat along with Nunn.

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