We took an early look at the 2013-2014 backcourt on Monday and today, the focus shifts to the frontcourt, where Indiana is also faced with substantial changes. We’ll have comprehensive player-by-player previews this fall, but here’s an early look at some of the storylines to keep an eye on with next season’s frontcourt:
— Sheehey’s shift from sixth man to a primary option: After starting just 19 games over his first three seasons and earning the Big Ten’s sixth man of the year award as a junior, Will Sheehey will be in for a significant change in his role as a senior. Sheehey has steadily improved his offensive rating (points per 100 possessions) over his first three seasons and Indiana will need him to continue his efficient play if it hopes to have a strong Big Ten finish again. His free throw (70.4 percent as a sophomore, 65.6 percent as a junior) and 3-point shooting percentages (38.3 percent as a sophomore, 34.6 percent as a junior) dipped a season ago and are two areas he’ll need to improve upon.
Sheehey has always been one of the best in the conference at moving without the ball, but without guys like Cody Zeller, Victor Oladipo and Christian Watford for opposing defenses to key on, he’ll become a focus on the scouting report and will be called upon to create more shots on his own. With a strong offseason that included trips to Colorado Springs and Kazan, Russia, for the World University Games and Los Angeles for adidas Nations, Sheehey had a busy offseason and appears poised for his best season yet at Indiana.
— Vonleh’s arrival and impact: For the third straight winter, Indiana will welcome a McDonald’s All-American to its roster. Noah Vonleh, who won’t turn 18 until this Saturday, is a physical presence that can impact the game in many ways. At 6-foot-9 and 242 pounds with a wingspan that’s nearly 7-foot-4, Vonleh will slide into the starting lineup immediately. He’s been regarded as one of the top rebounders nationally in his high school class, and the offseason transformation of his body under Je’Ney Jackson should make him physically ready to battle down low from day one.
On a roster that doesn’t appear to have a surefire option at the center position, Vonleh will give the staff some flexibility if it wishes to go smaller at times. With the departures of Zeller and Watford in IU’s frontcourt, Vonleh’s arrival will help soften the blow, at least from a talent perspective, and give the Hoosiers a reliable post scorer that also can step out on the floor and finish in transition.
The Inside the Hall Mailbag is a collection of questions tweeted to us via Twitter (@insidethehall) and sent to us via our Facebook page. Submit your questions and we’ll answer as many as we can.
Kelin Mark writes: Is James Blackmon working his way to a McDonald’s All American?
There’s no doubt that Blackmon Jr. had a fantastic summer. He was one of the top scorers in the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League, made the All-Star team at the National Basketball Players Association Top 100 Camp and averaged 20 points per game at the Nike Global Challenge.
He was probably already on the radar for many of the 37 members of the selection committee for the McDonald’s All-American Game coming into the summer, but his play this summer will only help further the case for his selection. Based on the commentary I’ve read on him this summer from a couple of people who are on the committee, which is made up of analysts, scouts, reporters and coaches, he’s clearly in the mix to make the team. — Alex Bozich
Toni Wilson Williams writes: All of last yrs group are now playing pro ball…where did Christian (Watford) sign??
Watford played for the Indiana Pacers and the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Summer League, but as of right now, hasn’t signed with a NBA team for next season. It’s possible he could get invited to a NBA training camp as an undrafted free agent, sign with a D-League team or go overseas. — Alex Bozich
John Cole writes: I was wondering where Derek Elston ended up.
Elston is finishing his Masters right now in Bloomington and will then head to Malta, where he’ll play for the Floriana Basketball Club. Malta is located in southern Europe in the Mediterranean Sea. He’s expected to report overseas sometime in September. — Alex Bozich
@jjclick17 writes: What’s level of interest in (Trevon) Bluiett? Seems like when a ’14 target commits elsewhere, IU looks at someone new. Are they waiting for him to trim his list before investing more into his recruitment?
Ever since Noah Vonleh arrived on campus on May 29, the Indiana coaching staff has raved about the incoming freshman’s work ethic. Assistant coach Kenny Johnson went as far as to say Vonleh would move a cot into Cook Hall and sleep there if he could.
On Tuesday afternoon, Vonleh addressed the media for the first time as a Hoosier. The 6-foot-9 forward said he’s gained 20 pounds in the month and a half he’s been in Bloomington because of the team’s intense weight lifting workouts.
“I wasn’t used to that at prep school, so that was a big adjustment,” Vonleh said of the weight lifting. “I put on a lot of weight and am getting stronger.
“I just like to be in the gym all the time, getting better, getting my shot better because I’m going to be playing against a lot of guys that are a lot older than me next year.”
Vonleh recently participated in the LeBron James Skills Academy camp in Las Vegas as a college counselor. He was the youngest college player there (he’s 17 years old), but he managed to hold his own against some of the nation’s top talent.
“I went in there and worked hard,” Vonleh said. “I was talking a lot because a lot of the guys there weren’t really talking. [ESPN’s] Jay Bilas came up to me. He said, ‘Your leadership and talking can become a great strength if you keep working on it.'”
Vonleh and Bilas had an extended conversation in which Bilas told Vonleh to continue to work on staying low in the post, making his moves quick, and becoming more decisive when making a move.
Vonleh said he took those suggestions to heart and has worked on improving in those areas since he’s returned to the team.
“He’s a real good player,” sophomore forward Jeremy Hollowell said of Vonleh. “The biggest thing I’ve seen is that he’s willing to learn, he’s always wanting to improve his game, he’s coachable and just how hard he works day in and day out in practice. He’s always going to go hard and he’s always going to give it his best.”
Etherington not 100 percent, but close
Junior guard Austin Etherington isn’t yet back to full contact after fracturing his patella last December, but he continues to make progress in his rehabilitation.
Last summer, Indiana’s recruiting class, called “The Movement” by some, was getting ready to take on the Indiana campus. That class was expected to add to an already strong roster and give the Hoosiers incredible depth.
But there wasn’t much talk of “The Movement” after the summer was over, and it wasn’t just because Will Sheehey and other veteran guys told the freshmen not to call themselves that anymore.
It was because the class, and the depth it was supposed to provide, never fully materialized during the course of the season. Yogi Ferrell was solid and Indiana’s starter at point guard from day one, but Tom Crean didn’t get the kind of production or development from the other three players that he expected.
Peter Jurkin wasn’t a highly-ranked recruit and wasn’t expected to provide much. But he was injured for most of last season and continues to be less than 100 percent.
“Peter, it’s slow, but he is shooting more,” Crean said at Tuesday night’s Tailgate Tour event in Indianapolis. “The rehab is the most important thing for him. We’re going down that line where we’ve got great support for him medically, and we need to keep him on a pace where he doesn’t get frustrated because he’s really trying.”
For the 2012 class’ other two members — Hanner Mosquera-Perea and Jeremy Hollowell — last season’s struggles were more surprising. Crean talked about both guys as being potential starters for the team in the preseason, but neither guy played more than 9.7 minutes per game.
Both Mosquera-Perea and Hollowell will have to play a bigger role this season if the Hoosiers are to maintain their level of play from the last two years. For them, though, its less about their abilities and more about their competitive fire, Crean said.
“Both of them have pretty good bodies, both of them have good length and good athleticism,” Crean said. “Now it’s time to really take that demeanor and show their competitiveness on the defensive side, show their competitiveness in things like conditioning. There’s a reason why guys like Cody [Zeller], Yogi and Noah [Vonleh] make McDonald’s All Americans. Those guys have some uncommon desires to compete. Certainly, Victor has that. Will Sheehey, Jordan Hulls.
Welcome to “That’s A Wrap,” our player-by-player recap of the 2012-2013 Indiana Hoosiers. Today: Jeremy Hollowell.
Hollowell (33 games): 2.8 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 0.3 apg, 40.3% FG, 63.2% FT in 9.7 minutes per game.
Jeremy Hollowell’s 2012-13 campaign was one of a stereotypical freshman: some good, some bad and plenty more to learn as he continues to assimilate to the college game.
The Lawrence Central product showed flashes of promise as both a scorer and defender. He netted over 10 points twice in a row to start the season (12 against Bryant in the season opener, 14 against North Dakota State three days later). Hollowell isn’t the quickest defender, but he showed a knack for swatting shots on occasion. He recorded three blocks against Michigan on Feb. 2 and two against both Iowa (Dec. 31) and Purdue (Jan. 30). He gained enough trust from Tom Crean to get run in every game he was eligible for this season and average almost 10 minutes in them. (Remember: Hollowell sat out three games in December amidst some self-reported violations by his family.)
But Hollowell was inconsistent. His high in scoring during the Big Ten season was just six points (Feb. 7 against Illinois). And at times his shooting from distance resulted in him entirely missing the rim. He finished the year shooting just 23.3 percent from beyond the arc. Hollowell also could stand some improvement at the charity stripe (63.2 percent).
The freshman had a little early Christian Watford in him as well — a laid-back personality that resulted in him not always bringing an edge to the court. Dan Dakich made note during broadcasts later in the season that Hollowell came to Bloomington not quite used to the work ethic needed to succeed in Tom Crean’s program, but that he was finally coming around to it all as the season matured.