A closer look at the Josh Newkirk addition

  • 08/24/2015 2:56 pm in

On Sunday, Indiana added a 13th scholarship player to its roster in Josh Newkirk, a transfer from Pittsburgh who will sit out the 2015-2016 season. The 6-foot-1 guard, a native of Raleigh, North Carolina, has two years of eligibility remaining.

The program has yet to officially announce Newkirk’s signing. But given that he must sit out a year, he joins Crown Point wing Grant Gelon as the second member of IU’s 2016 recruiting class.

So what kind of player was Newkirk last season? For some perspective, we reached out to Paul Zeise, a reporter who covers Pitt for the Post Gazette and is also a radio host on 93.7 FM in Pittsburgh.

“At the start of the season, his role was much bigger because Cameron Wright was hurt and they had some injuries,” Zeise said. “But as the season wore on, his minutes really started to drop. One, because they got healthy and two, because he sort of became less and less effective over the course of the season.

“He started out looking like he was going to have a big year and I don’t know if he lost confidence, but something happened, something changed midway through December, late December and he just started to look like he was lost out there.”

In ACC play, Newkirk averaged just 4.5 points on 31.3 percent shooting in 17.7 minutes per game.

Zeise believes Pittsburgh had a bigger role in mind for Newkirk, who was a consensus top 150 recruit coming out of high school in 2013. It never materialized, however.

As suggested by his father, Reggie, Zeise agrees that style of play was a contributing factor.

“Absolutely (it was a factor). This is a tough place to play if you’re a guard that likes to get up and down the court, create stuff and get to the basket and score,” Zeise explained. “It’s a real rigid offense, it is structured. There have been a number of guys that have come to Pitt that kind of figure it out pretty quickly, playing in Jamie’s offense can be tough if you’re a guy that likes to create, likes to score, likes to get up and down.

“And the other part of it is, Jamie likes those guys that can lock down on defense. And Josh is small and matchups were tough for him. Fit wise, it probably wasn’t the best place for him to be here.”

Players needing a change of scenery or a change in system happen frequently in college basketball as evidenced by transfer numbers that continue to grow each year. This offseason, there were over 700.

But is Newkirk a better fit at Indiana? What can he bring to the program when he becomes eligible for the 2016-2017 season? And why would Indiana, who is heavily recruiting the guard position, take a transfer rather than trying to fill the spot with a 2016 player?

To start, let’s take a look at Newkirk’s numbers over two seasons at Pitt:


As the numbers above show, his stats regressed as a sophomore as his minutes grew from 17.1 per game as a freshman to 20.7 last season. The 3-point field goal percentage dropped, as did the 2-point field goal percentage while his turnover rate went up. Newkirk did show improvement from the foul line and posted a better assist rate.

Here are shot charts for his first two seasons, with his freshman season on the left and sophomore season on the right:


Pinpointing a reason for the decline in the numbers from his freshman to sophomore years is an imperfect science. It’s possible that Newkirk was better suited for a backup role and when given more minutes and shots, his effectiveness declined. And it’s also possible that, on a Pittsburgh team that struggled for most of the year and failed to reach the NCAA tournament, Newkirk wasn’t surrounded by enough talent to maximize his effectiveness. Injuries, of course, can also play a factor and Newkirk’s father mentioned in our Q & A that he complained about knee issues toward the latter part of the season.

But looking forward to the future when Newkirk does become eligible, experience won’t be an issue that keeps him off the floor. He has two years of playing in the ACC on his resume, including a NCAA tournament appearance as a freshman, and also will get this season to practice with Indiana when he becomes healthy.

Indiana also faces uncertainty at the guard position beyond this season. Yogi Ferrell and Nick Zeisloft are both graduating and James Blackmon Jr., who looked hard at declaring early for the NBA draft, could find himself in position to leave after this season with a monster sophomore campaign.

If Blackmon Jr. were to leave early, the only upperclassmen guard remaining on the roster would be Robert Johnson, which would put the Hoosiers very short on experience in the backcourt.

Even if Blackmon Jr. and Johnson, who would both be juniors, are back in 2016-2017, Indiana needs guard depth. The position is being pursued heavily in 2016 recruiting and getting a talent like Newkirk in the program now is a good first step in beginning to solidify that depth.

On paper, Indiana still has two available scholarships for 2016 and that’s assuming no one leaves early, which is unlikely to be the case with Troy Williams looking like a good bet to be picked in the first round next summer.

We’ve penciled the 2016 class in as a five or six man group on the recruiting board for months now, which means three or four more players could be added. Newkirk doesn’t put Indiana out of the running for 2016 guards because the program is going to need at least one or two more next season, even if Blackmon Jr. is back.

Filed to:

  • Gregory Spera

    “And the other part of it is, Jamie likes those guys that can lock down on defense. And Josh is small and matchups were tough for him. Fit wise, it probably wasn’t the best place for him to be here.”

    Well then, Indiana IS the place for him!


    I can be on board with this signing much more than the Gelon signing.

  • Caleb Moore

    Were they terrible last year? Yes. Year before they were 47th in the country according to Kenpom. 6th in the Big Ten. 7th was Wisconsin. (if we are making statements based off one year then you can also say Crean was a better defensive coach than Bo Ryan in 2014) Year before that they were 28th in the country (and Crean got no credit for that). The point is that IU coaches defense. A lot depends on the type of players you have and whether they buy in. Think we can all agree that the freshmen last year especially JB were not good defenders. Plus you didn’t have a rim protector that scared anybody. Combo that is a recipe for disaster. This year, JB knows he has to be better defensively if he wants to sniff the NBA draft (mentioned in his press conference to return that evaluators directly told him that) plus you now have Troy a year older and added a legit big man who can alter shots in the post. Will they be top 10 defensively this year? No. But if they are just top 50 with their offense then they are going to win a ton of games.


    Yogi, Z and Max are gone from Graduation. Gelon took one of those scholarships. De’Ron Davis and Brown or Jones take the others? If Williams leaves could we sign a Bridges, Stevens or Blackwell to replace him?

  • SCHoosier

    I kinda cringed when I read that part. At 6-1..and with his quickness..guarding the opponents PG should not be an issue

  • Senor

    Agreed. MOST Freshmen don’t play defense for beans. For every Davis or Noel or Vonleh there are a boatload who get on campus and find that they cant just lean on the talent differential they had on HS. I think we will see an uptick defensively this year simply due to experience and reps. Lets hope anyway.


    Top 50 is still a big time stretch.

  • Zach

    Not exactly related and I’m sure there will be an article up shortly, but Thomas Bryant and Emmitt Holt were cited for illegal alcohol possession this past weekend. When will they ever learn?


    Nope. Will they be held accountable? Nope.

  • Hardwood83

    Where did you get that info?
    If true, that will be EXTREMELY disappointing.


    What do you expect? There isn’t any leadership.

  • kris

    They were terrible, Yes. We agree 🙂

  • millzy32

    Kentucky seems to have no problem getting players to play great defense and they are almost all freshman and a new crop every year.


    Kinda did a ” HUH, WHAT ” when I read that part, no wait a minute I didn’t kinda do that, I did exactly that !


    Normally being top 50 in team D shouldn’t be a problem, but then normally a team that is ranked in the top 50 of all Div 1 teams, wasn’t starting from a ranking of over 200 the year before. People can talk about how much a difference having TB in the middle will make, and he will make a difference, or how they will all be a year older, or how JBJ will be so much better because the NBA told him just how bad he was on D and that he knows he has to be a whole lot better if he wants to it make to the next level, but………………….even with all that factored in it is still an enormous jump for ANY team to make under ANY coach, in just one off season. I would be very interested (but not interested enough to do the research lol) in what the number of teams were that were able to make a jump of over a hundred and fifty spots, in a team defense ranking, in just one off season. The number of teams that have been able to do that has to be a very small number, if any ever have. Don’t get me wrong, I think that we will be much better than we were last year when it comes to team D, but then being a 100 spots better could be called being s whole lot better than last year, but still have us holding a triple digit number ranking. Something tells me that a team D ranking of around 100 isn’t going to get us to where we need to be to be able to have the year that most think we have to have for it to be considered a successful year. I’d say that we’re going to have to have a double digit ranking to have that kind of a season and I don’t mean one in the 90’s or the 80’s either. I’m with you in that a ranking in the top 50 should mean us winning a lot of games, it’s just us being able to get to that kind ranking in one off season that has me worried.

  • Bill Graham

    Its not hard to play Defense when 10 of your guys are over 6-8

  • millzy32

    Maybe so but we added 3 players to the roster this season around that size or larger. Also, what are the excuses for the few players that we did have over that height last season. They couldn’t play a lick of D either.

  • Senor

    Agreed. Note my “Davis” and “Noel” references above. MKG was lockdown too. I could go on and on. Kentucky does about a thousand things better than the rest of college basketball. If you clip every program for not “being Kentucky” then you might as well belittle every airline pilot for not flying to the moon for NASA. I smell the stink that comes from the South, but I’d love to have their success. Again I said (in caps….again) MOST freshmen cant play defense. David Robinson didn’t make the Naval Academy a paragon of defensive basketball philosophy, nor does it make any program that didn’t defend like Navy during his tenure deficient. The tone of your reply seems to imply “Why cant Crean be more like Calpari?”

  • millzy32

    Calipari is more of a recruiter than a coach. I would say the same about Crean so yes it wouldn’t hurt to be a little more like the top dog now would it?

  • Senor

    You……win? I still cant figure what you’re getting at. I’ll just leave it at I hope our defense is better this year.