2015-2016 Player Profile: Thomas Bryant

  • 10/04/2015 9:21 pm in

With the start of college basketball season on the horizon, we’re taking a long look at the conference at large as well as Indiana’s roster this month. Today, we begin our look at Indiana’s roster with Thomas Bryant.

After back-to-back losses to Northwestern and Iowa, the Hoosiers concluded the 2014-2015 regular season against Michigan State in Bloomington on March 7. Indiana dropped a third straight that day, and some Indiana fans booed as the Hoosiers got down by double digits in the second half.

But a hard fought comeback almost forced the game into overtime. And that made an impression on a high school senior sitting behind Indiana’s bench that Saturday afternoon — Huntington Prep’s Thomas Bryant.

“That game with Michigan State, they had heart, they played their hearts out and the way they lost was just hard,” Bryant said later that month at McDonald’s All-American media day at the United Center in Chicago. “You just know they fight each and every day.”

The next Saturday at Madison Square Garden, Bryant gave a commitment to the program on live TV. Once considered a Syracuse lean because of comments his mother made, Bryant became the fifth McDonald’s All-American Tom Crean has recruited to Bloomington.

It’s well-established he’s one of the top talents in the 2015-2016 class. But after a season where Collin Hartman spent significant time at the center position, the 6-foot-10 big man’s arrival in Bloomington fills the team’s glaring need of legitimate size up front.

Bryant makes an offense that was one of the nation’s best a season ago more versatile and balanced. Everyone knows Indiana will look to fill it up from beyond the arc again this season, but key too much on the perimeter and Bryant will make you pay in the post. He’s a strong finisher around the rim. When he’s close enough to the hoop, he dunks the ball with authority — leaving nothing to chance. It can work the other way, too. Double Bryant down low and some quick passing should lead to open 3-point opportunities for his teammates. Like Cody Zeller before him, Bryant runs the floor well for his size and should contribute in Indiana’s up-tempo transition game.

Bryant is also an above average shooter for his size and has the ability to hit the 3-point shot. But whether Indiana will need him to flash any of his shooting skills this season in the offense remains to be seen.

The freshman brings balance on the other side of the ball as well. Indiana rarely applied on-ball pressure on the perimeter last season. We should see more of that this season, though, as Bryant will be on the back line as a safety valve. He’s a strong shot blocker with length.

The Huntington Prep product is a sharp kid who’s coachable. It makes him a good fit in a program that exceeds with player development. He already seems to be taking well to the team’s conditioning and training regime. In his press conference Thursday, Crean said Bryant improved his vertical nine inches since arriving on campus in June.

Bottom Line: Bryant’s skill set and size make him an ideal fit for a program that was lacking what he brings to the table. He should be a starter from day one and his high motor should make him an immediate force. Bryant will face his challenges in conference with the likes of Purdue’s A.J. Hammons and Isaac Haas as well fellow highly-touted freshman Diamond Stone of Maryland. If he can stay out of foul trouble, Bryant figures to be a key player on both sides of the ball for the Hoosiers all season long — especially now that Emmitt Holt, Devin Davis and Hanner Mosquera-Perea are no longer with the program.

Quotable: “I thought Thomas had a really good two practices because he’s willing to be coached. He did not walk through that door with a sense of entitlement. Great body language. He’s the perfect anecdote for what they were missing. I think he’ll have a chance to be a real factor come January in conference.” — ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla’s take on Indiana’s first day of practice.

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  • Kyl470

    In case TB didn’t know he is the reason people think this team can make a run at the Final Four. No pressure.

  • SCHoosier

    TB’s potential foul trouble given our porous perimeter defense is my main concern. He’s got the total package IU has lacked in the 5 position.

  • Tyler T

    9 inch increase in vertical…wow!

  • And One

    I’d rather not see him attempt a 3-pt shot on a regular basis, but I predict he’ll hit one during one of those games where everyone gets into the act and six different guys are making them. Please let it be against Purdue.

  • sarge

    Purdue is the opponent that his outside shot could affect the most. Pulling Hammons or Haas away from the basket would really weaken their defense, and make them work much harder on both ends of the floor in comparison to last year. I would like to see him dominate that matchup more than any other on the schedule.

  • Young Hoosier

    I’m thinking he’ll play about 25 minutes a game even though he should be playing in the 30-35 range. But that is Crean’s job to figure out. Obviously a great addition and the 2nd big man we’ve stole from Cuse in 3 years. The biggest thing he needs to do is be big. Be big and rebound. He’ll be ok if he does that.

  • Bradley Kreppel

    I thought there was more time between the Michigan State game and his commitment. I remember hearing about the commitment while in Indy for the Final Four.

  • Ole Man

    Which people think that? LOL!
    I do think that with some breaks that IU can be a good team and go a little deeper in the tourney.

  • inLinE6

    I guess it all depends on the improvement of the defense, but of course his inside presence is significant in that area. It’s equally important to have JB, RJ and NZ stay on their man, otherwise it leaves TB in awkward situation and foul trouble would be inevitable.

  • Kyl470

    Old Man I know you have read the same posts that I have. TB is going to be the savior of our defense.

  • Bill Graham

    I love that TB is coachable. I think he needs to add some muscle (I’d be interested to hear how much he’s gained since being on campus). I don’t think he’s a one and done because I don’t think he’s NBA mobile yet. There is a big difference between his 6-10 mobility and the 6-10 mobility of guys like Paul George, Anthony Davis, and Kevin Love (obviously those guys are all greats and thats apples to oranges but strictly in terms of mobility I’d like to see TB move more like Sabonis than Wiltjer…

  • TomJameson

    I think most people believe TB isn’t the reason for anything. What I believe is that he is a piece of the puzzle, albeit an important piece. Call him an enabler … by that I mean that he has the center, so the perimeter defense can concentrate on, well, the perimeter.

    Other important pieces are the shooters and slashers that he will be surrounded with. All of those are battle-hardened, stronger, faster, and another year experienced. Just a better balanced team … barring any foul problems. But even so, Max will help in that regard somewhat.

    I certainly wouldn’t call their defense a porous perimeter defense just yet, especially since they haven’t played that first game. So a lot depends on the improvement of the defense … not exactly a blinding light there! LOL

  • TomJameson

    I don’t think you can call it a porous perimeter defense considering the season hasn’t started yet. LOL Let them play a couple of games before we pre-judge them.

    And since virtually the entire off-season up to the most current presser by CTC, the focus has been on improving the defense … well, I think my bet is going to be on an improved defense. I won’t judge on last years performance because, I just don’t see how they can’t improve.

  • TomJameson

    Amazing isn’t it?? Some don’t believe it, but watching how some of the workouts emphasized jumping, while carrying a medicine ball, makes be a believer!

  • TomJameson

    Great point. Making their big men tired is also a great way to get them in foul trouble.

  • TomJameson

    You just described Max’s job to the letter.

  • TomJameson

    In the presser where CTC mentioned TB added 9 inches to his vertical, he also mentioned how much he added to his squats and (I think) his bench press. Seemed to be a lot, but I can’t remember the exact numbers. I would hope that stronger would translate to more weight since muscle is heavier than fat.

  • Nimbi63

    One basketball scout said of Bryant “He’s no Cody Zeller or Noah Vonleh.” I felt much better when he went on to say; “He’s somewhere between those two.”


    Has there been more lip service than usual given to improving the defense, yes, but I don’t know that I would go so far as to say that, virtually the whole off-season focused on improving it. That’s my opinion anyway cause I haven’t been at the practices. I base that opinion off of things said over past off-seasons and then seeing the defensive product put on the floor after hearing many of the same things being said in past off-seasons. We’ve heard TC talk about getting better on defense in past off-seasons, but I don’t remember seeing anything that really jumped out at me once it was time to show that they had actually been as serious about it as they had let on.

    Franschilla’s (who isn’t my favorite sports guy but was actually at full practices) biggest point, by far, was about the very large percentage of allowed practice time they spent on teaching offense and how TC has always been that way. Evidently the part of practice where he watched defense being taught impressed him only to the point that he, in passing, threw out a couple or so short lines about it that included the ole familiar, gotta get better, line.

    Get better, seems to be the popular catch phrase with the coaches and players when it comes to what needs to change from last season, but I think that doesn’t even come close to describing what needs to happen with our defense. Maybe I shouldn’t talk about certain lines being overused, cause I’ve probably used, we only go as far as our defense takes next season, almost as many times as they used, got get better. lol

  • TomJameson

    I don’t really remember any real talk in prior years about focusing on improving the defense, except maybe a general “get better” comment. Probably because the defense has not been such a major problem like it was last season.

    All the talk about playing time linked to playing defense, all the videos showing drills working on defensive movement (lateral quickness, arms up, fighting through screens, etc…), they shouldn’t be ignored either. I haven’t watched a practice either, Mike, but from everything that’s been published via articles and videos, the defense has been a focus (not the only thing, just a focus).

    A person can assume that the defense will be the same as it was last year and completely ignore the fact that the team is a year older, stronger, faster, and (arguably) more determined. And the fact that they added a key piece of the puzzle under the basket (badly needed for defense). Also that there has been a much spoken about commitment to a better defense, even to linking the defensive effort to playing time. Or one can look at all those same factors and assume that there will indeed be an improved defense on the floor.

    The only question on my mind is how much improvement will there be? No matter what, I would not pre-label the defense as “porous”. We can all have our opinions, but the real answers will come when they start playing the games.


    I can remember several times during off-seasons where TC talked about needing to, “get better”, (there’s that phrase again) and then it not looking like they spent as much time as they should have on it once the games started, and especially looking like that when we hit the meat of the conference schedule. I haven’t pre-labeled our team defense porous, but rather have said that I don’t see it improving near as much as a lot of others, especially in the beginning of the season. I hope I end up being wrong, and you end up being right, not being sarcastic, I really do, but TC’s history with team defense tells this fan to take the wait and see approach. I don’t feel like I’ve been too critical of TC’s results when it comes to his overall body of work when speaking of team defense. Maybe it’s cause I stressed playing good defense so hard when I was the one running practices. The stats that Arch posted a few threads back pretty much says it all when it comes to team defense since TC has been at the controls, and I’m not counting the first two or three years in that either.

    People, including me, have talked about this being a very pivotal year for Crean, and whether he should be retained or not. I guess I have been like this about our team defense because that is one of the biggest things that I’ll be watching and basing my opinion on. One of the main reasons that I’ll be doing it that way is because I want to be able to see that he has taken a long look at what he needs to “get better” at himself and his squads playing better team defense is one of his biggest areas, if not the biggest, that he needs to show he can do better at. Let’s roll that damn ball onto the court and get to finding out where this team is !!