Newkirk as the starting point guard? “It’s up to him”

  • 06/03/2016 12:14 pm in

Indiana has a significant void to fill as it begins preparation for the 2016-17 season without Yogi Ferrell.

The accomplishments of Ferrell have been well-documented and won’t soon be forgotten by Indiana fans. He’s one of the best point guards in program history and was one of the top guards in all of college basketball last season. That makes it difficult to project how the Hoosiers will adjust to life without him, given his importance to last season’s success.

One of the players expected to help try to fill the void left by Ferrell is Pittsburgh transfer Josh Newkirk. He was also one of three Indiana players in attendance at Wednesday’s “On the Road with the Hoosiers” tour stop at Huber’s Winery in Borden.

To kick off the Q & A session that was the final piece of the evening, a young Hoosier fan took the microphone and directed a question towards the stage.

“Is, uh, Newkirk going to be a starting point guard?” he asked.

Tom Crean, serving as an enthusiastic moderator, replied as the crowd laughed: “Is Josh Newkirk going to be the starting point guard? I don’t know, I don’t know. It’s up to him. He can’t answer that.”

Crean then turned back to Newkirk, “Can you answer that? He can’t answer. Are you going to be the starting point guard?”

After a little prodding from the crowd and Crean, Newkirk finally replied.

“Yeah, it’ll be me,” he said with a smile.

As Indiana enters its first season since 2011-2012 without Ferrell on the roster, Newkirk is one of several players on the roster expected to log minutes at the point.

He arrived in Bloomington last fall looking for a fresh start as a nagging injury as a sophomore at Pittsburgh eventually required surgery to repair a microfracture and a torn meniscus.

Newkirk has been healthy enough to practice since earlier in the year and on Wednesday, Crean cited his work there during the second half of the season as major boost for the Hoosiers.

“I’m feeling good,” Newkirk told reporters prior to the Huber’s event. “I still do my knee protocol, my rehab, all of that type of stuff. I’ve been working, practicing. I had a full year of practice, so I think I’ll be ready.”

But performance in practice is a lot different than the stage that awaits Newkirk at Indiana, a program with major expectations and looking to defend a regular season Big Ten champpionship. The redshirt junior said he hopes he’s able to build on what he learned from watching and going against Ferrell last season.

“He was very accountable of his own work,” Newkirk said of Ferrell. “He led the team, made sure everybody was in the right spot. That’ll be the biggest thing, his leadership.”

Beyond the leadership and floor presence, though, there’s also a statistical piece vacated by Ferrell.

He led Indiana in scoring and assists and also shot 42 percent from behind the 3-point line. One of the biggest areas to scrutinize when you examine Newkirk’s production at Pittsburgh is his 3-point shooting.

In two seasons under Jamie Dixon, he shot 35.7 percent from behind the arc, which is a number he hopes will improve with continued assistance from associate head coach Tim Buckley.

“I believe I’m a lot better,” Newkirk said. “I worked a lot with my form shooting when I really couldn’t really run or jump during my injury. I think I can a long way with form and just building better technique.

“Credit to coach Buckley. He just helped me tuck my elbow in more and helped me with my follow through. Those are two of the main things.”

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  • Fivelefts

    I look forward to seeing some off season video on JN! I remember how good he looked in that Pitt matchup! If he plays like that! I will be very pleased with him! Another excellent strategic move, by the coaching staff!

  • CreamandCrimson

    Josh Newkirk is definitely one of the more interesting pieces of the upcoming season (heck, they are all interesting, who am I kidding?). No one is questioning his speed and he definitely has the potential to be a defensive force on the perimeter. The big questions: how does he contribute on the offensive end as a “point guard” or “lead guard” or “distributor”, however you choose to define it? Second, how does he contribute as a shooter?

    I remember a time not so long ago that many were questioning the assistant coaching staff for various reasons. I think we have one of the best staffs in the country and “The Shot Doctor” Tim Buckley is pretty much universally admired as a man that can pinpoint and fix problems with perimeter shooting. Has Josh Newkirk turned into a reliable 40% 3-point shooter? Does this system fit him better than Pitt’s did? (it certainly seems like it but we won’t know until November, at the earliest) So many questions but Buckley has a proven track record of working with guards and turning them into shooters so I’d be quite surprised if Newkirk’s percentage from 3 didn’t jump significantly.

  • NC Hoosier

    I can definitely see times where we play a three guard offense and he starts at the point, along side RJ, JBJ, CH/OG and TB.

  • SCHoosier

    For me the question is has JN’s quickness and lateral movement be impaired by his injury?If he’s back to his Pitt freshman form this kid will be a handful for defenders and a great defender himself. If not..Josh will have to use his savvy to make things happen. I’m convinced he’ll make a serious contribution as a starter and/or off the bench. He will get key minutes. Question is..will he be in the line up at crunch time late second half.

  • N71

    On the interesting scale here’s what I think is the most intriguing and why:

    1. What impact will McSwain have? The optimist in me hears, “he has the body of an NFL tight end” and I see dunk highlight videos that rival Troy Williams or Victor yet he’s not played in a Big Ten game ever. I really have no idea what to expect, hence interesting.
    2. Can Newkirk play serviceable minutes? I don’t expect Yogi level, just get the ball in the right hands, don’t turn it over, score when available, break any press when needed, and don’t be a defensive liability. He’s not played since his injury so the first game will be really, really interesting, second to learning what Freddy is going to bring.
    3. Can James perform physically? We know he can shoot and score but will he have the lateral abilities to be effective on defense? No idea, therefore interesting.

  • John Prichard

    I know this will not go over very well with my I.U. fan base. I really really love Yogi game, but I do not feel that he was one of the best point guards at I.U. . There were too many games i can remember where Yogi over the 4 years where he could not gets that one play at the end of the game to get a win. go I.U. looking forward to next year.

  • JN doesn’t need to be Yogi to contribute what this team will need, I don’t think. Just play in control, distribute the ball, follow the game plan, and hit the shots when they’re available. Oh,and defend. He’ll have enough of a supporting cast around him that he shouldn’t have to offer up much in the way of heroics.

  • ArghSonOfOhCrap

    I see RJ, JBJ, CH, DD, TB… OG the sixth man.

  • TomJameson

    I think your 1st and 3rd questions are pretty valid, but in my mind anyway, the 2nd has been answered. Although not playing since his injury, he has been practicing for a year with the team, and with Yogi. All the word from the team has been how fast he plays, how well he passes, and how good he is defensively. Really, in my mind, the only question about Josh is his offense. And seriously, if Coach Buckley has been helping Josh’s shot, and JN has been shooting as much as he says, I’m pretty sure that he will be competent, at least. Not a Yogi replacement, but I think he’ll be serviceable.

  • TomJameson

    Even Crean says it’s a strong competition between JN and RJ. I think it’s going to be an interesting summer of practices! 🙂

  • TomJameson

    Everybody likes to talk about how to replace Yogi, myself included, but that really isn’t the point for this team.

    This season the team will be different without Yogi, but that doesn’t mean it’s lacking. Actually, it will be one of the most balanced teams we’ve seen in a very long time. We’ll have very good front & back courts … all at the same time. Barring injuries, there will be skilled depth at all positions with no letdowns.

    There will be a tough pre-season schedule, and I’m sure a tougher B1G schedule than last year (couldn’t really be easier, right?). IMHO, by the time B1G season starts this team will have played some tough games together, will have solidified into a good unit, and will have a very good idea of who’s getting the minutes. We should have the on-court leader pretty established as well.

    Still have questions going into the off-season, but those should be mostly answered by the time the pre-season starts because of the kind of information that “leaks out” through all the different media (the most important and credible coming from Alex).

    I think it’s going to be a good year, can’t wait for it to start.

  • TokyoSteve

    Real foggy on the details, but in some interview at some point after Newkirk started practicing this year, Yogi was asked about Newkirk’s contribution to the practices–I think the questioner was asking in terms of both overall ability and quickness. I can’t remember what Yogi said (maybe he just smiled or even just let out a brief “whew”), but I remember that my interpretation of his response was, “You don’t know the half of it.” Been looking forward to seeing what he’s got ever since.

  • Ole Man

    We’ll see 🙂

  • Ole Man

    I’m not buying it until I see him against real competition. All the practice in the world means nothing (Just ask my golf game!) unless it translates on the court.
    Hope you’re right.
    Still think it’s a BIG question mark.

  • Ole Man

    If we never see the three guard offense all season long, that is too soon for me.

  • Ole Man

    #3 is probably the most intriguing.
    #2 is interesting.
    On #1 I want to see those videos! Everything I’ve seen shows him as a “poor man’s TW”; nothing rivaling TW and especially Vic.

    What I’m hoping with McFly is that fans give him a chance to carve out his own niche and be his own player, whatever that is, rather than loading him with expectations of replacing TW.

  • Ole Man

    I didn’t read that into the comments.
    If that’s true, IU is in trouble.

  • TomJameson

    He had a pretty good game against IU, I think he was playing against real competition then. The practicing with/against IU for a year is just getting to know the way things are done at IU. I think it’s a LITTLE question mark, not too concerned about JN.

    It’s interesting that you’re much higher on McSwain, when he and JN are in similar positions. Both played past HS for 2 years (McSwain-Juco .. JN-D1) and both have to learn a new system.

    I don’t hold JN’s past injury against him because it’s been quite a while now that he’s been able to practice full. The sitting out a year has given him plenty of healing time.

  • TomJameson

    I agree about McSwain, he needs to make his own way and not be a “new” TW. I think we’ll end up very happy with the guy, but we’ll be happy with McSwain and his own brand of play.

  • TomJameson

    You saying that IU would be in trouble if there is a strong competition between JN and RJ is confusing. It really shows a very large lack of faith in one of those guards, or TC. Along with comments you’ve made elsewhere, I’m guessing it’s a strong lack of faith in JN. And I just don’t know what you have against JN when, by your own admission, you don’t really know anything about him.

    Comments have been made by the team and by Crean about how well JN is taking to the offensive quickness of IU. I’m not going to go back and try to find them all, but even Crean’s comments made at Huber’s Winery about JN in this article, strongly implied to that competition.

    I think that a good completion between 2 good guards for the starting PG position, would be a very good thing for IU.

  • Missing Moye

    That’s not at all what I would prefer, but I think you’re right.

  • Jtime

    Yogi’s record as the starting PG over his 4 years says otherwise. He didn’t make every play at the end of the game, but he made most. Clearly I’m biased, because I absolutely loved Yogi. Gonna miss his heart and effort as much as anything. That dude always left it all on the court in my opinion. He represented the Cream and Crimson as well as any 4 year player to ever wear the uniform. Class act in every way.

  • AndyCapp

    I loved upper classman Yogi, not necessarily a big fan of Frosh/Soph Yogi. Early on, too many instances of trying to make something from nothing (anyone remember “the fabulous flying Yogi”) and, yes, I do recall that as a soph he was carrying a greater share of responsibility after we lost VO and CZ. I give him major props for contributing to our overall record while he was here and absolutely agree he represented the C&C well. If we are talking pure PG I would say he is in top 5 of all time. If we are talking guards generally I would put him between top 6-10. Just MO.

  • hardly

    I think a lot of us felt that way until this year, but for different reasons. Freshman year he gets a pass based on the rest of the team, soph and junior years it felt like he bought too much into those saying ‘yogi needs to be a scorer’, and i think his game, although the raw stats were impressive, suffered. I dunno how much credit he should get for the turnaround this past year – probably a decent amount. In that period I felt that his decision making improved and he embraced the point guard position holistically – as a leader and as a facilitator. Granted, many times that facilitation resulted in his own shot, which is fine as long as it is a quality opportunity. He also had a lot more to work with this year because defenses couldn’t key only on him – so maybe his soph and junior years would have been better if this were the case then. He also probably gets a discount because of all the off the court shenanigans, of which he took part in some, that happened ‘on his watch.’ With all that said, the guy busted his tail and developed himself into a very impressive all around player over the four years he was at IU.

  • Ole Man

    Apples to oranges, first of all. Two different positions–JN’s being far more involved and complicated.
    Odd that you think I’m that high on McFly. I think, given time, he’ll be a good player. But I have never raved about him. I don’t think he replaces TW in any way.

  • Ole Man

    Turn that around — I don’t know how you could be so high on JN without having seen him play. (Sooooooooo, it has nothing to do with a lack of faith on my part.)
    Haven’t seen that many comments about JN to indicate “he’s all that”; and I don’t take Crean’s Huber’s comments to be anything but “fire lighting.”
    RJ has earned the starter’s spot. You take that away from the young man you affect his play and the team’s chemistry.
    RJ is everything right about the IU program and you want to hand his starting job to an unproven and an unknown.

  • TomJameson

    I don’t want to hand the PG position to anyone. I never said that, not at all, not sure how you could pull that out of thin air.

    What I said, and I’ll cut-n-paste here, is that “I think that a good competition between 2 good guards for the starting PG position, would be a very good thing for IU”

    The starting PG should be the best one. I think the players and coaches ALL think the same thing, which is why their practices are competitive.

    I personally think that both RJ and JN will be playing the point a bunch, and with very similar minutes at the position, so the “point” is really moot.

    But I think it would be a terrible mistake to hand the job to somebody with no regard to the competition.

    The only other thing that we have a different notions about, is Josh being unproven and unknown. He has played at the D1 level as long as RJ. Plenty of film on him. Has been a member of the team for over a year.

    Not truly unproven nor unknown.

    Guess we’ll just have to disagree on this one. 🙂 Ain’t IU basketball interesting? lol

  • Koko

    I would be very disappointed if RJ were not starting. He does not need to prove himself in any way. JN and the rest of the guards have to show it on the court. They will get their chances. I include JBJ in showing it on the court. Coming off the injury and having not played in competition in quite a while he needs to show us where he is at in his play as does JN and the other new guys. We know JBJ can shoot the 3 which in my opinion (if he is healthy) would give him a start with RJ initially but the rest is up to him to show us where he is at in terms of changes to his game. Hopefully by the start of the B1G the guard situation will have worked itself out.

  • Ole Man

    You mirror my thoughts.
    Hopefully, JBJ doesn’t come out with “something to prove” to anyone, especially NBA scouts.

  • TomJameson

    So, RJ can sit back and relax, drink a few beers and read a few comic books because he doesn’t have anything to prove. He should just be handed the starter position just … well … because!

    But “JN and the rest of the guards have to show it on the court”.

    Okay, sarcasm aside, you know that they ALL will have to compete for their positions, even RJ. I think we all want the best team on the court. These guys are so deep without losing any talent, it could be very fun to watch them play.

    I am a big fan of RJ, but I don’t think the point is his natural position. He can play it, of course, but I like him a lot better as a 2-guard. He does okay handling the ball (lot of turn overs last year), but he is a great shooter and that should be taken advantage of IMHO.

    JN is a more natural point, a ball handler and a distributer and a less of an offensive threat (although he says he’s been working on his shot).

    It’s nice to talk about these things, but I’m putting my faith in Crean who sees them practicing all the time. And I think as part of his growth as coach last year, he has shown that he will play the best team for the match up at the time, and not just throw the upper class-men on the floor.

  • Koko

    Oh I think TC will “throw” the upper class-men on the floor the first few games. Who said RJ should start “just because”? I think his body of work over the past two years speak well of him…..well enough to earn him a starting position come the first game of the season. And yes the other guards (including JN) can look great in practice but I wanna see it on the court in game time situations. Besides, the starters for the start of the season probably won’t be the same starters when the B1G starts. TC will work out playing the best team for the best match up during the pre-B1G games. He will know what he has by the start of the B1G. I think you are getting way ahead of yourself. Your love affair with JN is clouding your judgement and not letting it all play out on the court. And RJ will indeed be on the court when the first tip of the season goes up…..providing he is healthy and ready to roll.

  • Koko

    Agreed on your JBJ comment. I think it will show early on if he does feel he needs to prove something.

  • TomJameson

    Okay, I mostly agreed with you until you started the crap about my “love affair” with JN. I do not have an agenda with him any more than your “love affair” with RJ, who according to your post I originally responded to, “doesn’t have to prove himself in any way”.

    That’s a ludicrous statement considering the amount of competition that will be going on at ALL the guard positions.

    You should leave that kind of garbage out of your posts, they are much better without it.

  • Koko

    RJ does not have to prove himself and I do have an agenda with him. That agenda is based on having watched him play…on court game time situations for most of two seasons…..JN played well for Pitt when they were here but he has not played in an IU uniform. Until he does I see no need to put so much attention on him being our PG or anyone else until the season starts and we see the guards play. I’m quite sure RJ, TB, CH, JBJ, OG, JM and even Priller are not going to be phased by any “amount of competition” offered by JN and the rest of the new guys. Not JN or any of the new guys have anything to offer in the way of competition that the veterans have faced in the B1G. The amount of competition you continue to talk about will not occur in preseason workouts/practice. It will occur once the season has started, new guys have played and gained confidence in what they can do in game time competition. The veterans should be on the court come first game tip off time….they have earned it.

  • TomJameson

    No player is guaranteed a position.
    They always have to compete so the best players can shine.
    The competition in practices, and CTC, will determine starters.
    Nobody earns a starting position for their work a year ago.
    Competition at IU IS in the practices. Always has been.
    The season will see different options used. Just my opinion.
    Yes, playing gets you confidence … BUT
    Hard/good practices gets you playing time …
    It’s always been that way.

    Simple sentences … Hope you can understand them.
    I’m done!

  • Koko

    I do understand your sentences. I just don’t agree with with all of them. For example TB most certainly has earned a starting position for his work from a year ago. So has OG and CH. You know my opinion on RJ and also JBJ with caveats I mentioned previously on JBJ. Who knows the ins and outs of college ball better, the veterans or the raw new guys? The new guys know what they are practicing for but won’t know why until they get their feet wet in game time conditions. You never answered my question…..would you start unproven in game time situations freshmen over veterans in our first game on a very big stage against Kansas? I wouldn’t. I don’t care how competitive they were in practice.

  • TomJameson

    Look Koko, the ONLY thing I completely disagree with is the concept that anybody, can earn a starting position for his work from a year ago.

    TB is different because he has a completely unproven replacement in DD, but RJ is who we are “talking” about, and there there are several experienced guards that can compete to take the PG job away.

    To answer your (IMO pointless) question … “unproven in game time situations freshmen over veterans …” no, they should not start in an important game. But, again, we were talking about RJ and JN. Neither of whom is an unproven veteran.

    BOTH of those players have played in big-time games at the CBB level for major D1 schools. BOTH of them have been playing CBB for 2 years. BOTH of them have been working and practicing with the team for a solid year. BOTH of them are coming off of injuries, although RJ’s is much more recent.

    I do not have an agenda for Josh, but I dislike anybody being thrown aside like that, especially when the person doing the throwing knows nothing about how well they both are playing right now … how well they are playing as PG/shooting guard, and how good they are in practice.

    And IU has proven that those practices are VERY competitive, especially in the off-season and beginning of the year. (ask CH about his ribs) IMO, everybody should care about how competitive they are in practice … You can bet that the coach cares, and starts and gives playing time accordingly

  • Koko

    Okay….thanks for answering my question.