That’s A Wrap: Justin Smith

  • 03/22/2018 8:09 am in

Welcome to “That’s A Wrap,” our player-by-player recap of the 2017-2018 Indiana Hoosiers. Up first: Justin Smith.

Smith (31 games): 6.5 points, 3.2 rebounds, 55% FG, 30% 3FG, 67% FT in 14.9 minutes per game

The most heralded player of Tom Crean’s final recruiting class at Indiana, it didn’t take long for Justin Smith to make an impact for the Hoosiers.

Smith reached double-figures scoring in two of the season’s first three games, including a double-double against Howard and a 10-point effort at Seton Hall, in what would be the first of nine starts on the season for the freshman.

The biggest asset for Smith is his pure athletic ability. Last June, director of athletic performance Clif Marshall measured Smith’s maximum vertical leap at an insane 42.5.” During his freshman season, Smith showcased his hops on several occasions, especially when it came to the offensive boards. Smith excelled at grabbing rebounds mid-air and slamming the ball home, a feat he accomplished against Ohio State, Nebraska, and Iowa.

Only Freddie McSwain and Juwan Morgan grabbed more offensive boards for Indiana, and Smith’s offensive rebounding percentage of 10.6 in conference play ranked sixth in the Big Ten, per KenPom. Even when he wasn’t turning his those into dunks, he was still recording second-chance buckets. According to Synergy, Smith averaged 1.409 points per possession on put-backs, ranking in the 90th percentile of Division I.

Not all of Smith’s work came on the glass, however. He also ranked in the 90th percentile when rolling to the hoop after setting a screen. That figure shoots up to the 96th percentile in pick and pop situations, where over 20 percent of his two-point field goal makes came from.

Smith’s best stretch of the season was over the final four regular-season games, when he averaged 15 points and 6.5 boards per contest while shooting 58 percent from the floor. On senior night, Smith logged a career-high 37 minutes in a double-overtime loss to Ohio State.

Although already an offensive force, Smith still needs work in plenty of areas. He struggled at times shooting from distance, including from behind the three-point line, where he made just three shots all season. The theme was similar at the free throw line, as Smith shot just 67 percent at the charity stripe.

As a freshman, Smith also struggled with taking care of the ball. Smith’s turnover percentage of 19.6 was the highest of all of IU’s frontcourt players. Whether it was an inadequate pass or the ball slipping out of his hands, Smith had 10 multi-turnover games on the year, with Indiana posting a 4-6 record in those contests.

Bottom line: With no shortage of bigs coming into the program next season, as well as redshirt freshman Race Thompson, Smith will have to earn his minutes as a sophomore. But Smith has proven to be a valuable offensive player who is unafraid of the best forwards in the conference, and his experience should give him a leg up over the freshmen to start 2018-19.

Quotable: “If you look at him now, he’s really attacking the rim hard. He’s had some great finishes. He’s on the offensive glass. He’s doing some of the things that he needs to do to be successful, and he’s using his athleticism, and he’s a lot more forceful on his drives. I just think he’s playing with a lot more confidence in and around the basket,” – Archie Miller at media availability prior to senior night.

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  • SCHoosier

    Young man has all the tools..its now a matter of refining them. 3-ball is a work i n progress. For me the big thing would be for him to be stronger with the ball .(he had some sloppy ball handling early in the season.) Lot of up side for JS…gonna love watching his development.

  • inCMitrust

    The front court will have a lot of competition next year for those 120 minutes, but I still expect Justin’s minutes to increase from 15 this year. The front court should be the strength of next years team. If we could add Romeo and/or Ryan we would be pretty damn good.

  • iugradmark

    This is an important offseason for Justin. He needs to get stronger and work on being able to finish through college contact. We also need him to be a more effective defensive rebounder. He had several games where he didn’t snag a single defensive board. I hope he and Coach Marshall can work on some stamina drills. He seemed to get gassed with relatively few minutes. I think this is probably just a maturity issue and the fact that you have to go hard on every play in college. Seems like a great kid and has many athletic skills.

  • HoosierBballNut

    I predict and Oladipo-esque Junior season for Justin.. Soph year will still be better than his Freshman year but I think his biggest leap will come the year after when he is a threat both down low and away from the basket with a solid 3 point stroke

  • Hoosiernation1887

    To me, it seemed like one of things Justin struggled with especially early on was simply catching the ball down low in traffic whether it was getting a rebound or securing an entry pass. If he can improve this alone I think we’ll see a lot more productivity. In fact, I think we started to see it at the end of this season in part to his improvement in that area.

  • Outoftheloop

    I love this kid!

  • Michael Forrester

    Justin smith is going to be a great player I believe. Has anyone heard of Luke brown Fromm Blackford?

  • ImYourHuckleberry

    Yes. Had a big year. Ended with a broken ankle I believe. Idk how good his competition is but he’s a talented guard. I think he was averaging like 27. Great distributor. He’ll need to bulk up if he wants to play big ten ball. Only a freshman so I’m sure he’s still growing.

  • inLinE6

    He’s kind of following a path similar to Morgan’s. Talented but also works hard. Had no fear in his game, but needs more consistency and efficiency. He’ll be a very important piece in year 2, and could be all big 10 level star player by junior year. Very very excited to see his dunks, but sometimes he has to realize that we prefer 2 points over a bricked dunk attempt any day of the week.

  • kurk81

    Agree, but it seemed that Justin’s ability to finish through contact improved in the last few games of the season. So, we’re already seeing that improvement you’re looking for.

  • Mark Bando

    I agree with what you are saying, the development of JS is the single most important thing that will determine how we do next year. If he can become a consistent 14-15 point scorer to team with JM, we will be in good shape.

  • Mark Bando

    So true about the importance of the work ethic. It makes all the difference.

  • Arch Puddington

    Gotta disagree here. Justin Smith’s progress is really important, but what happens in the back court will be significantly more important. We didn’t miss the tournament because of defense, rebounding, or front court scoring, things that Justin is associated with. And while I expect Justin to improve, we will also have Race Thompson on board next year, and hopefully DD at least at some point in the season. So the front court will be better next year with our without huge gains from Justin.

    Our big problem this year was that we had no meaningful outside shooting and no consistent play from the PG spot. In my view, what we get out of Devonte Green or Robert Phinisee matters more than how much Justin improves. If one or both can reliably attack the rim, distribute the ball, and shoot, we will be a much better team. If not, we will face another season like the one that just ended almost regardless of what Justin does.

  • John D Murphy

    You my friend are the load star of optimism on this site. I’m going to say 11-12 would be huge.

  • Sherronhasaheadache

    he has all the tools to be a really good big ten player, now its up to coach to get the most out of him and the rest of the kids.

  • Sherronhasaheadache

    his grandpa ( the coach) played at Peeyoo and Painter is all over that.

  • Arch Puddington

    12/6 would be a great year. In as much as he averaged roughly half those numbers in under 15 minutes per game, starters minutes plus a bit of improvement gets him there pretty comfortably. That’s a “what if”, but not a crazy one.

  • TomJameson

    I would love to see Justin take a big Sophomore leap. I am positive he will improve, but by how much. I already absolutely love his game, but now he has to refine his skills and start making his shots. Especially layups and dunks. 🙂

  • IU Hoosiers # 34, 1979-83

    Justin Smith is going to be really great for IU next season. Great skills and future ahead of him. He will develop significantly during the off season, count on it. RL signing with or without IU is also important but more importantly the development of Justin Smith may dictate how well IU does next season.

  • MrNobody

    Yeah but his future girlfriend whom he has yet to meet may be considering IU 🙂

  • Sarasota Hoosier

    I would agree but IU needs to find a shooting coach that will enable Justin and the rest of team to improve outside shooting. No one on this coaching staff seemed to improve shooting. VO and OG had Tim Buckley, aka “the shot doctor”

  • Tommy Morrsion

    Future is bright for JS. Has a high ceiling thanks to his athletic ability.

    So much depends on these guys’ work ethics during the off-season. Victor took strides each year at IU and is doing the same at an NBA level. It’s in his DNA to continually improve.

    If JS has the same intangibles (no reason to see he doesn’t), he can be truly special.

  • HoosierBballNut

    How about Mr. Shilling?

  • Sarasota Hoosier

    You know, that seems logical but I saw no improvement during season, and several players regressed in shooting percentages. Perhaps Mr. Shilling was not assigned to teaching shooting. You would think just spending time coaching with Steve Alford would help!

  • Chris Solomon

    He may be one of the greatest, reminds me of a mix of Keith Smart with his hops. Also I see a young Greg Gram. His shot will come, with bigger defenders gaurding him over the summer.Also the weight room will make a difference in his ability to be a great defender.

  • Michael Forrester

    Local news station talked to him about his dream school he responded with IU

  • Mark Bando

    Yeah, many of my posts do feature a “best case scenario” componant. You generally need at least two scoring stars to make the tourney, and of course many other things including the good guard play arch mentions below. And i hope JS can be scoring threat #2. I really think JS can make a HUGE jump next year.

  • Mark Bando

    You’re right in that if we dont get good point guard play, a huge rise from JS may not mean much. You can get in the tourney without good outside shooting as arizona, kentucky and others did. But you probably wont go very far.

  • Mark Bando

    Syracuse another tourney team without good outside shooting.

  • Hardwood83

    I’m confused by this: “With no shortage of bigs coming into the program next season, as well as redshirt freshman Race Thompson”
    did I miss something? Forrester is the only “big” and IU is losing McSwain, so pretty much a wash, right?

  • HtownMike

    I think he meant “wings”, not bigs.

  • IUBizmark

    I see Justin as a 14/7 guy. A guy who will be the #1 option when Juwan takes a breather. I think he will also be our shut down defender who can guard 1-4 as long as the 4 isn’t 6’10 or bigger. Justin Smith is going to play in the NBA and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him go pro after this next season. Love this kid and his game.

  • marcusgresham

    I think he’s going to have to grow to be a B1G caliber player but Southridge has the Montgomery kid who is also a freshman guard, already 6’5, and also a big-time scorer. He put 39 on someone earlier this year.

  • marcusgresham

    That’s weight room work, but not the bulking that most people think of. It’s more strengthening the hands and wrists.

  • Tenacious Newt

    Maybe slow down on the march to immediate recruiting salvation for the team next winter. CALAMARI is out again via Bruce Weber of all “chessmasters”. Romeo is young, short and his hometown university went full Czar Bomba right in his face. As much as I love B-town, it ain’t Nashville. So it goes.

  • MrNobody


  • Shaggy_C

    Was going to say, we only really have two ‘bigs’ on the roster next year from a height perspective (6’10″+) and only one of them actually plays at C.

    Though you left out Priller, he’s 6’9″, so the average team height will actually drop next year.

  • marcusgresham

    For one day, at least, I rescind everything bad I’ve ever said about Bruce Weber.

  • HoosierBballNut

    I agree. Probably they focused a lot on defensive concepts ?? I am just trying to come up with reasons to hold on to hope 🙂

  • HoosierintheZoo

    I recall Archie pinned JS’ need for defensive improvement as a major reason why he was acclimated into the lineup so slowly. He came on strong in that regard toward end of season and his confidence took off as soon as he was able to keep himself on the floor with solid D. Will be interesting to see how frontcourt rotation is handled next year- I personally see Morgan, Smith and McBob as continuing to absorb the most minutes while DD maybe starts but gets less minutes overall and Moore, Thompson, and Hunter become fringe rotation players for us. Would not be surprised to see any of the 3 take a big leap this offesason and challenge for major minute though…

    Also, depending on what happens with Romeo, I could see either Anderson or Hunter getting some minutes at 2 guard I recall Arch saying they viewed Hunter as a “big guard”. All three current guards can play the point but to get longer defensively we could use a big 2, like that New Albany fella ..

  • Hoosier Hall
  • PBzeer

    The most troubling part of his game, to me, was only having 7 assists to 34 turnovers. He needs to be more aware when he get’s the ball down low that there will often be someone open (much like he was for quite a few Morgan assists).

  • marcusgresham

    Priller graduates. The average height will not go down, and that’s without Langford (or Ryan Taylor, both of whom are 6’6.)
    Priller 6’9
    Hartman 6’7
    McSwain 6’6
    Johnson 6’3
    +Newkirk 6’1

    replaced with

    Thompson 6’8
    Forrester 6’8
    Hunter 6’7
    Anderson 6’6
    + Phinisee 6’0

  • marcusgresham

    More likely is, “Steve can shoot. Just stay out of his way.” lol

  • IU Hoosiers # 34, 1979-83

    Don’t do that!!!