Welcome to offseason storylines, a look into some of the biggest storylines surrounding the 2020-2021 Indiana Hoosiers. First up: A look at IU’s breakout candidates for next season.
Heading into Archie Miller’s fourth year as Indiana head coach, this is probably the deepest roster he’s had from top to bottom.
There are a lot of players who can contribute a number of things to this team, and it’s why there’s a lot of excitement surrounding this upcoming season whenever it can be played.
Indiana is returning a strong core of its players and is also bringing in four talented freshmen. There are a number of players who can take the next step in their playing career and have a breakout season, and here are some of the candidates.
You could argue Race Thompson had a bit of a breakout season last year, emerging as one of IU’s most important players in the final half of conference play with his ability to defend and rebound.
But this season, with Justin Smith gone, a healthy Thompson is expected to see a major uptick in minutes. Indiana’s best lineups toward the end of last season were always with Thompson on the floor playing alongside Trayce Jackson-Davis in the frontcourt.
In IU’s final nine games last season, Thompson played 21 or more minutes in six of those, which is well above his career average of 12.1. It was in that stretch where Thompson began to get involved more on the offensive end, being the recipient of some pick-and-rolls with Al Durham and posting up for points.
Thompson has come a long way since his stellar defensive performance against Ethan Haap in 2019 where Archie Miller made a comment about Thompson still figuring things out on offense. That’s the main reason why Thompson is a candidate for having a breakout year this season.
His role is going to vastly increase this season, and if he can stay healthy, Thompson has the chance to be a major contributor on both ends of the floor. His jump shot isn’t the most reliable, but he gives Indiana a better chance to space the floor than Joey Brunk does. Plus, his incessant crashing of the glass makes him a hassle for opponents to box out.
This third season for Thompson could be a huge one.
Perhaps the most popular choice to have a breakout season is Jerome Hunter.
Ever since Hunter was cleared before last season after missing his entire freshman season with a leg injury, the words “potential” and “breakout” were always associated with his name.
Now it’s more prevalent than ever as Hunter enters his second playing season with the Hoosiers. Probably more so than Thompson, Smith’s departure leaves a bigger opportunity for Hunter.
Smith led the team in minutes last season playing the three, which is the same position Hunter plays, so Hunter would enter the game in short spurts to spell Smith and occasionally knock down some 3-pointers.
In no way is Hunter just a one-dimensional player, but his 3-point shooting is what Indiana needs the most. In the final 14 games last season, Hunter made 43 percent of his 3-pointers.
Now it’s about consistency and confidence as his minutes will likely increase. Hunter can have a breakout season based just on his distance shooting, but he’s a strong candidate because of the versatility he can bring to the table that fans have only seen in glimpses.
With Hunter on the floor, Indiana’s spacing becomes loads better than it was for the majority of last season. His offensive game is dynamic at 6-foot-7, and when Hunter is at his best, he can score at all three levels.
Hunter has all the tools to be one of Indiana’s go-to scorers, and as he continues to get more comfortable on the court, his game may open up more.
With all the additions and subtractions to Indiana’s roster heading into this season, one player that appears to be flying under the radar is Armaan Franklin.
Since Khristian Lander reclassified to help propel Indiana’s backcourt, Franklin has been shoved to the back of most thoughts when looking at how the rotation will shake out.
But Franklin had a solid freshman season, and he has the work ethic and mentality to take a big step in his sophomore campaign.
Franklin was thrown into the starting lineup right at the start of the season due to injuries to Devonte Green and Rob Phinisee, and as the starting point guard, he finished his Indiana debut with eight assists. Franklin had a few scoring outbursts during the season, but he mostly produced by doing the little things such as rebounding and taking charges.
As a 6-foot-4 guard, Franklin can be used in a number of ways this season, especially if Archie Miller decides to play more three-guard sets.
Every time Franklin took the floor last season, he never seemed timid and was comfortable with the ball in his hands. With his mentality, as he gets stronger and finds more of a defined role in the rotation, Franklin could exceed expectations.