It is never too early. (Part 2)
After looking at some of the questions and possible answers surrounding the front court of the 2018-2019 roster, it's time to take a look at the wings and the backcourt players. In doing so we see that there are once again some questions, but I once again think there are also answers to some of those questions. Which in my opinion happens to be a positive, because some teams have questions with no possible answers on the roster.
Junior Devonte Green's ability to take the next step in his transition to being a lead guard and running this team is maybe the biggest question that I see when I look at the roster as a whole. Green showed flashes of the ability to do so last year, just not on a consistent enough basis for a team with post-season aspirations. Green is one of those players that has to have a little freedom in his game, if not it hinders his game drastically. But with having been said, Green's ability to balance that freedom and still yet play under control and run the team like a true point guard will be huge towards the successes, and failures, of the upcoming season.
Having a true point guard on the roster for the first time since Yogi Ferrell ran the Hoosiers for four years is something that shouldn't be taken lightly. Freshman Robert Phinisee is that true point guard. If Green hasn't taken that next step, Phinisee may very well be handed the reins of a team that could be battling atop the Big10. In a perfect world, Green will have made the progression in his game to be the lead guard, and Phinisee will be leading the second unit allowing him to get his feet wet. Handing the keys to freshman can be tricky sometimes, but if it in fact it comes down to that, I feel that Phinisee can handle it. If you've seen him play you know that he is a very smart basketball player, and he is also pretty tough. And although it's not always ideal to play two smaller guards at the same time, due to Green's natural position being a two guard, I could see scenarios against certain line-ups that allows them to not only play together, but to also be successful when doing so. The point guard position is one with questions, but very well could end up being a strength.
Senior Zach McRobert's and freshman Jerome Hunter are both very intriguing players. This is not a knock on McRobert's at all because almost every team would want a Zach McRobert's on their roster. But if there was magic formula that could make his approach to the game, and how he plays the game rub off on more talented players, we'd have a team full of all-americans. McRobert's never takes a play off and is willing to do whatever is asked of him to help win games. His hustle alone has made it hard to keep him off of the floor, and I don't really see that changing. But if it does, then the guys on the floor are pretty damned good. Jerome Hunter is the quintessential Archie Miller type of player. He is in the 6'7"-6'8" range, he's long, and he is fairly athletic. But more importantly, he can guard multiple positions, and he can score at all three levels. He handles the ball well for a guy is size, with his midrange and driving games being his strengths at this point. But that's not to say he can't knock down a three, or score in the paint, because he can. When watching him in high school it was easy to notice that he had a very workmanlike approach to the game, but with the ability to take over a game when necessary also. These two young men will be key pieces in any success the Hoosiers have this year.
Sophomore Aljami Durham and Freshman Damezi Anderson are up next. Durham showed the ability to run the point pretty effectively at times last year, so even though he's not a true point guard he does give the Hoosiers a third option at that position. He also showed an ability to drive the ball pretty effectively, even though he was a little loose with the ball when doing so sometimes. If he has spent the summer getting stronger, tightening up his ball handling while in traffic and becoming a more consistent threat from the perimeter, he will also be a player, like McRobert's, who is hard to keep off of the floor. The strength in Anderson's game that we've all heard about since IU started recruiting him has been his shooting and having seen him play in high school I'd have to concur with that because he can flat shoot the basketball. What doesn't get mentioned enough sometimes is passing ability. He is not only an above average passer, he is also a willing passer. He handles the ball pretty decent for a 6'6"-6'7" player also. The strength and quickness of upperclassmen, and the speed of the college game could be his biggest obstacles to how much he sees the floor this year, but a full summer in Bloomington can do wonders for kids and their games, so the verdict is still out.
Last but not least is freshman Romeo Langford. I'm not sure there's anything that can be said about him that hasn't been already. He's the most college ready recruit that Indiana has welcomed to Bloomington in quite some time. Are there aspects of his game that need improvement? Absolutely. But seeing him a couple of different times in high school didn't really make an assessment of those things any easier due to the fact that he was clearly the best player on the floor every night. He averaged 30+ points a game facing double and triple teams. I will say one thing that stood out to me was the demeanor he played with. If you closed your eyes and heard the crowd react, whether cheering or booing, when you opened them you wouldn't be able to tell if he had just flew down the lane and dunked on three opponents, or if he had just been on the wrong end of the worst block/charge call in history. His expression never changes. I'm not sure that Romeo is great at anything...YET...but he is good, REAL GOOD, at pretty much everything. He scores at all three levels. He defends. He passes. He wins. All pretty good traits to have in a player, and a teammate. Being on the floor with other high major talent could really allow for us to see ALL of those things on display night in and night out. He makes other players better, and again, he wins.
In looking at each player individually and then thinking about them as a team, it's easy to see why most Hoosier fans are excited about the upcoming year, and the future. There is depth, capable depth, at each position. Everyone we highlighted, which will more than likely be the ones that make up the rotation, at least early in the year, will get the chance to contribute. That my fellow Hoosier fans is a nice luxury to have and more times than not leads to competitive practices, which in turn leads to wins. Just when I didn't think I could be any more excited about the 2018-2019 edition of the Indiana Hoosiers, I'm proven wrong. I hope these last two articles have amped up your excitement as well.
GO BIG RED!