It's never too early.
I'm aware that we haven't even completed the month of July yet, but if you are like me, then it's never too early to take a look at the roster for the upcoming season and see where there may be question marks, and with so many new faces on that roster there is no shortage of questions as we draw closer to the start of the season. This edition will focus on the front court players and the questions surrounding them.
The question that immediately jumps off of the page in regards to the front court is if/when De'Ron Davis will return and be 100%. Davis is realistically the only true post player that the Hoosier roster has on it. Now, that's not to say that there aren't others who are more than capable of having success in the paint, but all of the other front court players are more face the basket types of post players, whereas Davis does most of his damage with his back to the basket. I think a return to full health by the start of Big10 play could be a huge boost both on the court, and psychologically, for the young Hoosiers.
Juwan Morgan's decision to return for his senior year was a huge boost to the excitement and expectations of coaches, and fans. Morgan took his game to a whole other level last year, especially in Davis's absence. His basketball IQ and his toughness were readily on display against bigger and stronger post players last year, and at times he carried the Hoosiers. He even showed the ability to knock down the occasional jump shot here and there. If he's able to become a serous threat from the perimeter, coupled with his ability to use his quickness in the post, Morgan could be set for a unbelievable senior season in Bloomington.
Evan Fitzner is a 5th year grad transfer from St. Mary's that provides good size, experience and above average outside shooting. With Davis's return date in question he may be asked to play more in the post than he was at St. Mary's, but I'm sure that was discussed during his recruitment, so I feel confident that he and the coaching staff both feel he can handle it. His shooting alone should be an immediate boost to the team while on the floor, because by all accounts, he can flat shoot the basketball. As I said above, he brings size, experience and shooting, ALL things that any team would like to add, but especially this young Hoosier squad.
Clifton Moore and Jake Forrester are both intriguing young men due to their size and athleticism. Moore didn't show a whole lot in his brief minutes on the floor last year, but even those minutes can sometimes show the player himself what he needs to work on to be able to contribute the next year. If Moore took note off those things and put in the work this summer in Bloomington he very well could provide valuable, even if they are limited minutes on the floor, if called upon. I truly think confidence is what Moore needs the most of to be able to contribute this year, and confidence is gained by working hard in the summer. Forrester is a player that seems to understand what his strengths, and his imitations are. He has good size, is very athletic and plays extremely hard. Being around other good players and hard workers usually brings out the best in young like minded players. His high school coach, as well as any of the "experts" who talk about him believe that he hasn't come close to scratching the surface of how good he will be in the future. I personally think he could surprise some people with his play.
Race Thompson is a young man who not only reclassified, but also agreed to redshirt last year. With a full year to get healthy, practice with the team, and change his body, it very well could be just the advantage Thompson needs to get on the floor before some of the other young players. Race is not an exceptional athlete, but his understanding of positioning and leverage are very good, so now he just has to transfer that to floor when his number is called on. The post play could be by committee early on and until Davis's return, and I wouldn't be surprised if Thompson is a big part of that committee.
Justin Smith is the one player aside from Juwan Morgan that I thought steadily improved throughout the season last year. Unlike Thompson, Smith is an exceptional athlete. He just recently graded out with a max vertical leap of 48" inches, which tied the all-time NBA Complex record. With that level of athleticism and the ability to knock down some open shots from the perimeter that he showed at times last year, the sky is the limit for a player like Justin, because I'm not sure even he realizes how good he can be yet. But if/when he does realize it, Big10 beware. I think we saw glimpses last year of him realizing that he not only belonged, but that he could also dominate at times. A full summer in B-Town spent working on an already pretty impressive game could be just the thing for Smith to take his game to another level.
Zach McRobert's and Jerome Hunter are two guys that could find themselves in the paint some too. But McRobert's is really a position-less player and will find himself all over the floor. And although Hunter has the size and will more than likely find himself in the post some at times, his strengths are more facing this basket, shooting, and driving the basketball, so I'm choosing to group him into the group I spotlight next.
I think we can all agree that there are questions about what we can realistically expect to get from the post as we head into the 2018-2019 season, but I also think that we can agree that the answers to those questions may very well be hidden right here on the roster. A lot of bodies that can each offer something a little different than the other. This portion of the roster may be a little short on true back to the basket type of post play, but it isn't short on players with the ability to spread the floor and open up the driving lanes for the back court players.
I always enjoy writing these types of articles because it really makes me dive into the roster and look at each player. The only downfall is with so many young guys, a lot of it is just pure opinion and or speculation. Well, let me correct myself, that's not the only downfall. It also amps up my excitement for the upcoming season to possibly unhealthy levels, which brings on a lot "you need to calm down or you'll never make it through the season" comments from my friends and family. You'd think that after 40yrs. of this they would know that I'm not going to listen to them, because it's NEVER too early. Bring on Hoosier Hysteria...I'm ready!