Sheehey returns to practice, but still “day to day.”

Indiana coach Tom Crean has been saying that sophomore swingman Will Sheehey is “day-to-day” for three weeks now, but that’s apparently much more true than it has been at any point since the injury on Dec. 21.

Sheehey warmed up and dressed for Sunday’s game at Penn State, but was not available for the game. Since then, Crean said, the 6-foot-6, 200-pounder has finally returned to practice. He still won’t say whether or not he will be available for Thursday’s 8 p.m. game at Assembly Hall.

“The first time he really was on the court would’ve been this past weekend to shoot,” Crean said. “He shot some Saturday night. Sunday was the first time he had been out with the team other than this Saturday night. … He’s making progress. He’s getting closer, but it’s still gonna be a day-to-day thing.”

Sheehey’s loss has been a significant one in a number of ways. He was averaging 10.7 points per game, so it has cost the Hoosiers arguably their most versatile scorer. It has almost certainly cost them their most versatile defender, as Sheehey can guard shooting guards, small forwards and power forwards with sufficient aplomb.

But the Hoosiers have weathered his absence while suffering just one loss in the five games he’s missed. Crean has had to use most of his bench to fill the void, but forwards Derek Elston and Tom Pritchard and guard Remy Abell, Matt Roth, Daniel Moore and Austin Etherington have all provided something in his absence to make sure it wasn’t debilitating. For that reason, Crean said, Sheehey’s injury could possibly help the team in the long term because it’s strengthened the level of depth.

“Down the road there’s no question that this can help us, can help our depth,” Crean said. “It certainly hasn’t been great for Will to be out and I wouldn’t say it’s made our team better in the short term even though we’ve been winning games for the most part, but I think in the long term, it can definitely help us. … There’s more things that we can look for in a game. We can say, ‘When we put this lineup together, this works for us.’ … You can almost look for that to put that in the game somewhere. That helps.”

One player who has shown significant improvement with Sheehey out is Roth. The senior guard hit five 3-pointers and scored 22 points in Sunday’s game at Penn State. His shooting prowess obviously hasn’t been a surprised, as he hit nine in a game once in his freshman season and is the Illinois state record holder in made 3-pointers. But he’s finally become an adequate defender, which he wasn’t for most of the early part of his career.

“It’s helped him stay on the floor,” Crean said. “… He’s got some pride in the fact that people try to game plan against him when he’s in the game. He’s showing some really good moxie in the 50-50 game. When it’s a loose ball and he’s diving on the floor to get that ball or he’s trying to rip it away from someone. He’s more aware defensively with help side and being able to help off his man and get back. … We knew going into the season that if you’re a situational player, it’s going to be very hard to get minutes.”

Crean said no decision has been made about whether or not Roth will play a fifth year. He sat out his sophomore year with a foot injury and would be eligible for a medical redshirt. However, the Hoosiers are already oversigned by one scholarship for next year without factoring in Roth and would be oversigned by two if he were to remain on scholarship for 2012-13.

“We’re just focused on right now with this,” Crean said. “The only time I think about next year is when I see a recruit play, like last night. That’s it. We just stay locked in on what we’re doing. … We’ll see what happens at the end of the year. We’ll see what happens then.”

Other notes from Wednesday’s availability:

— Minnesota is 0-4 in the Big Ten so far and appears to be struggling without forward Trevor Mbakwe, who was lost for the season with a knee injury. However, Crean was quick to compliment the 12-5 Golden Gophers and said they’ve had hard luck.

“What we see is a team in this league that could easily be 2-2 and with a couple of other bounces be 3-1,” Crean said. “You’ve got a national championship coach over there with an outstanding staff, and you’ve got a lot of players that have been through it and some other guys that are relatively new. But they look really good to us. Rodney Williams is playing at a high level. He’s an improved player. They have different guards that can do different things. Certainly Ralph Sampson is more than capable of hurting you from the inside and the outside. We fully expect that they’re gonna come and play like their hair’s on fire. We have to do the same thing. We have to do the absolute same thing.”

Crean said the Gophers have become a team that uses more movement with Mbakwe out.

“Trevor was a very underrated passer,” Crean said. “What they’re doing without him, it seems like, is they’re cutting. They’re doing a lot more basket cutting, curl cutting, things like that, more than what they were. Their penetration is still really good…. They’re a very capable team, no doubt about it.

— Junior guard Jordan Hulls headed into Wednesday ranked second in the nation in 3-point field goal percentage at 58.2 percent behind only Kris Davis of Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, who had taken 23 fewer shots. Hulls was 7-for-9 from beyond the arc on Sunday, registering a career-high 28 points.

“He’s always been an excellent shooter, but he’s got other things besides shooting 3’s,” Crean said. “When they can guard you from doing one thing, it limits that one thing. Because he can get to the rim, because he’s getting better off pick and roll. He hit two 3’s the other day off pick and roll, that’s important stuff. That’s stuff he wasn’t always doing in the past. He can screen and then receive a screen. There’s so many different ways for him to score and he doesn’t just have to have the ball in his hands to get shots off. I think he’s ready to shoot. He doesn’t have to force shots. We have other players on the court who can make shots. When we utilize our entire front court and we get our movement whether it’s through spacing or through screening, whether we get our shots off screens or driving kick or inside-outside of the post. He is doing an excellent job of making the next pass. Well that becomes the next pass, and a lot of times the next pass ends up with him.”

AUDIO: Tom Crean Part 1

AUDIO: Tom Crean Part 2

AUDIO: Christian Watford and Cody Zeller

 

18 comments

  1. I’m glad he’s being given the time to heal up and get that ankle healthy. Rushing his return would risk re-injury and could cost him the remainder of the season. The team needs him strong for the second half of the Big Ten season and the push into March madness. Another week or two and hopefully he’ll be ready to go again.

  2. Tubby’s a good coach. Lot’s of minefield’s in the Big Ten.

    Jordy is as good at drawing the charge, especially in transition, as anyone I’ve ever seen. Really uncanny how many opposition fast breaks have ended in a charging foul. I’ll bet he’s 3:1 on charges vs. blocking fouls.

  3. Minnesota does not have much this year. Their guards are not D1 caliber, and their inside play is marginal at best with Mbawke gone. Ralph Sampson is softer than Charmin toiletpaper. Zeller should score on him with ease. Indiana is clearly the more talented team and they’re at home. That said, Minnesota always plays IU tough. I am not quite sure why, but they do. It’ll be a good game, but I expect IU to get the ‘W’.

  4. Purely Positive Post… (or, Why IU is a Top 10 Team)

    We are about halfway into the season, so I think we have a good enough body of work to fairly judge the teams. A couple of days ago I posted my Top 10 and Best 10 teams, which led to approximately zero discussion. This will probably meet similar fanfare…

    There are some really good teams out there, some overachieving teams, and some very talented but enigmatic teams. I think IU does actually belong in the really good category… And here’s why:

    1) We have one of the most positive and hard-working coaches in all of basketball – this is exactly what our program needed over the last 3 years. Crean worked his tail off on the recruiting trail to continually bring in better talent each year and reclaim the Hoosier name. He understood and accepted the inevitable growing pains, so despite all the losses he never turned sour. He simply stayed positive and always had his players backs.

    This year wouldn’t be possible without Crean. He has been a true, passionate leader, that despite his wacky court side antics, never seems to lose his players. Because he believed so hard in them they now believe in themselves, and that sense of self-confidence is what allows them to beat the Kentucky’s and Ohio States.

    2) Cody Zeller is one of the top 3 centers in all of college basketball – RIGHT NOW! There is simply no one with his combination of size, skill, athleticism and IQ. He may not consistently have quite the effect on the game as Sullinger, or the defensive presence of Davis, but would you trade him right now for either of those two? It’s at least a debate, and for me personally I love what he brings on both ends, so I’ll keep him. (and he’s only going to get better!)

    3) They have one of the most versatile scorers in college basketball – Christian Watford has always been a quality scorer, but we never knew how legit it was because IU was so bad. Now we are watching a veteran leader step up. He saves his best performances for the big games, averaging 20 ppg against their 4 ranked opponents – 7 points over his season average. Just as impressive as his clutchness is the variety of ways he scores. He posts up, drives to the basket, hits pull up jumpers, gets to the free throw line, and Is currently shooting 53%(!!!) from 3-pt land. There just aren’t that many other players in college that can score in that variety of ways.

    4) They have an elite wing defender – Victor Oladipo has become a total game-changer for the Hoosiers. He has value on offense, but is dominant on defense. There is no doubt that he is a national all-defense first team player, and in my opinion should be B1G defensive POY. He pressures his man all over the court and completely takes him out of his comfort zone. He is also an effective helpside defender, plays the passing lanes as well as any Hoosier in memory, rebounds well above average for his position, and then is an elite transition finisher.

    5) they have not one, but TWO elite 3-pt shooters – most teams don’t have one elite shooter, maybe elite scorers that are streaky shooters, but I’m talking Jon Diebler, knock-down, elite shooters. Hulls and Roth are both in that category – they are both shooting a stunning 58% from the arc, which if continues for either will set the individual NCAA record. There is simply no way that opposing teams can get away with collapsing into the paint or playing zone for extended periods.

    6) They have one of the better 6th men in all of college basketball – Will Sheehey has become a dependable source of scoring off the bench. Not only can he score both inside and out, but he plays with such frantic energy that there is really no way that teams are ready for him when he enters a game. Either the starters are already winded or the opposing teams subs aren’t at full sense of urgency yet – and you better be with Sheehey because he comes out attacking. He also is a capable defender and above-average rebounder. He is truly a luxury most teams don’t have.

    In summary, it’s not the individuals but the sum of the parts… A nucleus that has grown together, talent that is above average to elite at multiple positions, and a coach that believes in his team as much as any coach anywhere. There may be teams that are more athletic, have more experience, have more McDonald’s All-Americans, or are more dominant in certain aspects of the game, but there simply aren’t 10 other teams in the country that can boast the pieces that are described above – A passionate and trusting coach, a top 3 center, a versatile and clutch 6’9″ scorer, an elite wing defender that isn’t a liability on offense, TWO elite perimeter shooters, and a consistent and well-rounded scoring threat coming off the bench.

    IU is most certainly one of the 10 best teams in college basketball this year.

  5. Great write up, Geoff. To add one more thing about Victor — Coach Crean says that he often gives Victor the assignment of shutting down more than one player in a game. Crean will have Vic start on one guy and take him out of the flow or frustrate him or wear him down enough so that another IU player can then take over the defense on him and Vic moves to a second player. That means he has to study and prepare for two or more opposing players and that’s not easy.

  6. Any Big Ten team can win at any given time on any given floor. No let up on this team regardless of how weak one thinks this MN team appears.

  7. Geoff..#5

    Very good post and I loved reading it. The only thing that might need to be added (or addressed) is the passion this IU team is playing with this year. All of the players appear to have kicked it up a notch or two. Some people might call it playing with heart. Regardless, It’s great to see it develop in these young men who represent IU.

  8. Larry: what, you want him back or something?

    Hes just waiting for the next loss and I’m sure he’ll be back in shining armour.

  9. Classic video. There really is nothing like grabbing an old lady by the face and pushing her “TO THE FLOOR!”. I hope I’m not as subtle as Benny Hinn…

  10. I think you’re well on your way to becoming the Verdell Jones of Scoop.

    I’m open Geoff, I’m open! I know you got game, but can you see there are other guys on the team that can offer some decent points? And that positive spin move was an excellent display of your unstoppable presence….From now on we’ll just pass it to you and watch you go left, right, positive, negative….Just hunch over and put that head of yours down and plow through the rest of us. Coach Harvard believes in you…We need your senior leadership…Can I talk to you a second while I put OldIUGymnast into the game? We need you to understand that it’s not about proving anything…It’s about moving the discussion ball and occasionally looking inside(humility) as well as outside(arrogance)…Maybe give Chet an open look as he intentionally gets lost in the flow. He can offer a nice compliment and he’s deadly at popping one deep from NC corner. You’ve got game…Sweet looking form. Pretty damn good defender when guarding any point..Sometimes just too much dribbling and tunnel vision on the court. Look to how your teammates and don’t always force things when it’s not there.

  11. Keep coaching me Harvard… I may catch on one day. As a PG I’m used to having the rock in my hands and distributing to 1. Best scoring option on time and in position, or 2. Open man.

    Doesn’t mean I always made the right decision, and sometimes I made a good read, but my teammate wasn’t on the same page… One thing you can count on though Dr. Harvard is that I’ll always try hard, always compete, and I’ll try to be as coachable as possible.

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