Checking in with the new Hoosiers

MONTREAL — Indiana coach Tom Crean played everyone who was available for Friday’s game against Laval University, meaning Hoosier debuts for seven players who were not with the team last season.

The new guys accounted for 48 points, 21 rebounds and 13 assists against seven turnovers. Crean didn’t single out any of the newcomers after the game, saying that each offered something at different points in the game.

James Blackmon Jr. didn’t get off to a great start and missed on all four of his 3-point attempts, but Crean said he liked how Blackmon played through it. The IU coach credited Robert Johnson with strong defensive showings in the second and third quarters that helped the Hoosiers pull away.

Illinois State transfer Nick Zeisloft carried a veteran presence with him when he took the floor with the starting five, and Crean praised his even-handedness in only a few weeks with the program. Zeisloft flashed a nice stroke from 3-point range, hitting two of his five attempts from beyond the arc.

“I would’ve loved to have seen him do even more, but he’s such a teammate,” Crean said. “And he’s establishing a level of leadership. They already respect him at a high level and he just went in there and played.

“Max (Hoetzel) had a tough run at the beginning because he jogged about his fourth trip. Well, that’s non-negotiable for us this year. That’s an out. If you’re not running hard every possession, we gotta sub you. He went back in and did a much better job. I thought Tim Priller continued to move and understand.”

Walk-ons Ryan Burton and Nate Ritchie also saw action.

It’s still very much a learning process for Blackmon and Johnson, both of whom will need to do more than score for Indiana this winter. Outside of their combined 26 points, the duo teamed for 11 rebounds, 10 assists and only four turnovers on Friday, showing that their games have clear potential for more than one dimension.

Of course, they and the rest of the Hoosiers will be tested against better competition as the tour and the fall wears on, but Friday was a positive first step. Indiana will need everybody to chip in with rebounding this season and both Blackmon and Johnson showed a willingness to do so in their unofficial IU debuts. That kind of effort will be especially important in situations when the Hoosiers inevitably shift to four- or five-guard lineups, like the ones Crean threw on the floor for much of Friday’s exhibition.

But there are other areas where both Blackmon and Johnson, the two prized recruits in this year’s class, will need to grow.

“They’re still fully in a thinking process at times right now,” Crean said. “I’m yelling some of the fundamental things about pushing the ball out, keep your eyes up, things that will become second nature to them over a period of time. They just aren’t there yet. There’s no doubt they’re fully capable of being guys who can do numerous things for us and will be known for much more than shooting, driving offense, things of that nature.”