Different ballhandlers diversify Indiana offense

MONTREAL — It’s wise to hesitate before placing too much stock on what’s unfolding this week in Canada. These are exhibitions, after all, and the true value of the trip won’t be revealed in box scores.

Again, we likely won’t learn what this trip means to the makeup of this year’s team until much later. Where will this team stand in early November? At the start of Big Ten season? Did they really make the most of the extra practice time this kind of trip affords a program? Those are questions for later.

Friday brought the opportunity to throw every available player on the roster onto the floor and get them into a game setting. Playing time on Sunday was much more emblematic of a regular season rotation, with nucleus guys like Yogi Ferrell, James Blackmon Jr., Troy Williams, Stanford Robinson, Robert Johnson, Devin Davis and Nick Zeisloft sharing the bulk of the minutes.

And while you don’t want to read too much into lineups and rotations at this point, there was at least one telling product from Sunday’s game construction that might provide a glimpse of things to come during the season.

Consider the primary ballhandlers.

Late in Sunday’s game — and, really, throughout the day — IU coach Tom Crean put the ball in the hands of not only Ferrell, but a collection of players. Crean said he’d like to reach a point this year where it looks like IU has interchangeable parts with Ferrell, Robinson, Blackmon and Johnson all floating around in the backcourt.

“That’s what they were recruited to do,” Crean said. “The only thing I’ve said about the point guard position is the guy that throws it up the court the best on the break, especially after a made basket, that’ll be the guy that brings the ball up after the made basket break, our blitz offense. The fastbreak and getting out and running and being able to do multiple things, that’s all by design.”

It’s still not at that interchangeable level yet. Youth is a consideration at this point, with some of the new guys still trying grasp some of the nuances of the college game and the pace at which Indiana would like to play.

But they’re working on it. Should that work reveal the fruits of labor, IU will have the opportunity to diversify what Crean already expects to be an unconventional offensive approach.

“The young guys still don’t understand how hard you have to run the court every time,” Crean said. “Again, this is their second game. I love it. I love the pace we’re playing at because we need to learn a lot about it. We need to learn what’s expected. We need to learn how to get over walls. You’re playing at (Sunday’s) pace, you’re playing fast. There’s numerous walls you gotta get over inside the game. It’s not about getting your second wind, it’s bout getting your eighth wind. That’s just the way it is. We’ll be very interchangeable as we go down the line, with the fact that they can all shoot the ball, and with Stan’s hopeful improvement in that area, that’ll be big. Then Troy just becomes such a versatile player for us. You’re seeing the effects of that. He’s moving extremely well without the ball, he’s getting better with the ball.”