Newkirk a mystery no longer #iubb

He’s been on the Indiana men’s basketball roster for over a year now, but until Saturday night Josh Newkirk remained a bit of a mystery to Hoosier fans.

The Pitt transfer was unveiled in impressive fashion at Hoosier Hysteria, reaching the finals of the 3-point contest and recording five points and three assists in the Red-White scrimmage.

Perhaps most of all, it was proof that Newkirk is healthy again after undergoing microfracture surgery 17 months ago. That was made clear by his steal and thunderous one-handed dunk in the scrimmage.

“It had to be done,” Newkirk said last week of the procedure. “It was a risk, but I feel great right now. I feel more athletic than I did before.”

The return to form began late last December, when Newkirk began participating in drills and by January he was playing on the scout team, pushing his teammates in their run to a Big Ten championship.

However, being forced to sit and watch that success wasn’t always easy.

“Last year kind of taught me to be patient,” Newkirk said. “At times it was frustrating on the bench, not being able to play. But it just drove me and got me more hungry to play this year.”

At the same time, the 6-foot-1, 195-pound guard believes he’ll reap the benefits of sitting out a season.

“I think it’s going to benefit me a lot,” Newkirk said. “I got to sit down and really analyze the game, really learn more, really sit down and watch film, just learn parts of my game that I’ve got to work on, certain parts that I can attack and get better at.”

Perhaps the two most important of those parts are leadership and shooting.

“Just being a leader, being more vocal, leading by example, doing the right things on and off the court,” he said. “And of course, my shot. Working on my shot being more consistent, getting more range on it and just staying in the gym.”

His teammates certainly noticed that extra time in the gym.

“(His shot)’s come great,” said Thomas Bryant, who topped Newkirk for the 3-point contest title. “I see him each and every day in the gym before or after practice, getting more shots up.”

Newkirk followed up the contest success by nailing a 3 in the scrimmage, proving that his work can translate to game situations.

“(Improving the consistency of my 3-point shot) was probably the biggest thing,” Newkirk said. “From day one, that was one of the things Coach Crean and Coach (Tim) Buckley focused on, getting my shot right, working on my mechanics and fixing things.

“(Coach Buckley)’s done a lot. He bumped my elbow in on my shot. Every time I shoot a shot, I can just hear him in the back of my head fixing my shot.”

There’s still some adjustments to be made for the junior, but he’s enjoying the process and the opportunity of his new school.

“It’s a lot different (than Pitt),” he said. “We’ve got a lot more freedom to create, a lot more freedom to get in the open court, a lot more freedom to run, so I would say it’s a lot different.”

For Newkirk, different is good and becoming less of a mystery as a Hoosier is even better.