Anderson primed to give IU a shooting boost

The numbers attached to Damezi Anderson’s freshman campaign do not glimmer.

Twenty-one games played, 1.5 points per game, shooting 27.9 percent from the floor and 23.3 percent from beyond the 3-point line.

Those are not the outputs of an offensive lynchpin. But when Indiana coach Archie Miller was asked how the Hoosiers will keep opposing teams from stacking the paint against bigs De’Ron Davis, Joey Brunk, and Trayce Jackson-Davis, it was Anderson’s name that first emerged from his mouth.

“I think there’s two guys who, hopefully, knock on wood, can become more bonafide shooters for us in Damezi Anderson and Jerome Hunter,” Miller said. “Both those guys have to contribute from the 3-point line.”

Anderson had a shaky freshman campaign. Hunter missed his first season with a lower leg condition. Knock on wood, for sure.

But there are reasons to believe the statistics Anderson produced as a freshman aren’t an accurate measure of his potential. The South Bend Riley product hit 43 percent from 3-point range as a senior in high school.

Freshman year in the Big Ten isn’t easy, either, especially when a 6-foot-7 prep star is asked to come off the bench, spot up, and shoot. On the defensive end, Anderson also found himself facing a new level of athlete.

“It was just a good first-year experience for me,” Anderson said. “I’ve never been in a situation like I was last year. It was a new role for me I had to adjust to. Last year taught me a lot, especially with the seniors, the upperclassmen. They also helped and communicated how to do things to me.

“That’s what I did, took it and continued to get better this year.”

Steady improvement is all Miller needs from the sophomores on his roster, each with an important role to play. Rob Phinisee, the point guard, has to be more assertive as a leader and communicator on the floor. Race Thompson, a 6-8 forward, can add a quality rebounder and defender to the mix.

The emergence of Anderson, because of his shooting potential, could be especially vital to the Hoosiers’ success this season.

“I think the great thing about Damezi is he’s a fantastic kid,” Miller said. “He wants to learn. He’s very coachable, and just in his communication in this offseason and what we tried to do with him, he’ll be the first to tell you that he had a lot to learn, and there’s some things he needs to do better. But I’ll tell you what, he went to work on them.

“Just in watching him practice even yesterday, he’s a much different player, he’s a much different guy out there than he was as a young player as a true freshman.”

Anderson has a chance to seize a big role for the Hoosiers, but it will have to be a team effort to keep defenses honest.

That comes back to shooting the right kinds of 3-pointers with the right people.

IU does bring back its top 3-point shooter from last season, senior guard Devonte Green, who hit 41 percent from beyond. Miller has talked about Green playing more off the ball to get him in position to take shots, giving junior Al Durham more time at the point.

Getting some 3-pointers in transition may also be something the Hoosiers look to do.

“We want to get back to the running game,” Miller said. “When your defense creates those opportunities, shooting comes into play — 3s in transition are the best ones you can take. In the halfcourt, you are going to get 3s off of movement — ball movement, screening action, inside-out drive to pass, sharing the ball.

“We shouldn’t be a team that shoots quick 3s. I don’t think anyone is unless you have prolific shooters. But for us to shoot the ball, we have to shoot a high percentage.”

Miller thinks six players are capable. Along with Anderson, Hunter, and Green, he lists Phinisee (31 percent from 3 in ‘18-19), Durham (34.8), and even newcomer Armaan Franklin.

If they can all convert on 3-ball opportunities, defenses will have trouble packing the lane on Davis, Brunk, and Jackson-Davis this season.

“Those six players, they have to be able to keep the defense honest. And they are all good shooters, so they should be able to do it,” Miller said. “Our frontcourt is a big strength. We have to be able to play through them.”

Can the sophomore Anderson be one of the keys to balancing the Hoosiers’ offensive equation?

The shooter is focused on what he can control.

“Just continue to get better and be prepared and have the confidence to be able to play when my name is called,” Anderson said. “This year I just want to go out there and play with confidence this year and help the team.”

23 comments

  1. Is the eternal crimson colored glasses fan in me being myopic, or is IU going to be legitimately good this year? Barring injury, I think this team is going to surprise some people. I see a 23 game or so winner with a NCAA berth well in hand. Yes, the shooting remains to be seen, but if they get the kind of ball movement that Archie is espousing, they’ll end up with a lot of good shots. Hmmm, sounds like a Hoosier philosophy from a previous generation of days gone by…. Go HOOSIERS!

  2. This is year 3. It is not “OK” to live for another year! IU has 11 good players; this is the third year under Archie, his staff, and his system; Indiana must excel! No one is promised tomorrow!

    1. BP,
      I really have a problem with everyone making on over this being year 3. In truth, Archie only has his 2nd recruiting class on board. Based on the timing of his hire, Archie only had time to salvage TC’s last class and try to make the best of players recruited for a very foreign system to his own. Secondly, with the absolute catastrophe of an injury situation last year, at minimum, Archie needs a Mulligan for the year.

      I cannot think of a single situation in the last half century where a team has been so devastated by injuries as was last year’s team. I cannot see any team in last year’s top 20 encountering a situation of similar magnitude doing any better than what Archie did. Truth be known, if we were being fair about it, Archie is only coming into his 2nd year at best, but then again, who ever said anything was fair?

  3. What is the story with Race? He is rarely, if ever mentioned. He should be a big part of our frontline strength. Is he fully healthy? What are the Coach’s plans for him?

  4. think. Scott May injury resulting in debatable reason for IU loss to KY in NCAA tournament was a much much much bigger loss than all of last year IU basketball injuries combined.

  5. Add: Landon Turner as bigger loss than all of last year’s injuries combined.

    Then, add Isaiah Thomas turning pro early.

    1. t,
      You are so far off base with those comments you’ve nearly veered back into West Laffy mode. Scott May and Landon Turner were 2 of IU’s greatest players, but to say their loss individually was worse than what IUBB endured last year is ridiculous. You might as well said that their teammates were chopped liver. Without May the ’75 team still made it all the way to the regional final. Obviously last year’s team is nowhere comparable to probably the greatest college basketball team ever put on court, but in terms of magnitude, the best comparison would be to look at the ’76 team versus the ’77 team. Still returned from an unbeaten national championship an All-American center coupled with some decent returning talent along with a some good Freshmen.

      The results are history, the ’77 team didn’t do much better than last year’s team, in terms of magnitude you lost 3 of the 4 main parts of two great teams. If you look at the projected talent which was lost from last year’s team, this is a much better better comparison in terms of proportion. No, last year’s team at full strength would never have been to the level of the ’75 team, not even the ’76 team, but in terms of proportional magnitude, last year’s injuries were far worse than the loss of either Scott May or Landon Turner respectively. At least both those teams could hold full practices with room to spare, last year’s team at times couldn’t even have full practices!

    1. t,
      The only way you and many others are going to realize the difference is by how well this year’s team plays. In particular, those who were injured will hopefully show what a huge difference a healthy year will make. Rob and Race to certain extent, and Jerome to a major extent, will tell you just what was missed. Race may get overshadowed by a healthy Deron and the additions of Tracie and Joey. A rusty Jerome might get overshadowed by the possibly new and improved Damezi, but only the season will tell.

  6. And the players I mentioned don’t include players that may had an ankle sprain, Jamed finger/thumb, under the weather, flu bug, head not right etc for a game or two

    1. BINGO again! Throw in Kirk Haston for good measure. Turner and May were phenomenal players. I’m more than 100% sure their loss (one a very tragic loss unable to return for senior season) cost us banners. Nobody beats that ’75 reg. season undefeated team with May in the tournament.

      Thank West Lafayette-to-have-a-banner for roadblocking May in ’75. I seem to remember the hard foul smacking May’s hand against the backboard glass during a game at Mackey ‘Hack-Me’ Arena (seeing how some on here have ETAPS (Endlessly Talk About Purdue Syndrome).

  7. Unrelated note.

    You know Rutgers fans are really wishing Purdue was in their schedule this year. The Boils are spectacularly bad. Their receivers couldn’t catch a cold and their running backs don’t seem to understand which direction they are supposed to run.

    Their defense is worse.

    1. Well, whether or not it is a ‘must’ win will be determined by the games between now and the Bucket game.

      It is looking like a ‘likely’ win based on both teams’ performances so far. The Boils past 3 opponents (Minny hasn’t played again yet) gave up an average of 62 points/game the following week. Purdue went 1-2 against them.

      They play their first quality team of the season this week. PSU has turned it over twice already, missed a field goal, and they have had a several untimely penalties. They are still crushing the Boils.

  8. The Boils were the second worst rushing team in the country coming into today’s game. That -30 they put up today ought to get them into first.

  9. Rutgers
    Nebraska
    Purdue
    = 6 wins
    Northwestern
    = 7 wins
    Maryland
    = 8 wins
    Michigan
    = 9 wins
    Penn State
    = 10 wins

  10. Ok, I’m going off-topic but back to the subject of the article. I could hold my own for a game or 2 at the HYPER but never played organized basketball. So I’m no expert. But it seems like saying Damezi Anderson has improved his shooting is another ‘Peyton Ramsey has improved his arm strength’ kind of story. It may be true, just doesn’t mean much. Damezi Anderson has one of the ugliest shots I’ve ever seen. Hard to believe he going to be the next Steph Curry. Am I missing something?

    1. Agree. Just more pre season writing hype. I don’t think they are saying he is going to be the next Curry. D.A. May have improved a little to some. I seen him play on tv during state tournament knowing he was a high school star for South Bend. He and his team looked terrible against a well coached defensive scheme. Plus he shot the ball horrible and he has never done anything to change my mind since then. However, he may have improved a little. He is a sophomore.

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