Durham, IU look to mesh early

Al Durham may not have been on the court last week in the Hoosiers’ exhibition with Gannon, but the junior combo guard was still able to show his versatility.

When redshirt freshman Jerome Hunter came off the floor after missing yet another 3, it was Durham looking Hunter in the eyes and encouraging, patting him on the back.

When Durham’s bruised knee, senior Devonte Green’s hurting hamstring, and sophomore Rob Phinisee’s ailing abdomen forced more point guard minutes onto freshman Armaan Franklin, it was Durham, the co-captain, who took the time to add bits of advice here and there.

“I give him the little things because I feel like he doesn’t need to be overloaded with information,” Durham said. “He knows what to do. He’s a great basketball player. He has a great IQ. So I just give him the little pointers and let his game be his game.”

In the Hoosiers’ regular-season opener, Durham will be back on the floor, a big boost for a team that sorely needs a veteran floor general. He will also be a major piece for a coaching staff still trying to figure out how the puzzle fits together.

One area where a third-year contributor like Durham might be most valuable is gluing together a team with a host of new faces. Franklin and fellow freshman Trayce Jackson-Davis will be just breaking into the Division I game. Hunter and redshirt sophomore Race Thompson will be working into the rotation after long layoffs the season prior.

Injuries in the backcourt are another complication, especially with IU’s top returning scorer, Green, day-to-day with his hamstring issue. But Durham, the other half of the captainship, still has a good feeling about how this team is coming along after an up-and-down 2018-19 season.

“I feel like we have upped it a notch,” Durham said. “I feel like it’s just a different vibe. I feel like everybody is on the same page. It just feels different.

“Just a lot of different energy I feel like here, and I feel like we’re ready to go to war for each other.”

All preseason, third-year coach Archie Miller has talked about the Hoosiers’ depth. The question remains how he will organize his unit on the floor.

Durham, who gets IU going at its fastest pace, will see an increased load as Phinisee works his way back to full strength. And even beyond that point.

“I wouldn’t even term him as the backup,” Miller said. “I think Al’s a very, very vital piece to what we’re doing with the ball. Whether he’s playing with a guy like Rob or Devonte, doesn’t matter to me, but Al is going to play a lot of point guard this season.”

Early this season, the Hoosiers will have an opportunity to mesh. Western Illinois, which finished 10-21 last season, opens what is a relatively light non-conference schedule.

The first seven games are at home versus mid-major opponents, with the eighth consecutive contest at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall a Big Ten/ACC Challenge matchup with Florida State on Dec. 3.

IU’s first four games are all against opponents that finished outside the top 250 in last year’s final NET rankings, including Western Illinois (305), Portland State (265), North Alabama (309), and Troy (259).

Early in these games, the Hoosiers might play by a script as far as rotations are concerned, just to get different combinations familiar with one another.

“Second half we’ve always been of the philosophy all bets are off,” Miller said. “Second half it’s who is going is going to go, and what’s working is going to work and we’re going to stick with it.”

There are certainly plenty of intriguing pieces to experiment with. Senior De’Ron Davis and redshirt junior Joey Brunk, a grad transfer, give the Hoosiers a pair of big men to rotate at the five. Jackson-Davis, the 6-foot-9 Mr. Basketball, can play next to them at the four.

The freshman forward has led the Hoosiers in points through 25 practices — by over 100, Miller said.

“That’s not a slim margin,” Miller said. “So he’s doing some things really well for us every day. If he does those things well every day, he’s going to continue to see success.”

Franklin, the other freshman, has been another highlight. He was the Hoosiers’ only guard down the stretch in the Marquette scrimmage, and he was the lead guard for most of the Gannon exhibition.

Durham has been in Franklin’s ear whenever it’s necessary, because Franklin didn’t come to Bloomington as a point guard in June.

“Whatever he needs help with, or the little things that I see with him, like pushing the ball, or he could have done this other than that,” Durham said. “But he’s most definitely got it down pat, I feel like. Most definitely, I will help him with whatever he needs and give him pointers here and there.”

Getting Franklin up to speed has been important, but getting Durham back from a week-plus hiatus was also a big deal.

“Getting Al back has been a really, really nice surprise,” Miller said. “I think Al plays a pivotal role for us in November and us getting started with his ball-handling and experience being a third-year player.

“So me as a coach, I’m optimistic right now that a lot of these things hopefully can come back together, we’re at full strength. But I think the other guys are prepared.”

Western Illinois

P. No. Name Ht. Cl. Avg. (’18-19)

F 15 Ben Pyle 6-7 So. 8.5

F 24 James Claar 6-8 Sr. 2.4

G 10 Kobe Wester 6-0 Jr. 17.0

G 40 C.J. Duff 6-1 Sr. 11.2

G 1 Zion Young 6-4 So. 6.6


P. No. Name Ht. Cl. Avg. (’18-19)

F 4 Trayce Jackson-Davis 6-9 Fr. N/A

F 3 Justin Smith 6-7 Jr. 8.2

C 50 Joey Brunk 6-11 Jr. 7.6

F 23 Damezi Anderson 6-7 So. 1.5

G 1 Al Durham 6-4 Jr. 8.3

COACHES: Archie Miller, 35-31 in third season at IU, 174-94 in ninth year overall; Billy Wright, 48–94 in sixth year at Western Illinois.

WHEN: 7 p.m.

WHERE: Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

SERIES: Indiana leads, 3-0.

LAST MEETING: Indiana won, 92-40, Dec. 6, 2006, at Assembly Hall.

BROADCASTS: BTN Plus; IU Radio Network.

One comment

  1. “Archie Miller, 35-31 in third season at IU.”

    That first number has to start separating from the second number real fast.

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