Ex-IU forward Smith transferring to Arkansas

Former Indiana forward Justin Smith will spend his senior season playing for Arkansas.

Smith, who announced his intent to transfer last month, tweeted his destination Monday with the words “New Beginnings.” As a graduate transfer, the 6-foot-7 forward will be immediately eligible for coach Eric Musselman’s program.

Of course, Smith should be familiar with Arkansas on the court. The Hoosiers lost to the Razorbacks in non-conference nail-biters in both 2018 and ’19. Last season was the program’s first under Musselman, the former NBA and Nevada head coach, finishing with a 20-12 record, just like IU.

Smith will give Arkansas a high-flyer who can finish in transition, rebound, and defend. The junior was the Hoosiers’ third-leading scorer at 10.4 points per game last season, adding another 5.2 rebounds per contest in 32 starts.

Smith initially declared for the NBA draft but instead chose to withdrawal and transfer. This is the Hoosiers’ second such departure this offseason, with Damezi Anderson heading to Loyola. IU is also losing seniors De’Ron Davis and Devonte Green.

IU is bringing in a four-person freshman class, including in-state guards Khristian Lander, Anthony Leal, and Trey Galloway and out-of-state wing Jordan Geronimo.

That leaves the Hoosiers with the same number of scholarship players on the roster as last season, 11, two short of the maximum.

The only remaining Tom Crean recruit on Archie Miller’s roster is rising senior guard Al Durham.

33 comments

  1. Sometimes people want or need to find a new place to live so to speak. Not much or nothing do I know on the outside looking in. However, in my opinion transfer accomplishes nothing for J.S. from where he was at as a junior at IU heading into senior year. Again, I don’t know much or nothing about it.

    1. Justin must not have much interest in the academic side of transfer. Too bad. We know that he is a very good student!

      1. Justin was also a great ‘student of the game.’ He rarely forced things. He didn’t have that ‘thump myself on the chest’ mentality. He played the game for his teammates as much as himself. A lot of smart kids in classrooms are often lacking in maturity on the basketball court.

        I miss mature kids on a basketball court. Justin was one of those kids. Humble at his core. Genuine. Troubling to see a kid leave who, from this longtime Indiana Basketball fan’s perspective, epitomized our strength and our brand.

        Something Knight was able to do, brought maturity along with skills to a roster. I think we miss maturity more than anything else. And it’s that absence of maturity that stymies us in March and on the biggest stages. Maturity doesn’t necessarily need four years to evolve. It’s often either there….or it isn’t.

  2. Smith may believe that Musselman, given his experience coaching in the NBA, may give him a better chance of getting drafted by an NBA team. At the very least, Smith will be a more important part of Arkansas’ 2020/2021 team than he would have been for IU’s team. Musselman is a very good BB coach with a good reputation. Let’s be honest, he brought a short-handed team into Bloomington and beat Archie on his home court. It’s the only time I ever remember thinking that Archie got out-coached.

  3. Archie gets out-coached frequently….Every night he handed Devonte minutes resulting in sabotaged basketball he was being out-coached, said a “gotcha moment” reporter with initials GD (Gotcha Devonte?).

    There is no excuse to lose to Arkansas at home. Nor is there any excuse to lose to Purdue at home….Nor is there any excuse to get spanked in an NIT game at home. When you have inexcusable losses, that’s on the coach. It’s no shocker (oops…I think we lost an inexcusable game to the Shockers as well). ‘

    Let’s be honest, you’re being overly kind to Archie. He’s frequently out-coached. Much of that had to do with not being tough enough with ‘holdovers’ and not shoving some very dysfunctional players off the team when he arrived.

    That being said, Archie is still light years better than his predecessor. Having a very good point guard makes any coach look a lot better. Things will start looking up when Lander gets going…..

  4. Just out of curiosity H4H,

    Was CAM out-coached or has he been making the best he could out of the hand he had been dealt?

    One possible theory as to the latter being the case, would be the proposition that CAM sticks to his vision of how he wants to play ball so rigidly, that he’s willing to accept more losses in the short-run in order to get to his long-term objective sooner.

    Looking forward to yours and others response to the question.

    1. Well, if he’s willing to stick rigidly to his beliefs on how the game should be played (I’d assume that means quality decision-making and leadership from those on the court), then why not “take the loss” with the prima donnas on the bench?

      The verdict is still out. You’d have to in complete Tom Crean apologist denial if you didn’t recognize the limitations Archie had to work with in many of the players he inherited. I really liked Justin Smith…but, at the end of the day, he was the quintessential Tom Crean recruit; high on athleticism but low on fine-tuned skills and repertoire of offensive moves/comfort. Sometimes, four years is still not enough to turn all the athleticism and “upside” into someone who is going to make your TEAM much better.
      Justin has the athleticism for the NBA….but he may never develop the shot or the offensive skills. Much like Anunoby and Oladipo, the skills finally matured around the time they were ready to leave college. It’s simply too late of a curve (when athleticism meets basketball savvy & IQ) to be of much use at winning championships or going deep into March Madness.

      So, yes …and no. Sometimes out-coached in terms of favoring seniority at any cost. Sometimes Archie’s hands were tied because of the team he was dealt…and the injuries that came about to many of his own recruits.

      All in all, Archie is bringing in kids who have higher b-ball IQ’s and aren’t simply recruited for pure athleticism and potential (the dreaded and overused/over-recruited “upside”).

      Hope that answers the question….Also, final point: It’s pretty hard to complain when Archie has landed three successive Indiana Mr. Basketball’s.

  5. HOPEFUL THINKING seems to be a trademark. A.M. playing the hand he was dealt means pushing players out the door if players are a minus liability vs a positive asset. Yes, A. M. Including;
    team image/team toughness/game preparation/X&O’s/game plan/during game/player discipline/etc etc etc. frequently gets out coached. A glaring example is the loss streak vs Purdue as one can glaringly see how A.M. is being out coached as IU had very minimal chance in any games vs. Purdue.

  6. Musselman is bringing in six transfers in 2020/2021 along with four freshman. That’s ten new players who have no experience with each other. He appears to have no concerns about recruiting transfers and no problem integrating a bunch of new players into his system in short order. I mean, he had a 20 – 12 record last season with a shorthanded roster. Maybe that comes from his experience coaching in the NBA. Maybe he’s just very flexible and can coach to the strengths of the players he has. But no matter what, Musselman is a formidable coach and I think we’re going to see his teams achieve great success in the future.

    As for Archie, there is only one more Crean-recruited player on his roster, so that issue won’t be a credible excuse any longer (IMO, it never was). Now he’s got to prove that he can build a team that wins big. 19 and 20-win seasons, and losing games at home won’t be tolerated by the Hoosier nation much longer.

  7. With the number of transfers “recruited” seems Eric likes to “pirate” players away from teams especially those grad students looking to make NBA. His Dad had the motto “Losing is worse than death because you have to live with defeat. BUT IM also reminded of his Dad’s temper:::Musselman’s Minnesota teams were noted for being physical, intimidating–and sometimes going over the line. In 1972, a brawl erupted late in the Minnesota-Ohio State game on the Golden Gophers’ home court, with three players going to the hospital. Ohio State center Luke Witte, who was fouled hard driving to the basket and knocked to the floor, was punched repeatedly in the head and kneed by Minnesota’s Corky Taylor and stomped on the head by reserve Ron Behagen. As Witte was carried off in a stretcher, he was booed by Minnesota fans. Im waiting for that “temperamental intensity” to raise its head at Arkansas.

  8. TJ, I remember seeing replays of that brawl (which turned into a criminal assault) at the time, and like most college sports fans, I was appalled. And with a father who was a long time FB coach, I was disgusted when Bill Musselman denied having anything to do with the brawl/assault, as if he was not responsible for the conduct of his players and for allowing a few of them to get so far out of hand. In denying any responsibility, he behaved like a coward. He should have been fired that same night and banned from college BB for life. Hard to imagine that he was allowed to coach MN for another game, let alone another season or two.

    1. There was never any criminal charge for what happened, though two Minnesota players were suspended for the rest of the season. A third, Dave Winfield, went unpunished, even though he was part of the mayhem. There were even some fans involved. And Musselman was quickly considered a bad guy among league coaches and leadership. They had another good year or two but that was it and he moved on.

      Musselman was a strange dude. Before home games, they ended their warm ups with a series of Globetrotter like ball tricks that would get Williams Arena going and, at that time, the capacity was almost 3,000 more than it is today, making it the largest, loudest and most intimidating arena in the Big 10.

      And they were long, athletic, physical and . . . mostly black. In the early 70’s, even in a progressive city like Minneapolis, that was rare, and the fight against a mostly white OSU team inflamed tensions wherever they went in the league. IU fans remember well how Clyde Turner left the floor in Bloomington after fouling out the following season.

  9. Heard the NCAA finally came down on some tiny program as a result of the FBI/wiretap investigations….

    I still can’t figure out this Smith transfer. Wonder if something is suspected to go down at Arizona?

    NCAA has plenty of time to do investigations right now. We’ll see if the go after more than pipsqueak programs/coaches…?

    But this Smith transfer is goofy. Something is odd.

  10. oops..

    We’ll see if the [they] go after more than pipsqueak programs/coaches…?

  11. Transition time and getting comfortable, efficient, and achieve in a different system??? The only thing is if there are many new players like himself does it offer opportunity that he is going to be the guy? (free lance more which Smith is not that good). Seems his thinking often trails his playing. Other players may think the same thing? With only one year left and playing quite a bit and contributing at IU…the question is why not stay at IU and become better or good enough for a possibility for NBA? Realistically, Smith is an overseas level pro player regardless of where he plays in college. Smith chose to find that reality out by changing the scenery as thinking grass is kinda brown at IU (blame game on IU than evaluating or looking at himself in the mirror) and grass is greener elsewhere with better odds, opportunity to achieve his goals in a different setting. Probably an overseas pro either way, but in my opinion staying at IU may have offered him a better chance at NBA opportunity.

  12. I hate to play the “let’s be honest” card, but we’re giving Archie a huge pass on this transfer that would not have been afforded Crean.

    Though Justin still had some refinement needed to his offensive game, he was a double digit contributor. He had a strong work ethic. His athleticism and ability on the board created a lot of defensive havoc and strengthened our inside.

    This is a pretty big hit….no matter how we slice it (or downgrade Justin as an “overseas” future talent). He was long. He could leap to the rafters. He was exciting to watch on breakaways …He got up and down the court with ease in transition. His demeanor and his class act on and off the court was what we all want from young men wearing candy stripes.

    A perfect fit to be a Hoosier, yet, something remained imperfect to Justin. This was a kid preparing to be a senior. This is exactly what ‘thinkaboutit’ sells as the key to playing for banners. You can’t build a slow gravy (the Villanova and Virginia models) if a double digit scorer can’t stay secured in candy stripes.

    Again, some of us are already playing apologist for Archie. “Wish him well” statements from IU and Justin seem hollow here. Arkansas? Arkansas a green pasture than Indiana? Something ain’t right.

    I like Race Thompson….I know Archie has a good group of freshmen coming in. But you need maturity on the floor and on your roster that goes beyond just basketball skills. Losing Justin throws a wrench into the upcoming season far more than realized. How ironic to lose the ‘best of the best’ Crean holdovers just when Justin’s game could finally ascend to where it all comes together. This is how it happened with most Crean project/unrefined recruits with oodles of athleticism….(when they exited Indiana for the NBA draft) and we never got the benefits of a full array of skills maturing with the personality of the individual and the team.

    Virginia & Villanova models? All I ever see is wrenches. A defensive gem like Remy moving to Xavier…NBA early exits…more .transfers. If banners are a 4-year construction site, good luck with toolboxes full of wrenches. And this wrench is on Archie. We must have no LEO at Hoosier Basketball….? Maybe Jay Wright and Tony Bennett build LEO because they possess a level of maturity from a coaching sideline in which we seem to always be in wanting? Selling yourself as seasoned and mature is a lot different than it coming naturally and having players believe it. Just as in relationships, the use of “I love you” can never replace the quiet daily examples that may speak louder than the words.

    1. H4H,

      As much as I hate to JS move on for the same reasons you do, all we can do is speculate about his true motivation to transfer. Admittedly, I’m guessing but I suspect his move is over playing time. If I were in his shoes and I thought there was another roster member who would be eating into my minutes significantly and I had professional aspirations, I would do the same.

      If I’m guessing correctly, round 2 of the speculation is who would be taking enough minutes from a seasoned veteran to prompt him transfer this late in the game? Unless there is a transfer coming in that we are not yet aware of, I can only think of one player on the current roster with the potential to cause this move.

      It certainly would bode well for IUBB fortunes if JH has returned to full health and is coming up to speed at a rapid pace. Obviously, this may be a controversial observation, but of all the current roster members, I believe a healthy JH has the highest potential ceiling. That’s saying something considering TJD and KL being on the upcoming roster.

  13. BD, their were no criminal charges because Luke Witte refused to press charges. And that was probably due to the fact that he suffered a serious concussion and had no memory of the second half of the game. But the Minneapolis Police Department was ready to arrest the three MN players that committed the most violence. If I recall, Witte was on the receiving end of a very hard, flagrant foul toward the end of the game. That was followed by a MN player acting as if he was going to help Witte up off the floor, then kneeing him in the groin. Then another MN player came off the bench and stomped on Witte’s head while he was lying flat on he court.

  14. But where’s the slow gravy? A senior brings stability and experience you just won’t find in your future studs with oodles of potential.

    Looks like another ‘wait until next year.’ I like much about Jerome Hunter’s game. Unfortunately, I don’t see the maturity. Maybe that’s a wrong observation. At this moment, I believe Race Thompson displays more of the ingredients that foster a team built of humbled talent.

    Smith’s game can be replaced. But it’s more than that. Teams must have quiet leaders as well as chest-thumpers. I think this goes beyond Justin worrying about playing time. I think there’s personality and fit issues. I see this as Justin seeking a more mature environment. That may be its own ‘controversial’ assessment, but it’s my opinion. I also think last year’s adherence to giving certain Hoosiers with more ‘seniority’ more PT, while still witnessing levels of very immature basketball from these more senior members, displayed a lack of maturity from the sideline …as well as from the court.
    Does it justify a reporter going after a kid at a postgame press conference? No. But it’s still troubling …..from a coaching, leadership and maturity standpoint.

    1. Harv,
      I know you love to be the contrarian, but the real issue here was what Justin Smith and his family wanted him to be and what Indiana needed him to be. He subjugated the former quite well last season, but what Indiana needed him to be was an all-in defensive stopper and rebounder, who scored in transition as a bonus. I think he saw this as an opportunity to be more than that, to expand his game.

      1. There are plenty of contrarians on here beside me. Even when I like a “holdover,” you guys find the other direction. And I’m the ‘contrarian?’

        Let’s be honest, Joey Brunk can’t shoot….and has very little repertoire as well. But I think there is something sort of stymieing blue collar guys to gain a bit of confidence. Prima donnas and immaturity works against guys like Brunk and Smith. You are welcome to disagree, but, to me, these guys are instrumental and must be nurtured on a team for their value.

        Brunk digressed last year. Smith remained rather plateaued. I’m not saying that’s all on the coach, but there may be personality and chemistry issues playing into these guys working their asses off but still unable to blossom under the existing leadership and maturity on the team.

        Mature teams lead by mature coaches win championships…And that doesn’t necessarily mean you need 4-year players. I saw nothing about last year’s team as a mature bunch (nor did I ever see that from a Crean team). This will remain the biggest question mark with Archie. Can he command that sort of respect? Villanova and Virgina models sound great….But let’s be honest, how much of Jay Wright or Tony Bennett do you see in gum-chomping, often frustrated, Archie?

  15. H4H as much as you liked JS …I thought his game actually sucked. I say that because he was SO dependent on the other players on the floor. He would disappear during games; out on the wing looking to “posterize” some opponent. He had 3 years to develop any kind of shot over 6 ft from the basket, his passing skills were poor at best. JS was an athlete recruited under the false pretense of being a basketball player. What he takes to Arkansas is the ability to make the fans go “Ohhh and Ahhh” with his jumping ability; but JH showed his ability last year blocking that shot from behind. I don’t see him getting much playing time at Arkansas with the likes of Isiah Joe and others shooting from 30 ft.

  16. He was unrefined…”Sucked” is a bit harsh. I liked his defensive effort and his effort on the glass. But, mostly, he just seemed like a very mature young man who didn’t play the game with as much intent to be ‘flashy’ as you are suggesting.

    Hell, with that sort of athleticism, he could have been a far bigger ‘hot dog’ when he put it on display. Well see….I think he’ll get plenty of minutes and I know nothing of Arkansas’s roster or available slots Justin could fit. I don’t think you can keep him off the floor….nor do I believe a ‘reserve’ status was sold to him when he picked Arkansas as a final destination.

    His game can be replaced…(some aspects not as easily). I liked his demeanor and the humble way he portrayed himself on the floor and on the sidelines. This isn’t a kid who is going to laughing from the bench when we’re getting our butts kicked in an NIT game on McCracken. He’s a competitor and a committed teammate.

    I wish him well…Good kid.

  17. Regardless, of all comments Smith production if it improved some from last year to his upcoming senior season is a substantial loss to IU
    2020-21 Basketball season given IU men’s current basketball situation.

    1. t- Agree. And it shouldn’t be marginalized or we become the latest version of an apologist. Now we’re hearing Justin’s family was behind this move? Really? I find that bizarre.

    2. Justin’s production did increase each and every year! His 10+ points and 5+ rebounds per game will be very hard to replace. Plus IU ran zero plays for Justin; get out on the break, go hard for the offensive rebound, take a last second 3 when all else has failed. My question is “why Arkansas”? Justin is/was an outstanding student; Arkansas is not academically outstanding. Arkansas is not closer to home, like NW or ND. Arkansas will have 10 new players, each expecting big minutes. At NW Justin would be “the Man”! Just wondering!

  18. Just read that IU is looking at Brandon Lieb, a 7 ft. Center out of Illinois for the 2020 recruiting class. Apparently, the plan would be to red shirt Lieb his freshman year while he builds his body and develops under Brunk, then have him ready to play in 2021/2022.

    Is this a reach or a project? Lieb was virtually invisible on all the BB recruiting sites. Does this mean Archie has no other ranked big-man prospects, or does he think Lieb is a hidden gem?

  19. Smith was quoted in a recent article: “I left (Indiana) because my family and I felt that it was best to explore other opportunities, to maybe go to a place where my skill set and abilities are accentuated and where I can flourish a little bit more,” said Smith, whose family, including parents Edward and Lucy, lives in Buffalo Grove.

    Musselman is known as a coach who allows his players to have freedom offensively, while stressing defense first and foremost.

    “I chose Arkansas primarily because I feel like their style of play really fits my abilities,” Smith said. “They get up and down, they play more up-tempo, more prostyle basketball. Also, I really believe and trust Coach Musselman, their staff and what they’re building down there. I really want to be a part of it.”

  20. It all starts with the point guard. Unfortunately, Archie was left with an inconsistent Jekyll/Hyde Devonte and somewhat pedestrian point guard skills in the rest (nothing of high 4-star or 5-star variety).
    You have to have dynamite point guards to run up-tempo. You need to have a dynamite point guard to change tempo, to adjust to various opponent’s tempo, and to make deep tournament runs.

    Here’s hoping Lander is the quarterback we’ve been missing. A sharpshooter would help, too.

    I don’t know much about Arkansas….My grandfather (dad’s side) ran away to Arkansas when I was a kid. He became a vagabond. I have a picture of me on a horse somewhere in Arkansas…Another of me in a shallow river. We must have visited him once when I was very little. Never saw him since…until the time I was around 5 years old …and he was in his final days laying in a nursing home with his mind totally gone. He thought I was my father’s son-in-law rather than son (his grandson). My other grandfather (the one who was originally from Southern Indiana and moved my mother up to Chesterton after the Depression) passed away when I was 2. My mom always told me his last words were a “goodbye” to me….
    Take care all.

  21. oops…

    Never saw him since…until the time I was around 5 [15] years old.

Comments are closed.