Offseason To-Do List: Derek Elston

Derek Elston defends Ohio State's William Buford during the Buckeyes' 82-61 win in Columbus this season.

With the season complete and the offseason officially started for the 2010-11 Indiana Hoosiers, The Hoosier Scoop will have a breakdown of each individual player’s season and what he needs to focus on during the offseason. The fourth player in the series is sophomore forward Derek Elston. PREVIOUSLY: Christian WatfordVerdell JonesJordan HullsMaurice Creek and Tom Pritchard.

2010-11 STATS: 4.9 points (51.2 percent FG, 17.6 percent 3-point, 63.6 percent FT) and 3.7 rebounds a game.  Eight blocks, 68 personal fouls.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Elston went into last offseason knowing he would have to make a physical transformation to compete in the paint in the Big Ten and he did exactly that. The 6-foot-9 sophomore put on at least 15 pounds of muscle. His listed weight inflating from 220 pounds to 235, though it’s possible he actually weighed less when last season ended. He entered the season looking like a Big Ten power forward and he showed some signs of becoming one early, especially in December when he strung together three straight double-digit games. The athletic Tipton native continues to show range and athleticism that is beyond that of most of his fellow big men.


  • Get it together defensively. Defense has been Elston’s problem since he arrived in Bloomington. There were periods when it seemed like he made strides in that department this season, but the campaign ends with him still not making nearly as much progress as the Hoosiers had hoped. A big part of that is the fact that he had to play center instead of power forward because Guy-Marc Michel was declared ineligible, leaving IU with two other foul-prone options at the five in Tom Pritchard and Bobby Capobianco. But generally, Elston doesn’t appear to have figured out post defense. He’s out of position too often and almost always appears to be scrambling. As it has with Pritchard and Capobianco, that has resulted in a lot of fouls. His average isn’t near Pritchard’s or Capobianco’s, but he still averages 5.6 fouls per 40 minutes. Defense continues to be the biggest reason Elston hasn’t been a fixture in the starting lineup or at the top of the rotation. He started just 10 games, only two after Jan. 4, and played more than 20 minutes in a game just seven times. Pritchard doesn’t appear to be nearly as athletic as Elston and certainly doesn’t have most of the offensive skills Elston has, but he maintained the starting job for most of the season because he had a much better understanding of the basics of post and help defense than Elston showed.
  • Either become a center or pray that IU gets one. Immediately after Indiana’s loss to Penn State in the Big Ten tournament, Elston vowed to spend more time in the weight room to prepare to play center this season. He admitted he was often overpowered inside when playing center, so he decided he should just add more weight. If Elston indeed has to play center again, that is certainly a requirement. He always seemed to play in panic mode when he was giving up size, which ended up with him playing out of position even more often and fouling just to keep himself from being scored on at will. Of course, it would probably be in IU’s best interest to recruit someone who can naturally handle the spot so that Elston doesn’t have to put on the sort of weight that would cost him athleticism. As a 220-pound freshman, Elston recorded more rebounds per minute than anyone else on the IU squad. He appeared to handle 235 pounds well, and his drop in rebounding from 4.1 rebounds per game as a freshman to 3.7 per game as a sophomore was largely because he had a hard time getting position against bigger players. He wouldn’t get boxed out as easily at 250 pounds, but that might cost him some of his vertical, so he could really use a move back to power forward.
  • Become more patient on offense. Elston may have the best range of the Hoosiers’ big men, but there are times when he seems to anxious to prove that. He can become something of a black hole on offense, pulling the trigger on jumpers whenever and wherever he gets the ball. He hit his share of 15- to 18-foot jumpers, but he also missed plenty and was 3-for-17 from beyond the 3-point arc, missing all nine of his attempts in the Big Ten season. He could be better at picking his spots, and also attacking off the dribble.


  1. Very good analysis including the Black Hole. As with my other posts, TEAM needs to be instilled in each player. Also the understanding of role players. Brian Sloan is a great example. Maybe Elston’s best contribution is a screener….And that is OK!!!! and he needs to understand that. Or maybe the best rebounder, like Dennis Rodman (not that Derek is any comparison to Rodman except for his tatoo’s)…. but the point is still the same. A team is a combination of a lot of different talents and this team needs to figure that out.

  2. I think his biggest issue is the need to relax out there a bit. He seems too tight and in too much of hurry most of the time. I think if he could relax we would see a much better player less prone to fouling and with quicker feet.

  3. The last 5 game stretch of a basketball season immersed in the struggle, injury, and disappointments… when even the most minute chance an NIT bid was obviously out of the picture…when lineups can be tinkered with and confidence-building minutes could unwind the tightest wound spring a chance to release a season’s worth of pent-up frustrations and give a glimmer of hope, a chance to have fun, get loose, and improve upon skills in competitive contests against tough Big 10 opponents…when the only thing your playing for is to better your team for the next season, Derek Elston averaged 10 minutes per game. Will keeping the scores in losing games closer be worth the blow to Elston’s confidence? Was he given a signal that his bench believes in his potential? Was he sent a message as being an important piece(even as a “role player”) for the future of his team? He averaged 15 minutes per game since the beginning of the Big 10 season and a whopping 10 minutes per game the last five. Hard to say if any assessment this kid is really fair. What did we have to lose in trying to let Derek contribute in the final weeks of the season?

  4. Dustin, you could have just stopped this article after stating the first item on the to do list: get it together defensively. If he could just become a formidable post defender that doesn’t foul as much, I wouldn’t care if he only averages 1 PPG.

    He’s got the physical tools, dedication, and the intensity to become a very good Big 10 player. I’ll be rooting for him.

  5. I see CTC is grading the players. I sure hope someone,maybe Glass, sits down and grades CTC. If it was an honest appraisal, he should give his salary back to IU or at least one half for his dismal coaching job.

  6. Yep. Coaches that can recruit a player like Zeller after winning ten games are a dime a dozen. Or that can be in the conversation with a prospect like Irving after a ten win season. Or recruit all those 2012 guys during a twelve win season.

    Crean hasn’t done as well as I would’ve liked, but I think he deserves time to get a roster full of his guys before he is judged too harshly. I think he has done a nice job recruiting and doing it the right way. Now that his first real recruiting class is becoming upperclassmen, and his top recruit since signing on at Indiana will be on the way to campus soon, CTC should be able to show more of his potential.

    Not all of the 2009 guys were ready right away. Watford was a double digit scorer but was physically weak. Hulls was beyond weak. Elston has done the work in the weight room but is struggling to put it together. Watford and Hulls have both taken steps and will take steps yet.

    Crean got a contract as long as the contract he got because he and the AD obviously must’ve thought that it’d take a little longer than three years to get us back to where we need to be. The signs look positive as far as the roster improving and becoming more athletic at crucial positions but there are still Chicken Littles all over. Does a ten year contract indicate that those close to the situation would be dissatisfied if Crean wasn’t close to breaking out in year 3? Does that make sense? You should get real. Think with your brain.

  7. Get Real: You have provided us with yet another stupid posting. Crean did not put a gun to anyone’s head to get hired and paid a lot of money by IU. IF he proves to be an inept coach at the end of the day, the blame needs to be laid at the feet of Rick Greenspan for his bad decision. Crean merely took what was offered to him. He did not promise or guarantee championships during his tenure. I believe he is giving his full effort, wants to turn IU hoops around, and really cares. Time will record his final grade with IU.

  8. Are coaches of high-profile college programs becoming like professional athletes? It’s seems rare a multi-million dollar contract holds up for even half its duration when it comes to the top stars of the biggest stages. Has college athletics become so infected by agents and one-and-dones that the lines are blurring into the same the pro sports world? It appears there is little honor on either side of contracts anymore. Athletic Directors always seem to find more money in the budget to cough up. Hell, isn’t Cook Hall completely paid for by way of one donor? Wasn’t Sampson bought nice luggage by way of anonymous blessed check writer? Do we honestly think big money will sit on their thumbs if IU basketball doesn’t soon show a pulse? Do we honestly believe patience and good reasoning skills are only given to those that can put the ink to lots of zeros on checks? Yes, get real. Why are unscrupulous coaches so enticed to cheat? Soon as your batting average dips one season, they begin to hear the change jingling in the “get real” pockets. The contract means nothing. Winning is everything and their is no price ceiling to get there more quickly than next guy on the block licking his chops for national exposure, filled stadiums, and television cameras. Money piped in…Money piped out. And while the “real” bucks under the grounds of that beautiful
    IU campus effortlessly flows from a well that never dries up, 90% of graduating students are already ten years behind the debt ball when they walk off campus into the “real” working world. Most that bought tickets to cheer on Tom Crean and IU basketball will likely earn less than a McDonald’s manager as they struggle to make their minimum payments for a degree that has given them no bargaining power against the corporate giants that look at them like dimestore candy in a struggling economy.

    I want our coach to succeed and be given fair shot his astronomical fair market price to turn things around the “right way”(whatever the hell that means anymore), but gone are the days I’ll shed much a tear when they fall victim to the system of wealth they built for only themselves. I want success more for the educated peasants our wonderful institutions of higher learning that can still find room in their “real” hearts to sit in the stands and cheer for something other than the superficiality of clapping in an Armani suit. And I cheer for every player that doesn’t give a damn about the corruption and insanity because all he still unselfishly cares about is the “real” meaning our fight song though his every gasp his tireless efforts for the glory of old IU has nothing to do with guaranteed contracts obscenely motivated by the hollowness a giant pipeline of greed.

  9. “In the Doghouse” You make great points!!!!!!!!! and are looking at the big picture. Looking back there was more to gain by getting a group of players more experience and more confidence in the past 5 games. An opportunity missed!!!!

  10. I love the kid from Butler whose kids play the game the way it is supposed to be played
    with heart and passion. He doesn’t try to draw all the attention to himself he lets them play

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