Will Sheehey dunks on people, and other notes from the Indy Pro-Am

Indiana has entered six players — which accounts for all of the healthy scholarship players other than the true freshmen — in the Indy Pro-Am Summer League, a six-week circuit at IUPUI that includes players with Indiana ties at every level from college to European professional leagues to the NBA. Tuesday’s were the first night of the league, which allowed us the first chance to watch most of them since the season ended.

Christian Watford, who is playing on the same team as Victor Oladipo, wasn’t there on Tuesday because he’s attending the Kevin Durant Skills Academy in Chicago. Verdell Jones and Derek Elston were there but both are getting over injuries, as of course is Maurice Creek. As for the other five, our evaluations follow.

Will Sheehey: Sheehey was unquestionably the most entertaining Indiana player on Tuesday, if for no other reason than he was constantly playing to his teammates in the crowd and gesturing to them every time he scored, or, really, did anything. He had what was unquestionably the play of the night, posterizing an opponent by dunking over him on a fast break, drawing a comment from the loquacious public address announcer about white guys actually being able to dunk. Later in the game he threw down a left-handed windmill on a breakaway.

The good news for Indiana fans, though, is that he was aggressive, and he was confident. He shot reasonably well, but he attacked the basket, was tough to deal with in transition and rebounded well. He scored 12 points in a loss.

From Hugh: Early in the game Sheehey upset Indiana Pacer Lance Stephenson by goal-tending one of the latter’s shots. Stephenson got revenge by picking Sheehey’s pocket, but Sheehey kept going after him and demanding to take Stephenson on defense. He was beat once or twice, but not badly; there were other times where he forced Stephenson to give up the ball or to settle or a long-range jump shot.

Jordan Hulls: Sheeney’s teammate on the purple team played as a foil to Sheehey’s brashness, just as you would expect. Summer league games are sort of like AAU games but with adults. Lots of one-on-one, everyone freelancing, nothing even resembling a set play.

Hulls likes structure. He’s not going to handle this well. We’re expecting he’ll design his own offense and print out playbooks by Week 3.

Despite his aversion to this brand of basketball, he still acquitted himself more than well. He scored 12 points, knocking down back-to-back 3-pointers at one point, and drawing kudos from the crowd by crossing up a defender twice before pulling up for a jumper. He also grabbed a loose ball about 28 feet from the basket with the shot clock running down and chucked in a 3 from there.He also finished with 12 points.

Hulls’ upper body looks significantly thicker, and he’s still as fundamentally sound as ever. He wasn’t on the floor for a minute before he dished out an assist with his left hand.

From Hugh: Best move of the night for me, and it is in the video, is when Hulls takes a hard step towards the lane and then drains a jump shot. The pull-up jumper has long been a part of his game, but this showed how his increased strength was going to help him get his shot.

Victor Oladipo: Oladipo may have showed the most significant transformation of any of the players who were on the floor on Tuesday. He’s up about to about 211 pounds, which is about 11 pounds more than he was carrying last season, and it hasn’t hurt him at all.

“I feel a lot bigger and I feel a lot stronger,” Oladipo said. “I’ve been working hard during the offseason, especially during the spring and right now. I’ve been working on getting bigger, getting quicker, getting stronger, getting faster, all that kinda stuff. Just improving my game so I can play at the highest level.”

Oladipo seems to have significantly improves his offensive game. He handled the ball well in traffic and was able to break people down in the lane, something he often struggled with last year when he only seemed capable of driving in straight lines. He also showed a vastly improved mid-range jumper that could go a long way in keeping him on the court.

“I’ve been working on my mid-range a lot,” Oladipo said. “Just driving and then stopping on a dime and then pulling up. I’ve been working on that a lot, and just slowly extending my range. Hopefully I’ll get comfortable with it. It looks like I’m getting pretty comfortable. Hopefully by the time the season starts, I’ll be real comfortable shooting around the perimeter. … I feel like if I can hit that shot, then I can do a lot of things on offense and be more effective.”

From Hugh: Quite simply, Oladipo played like a complete player on Tuesday. I loved the energy he played with as a freshman, and how much he was able to do with it. But he wasn’t a complete player – hardly any jump shot and a line-drive penetrator. The guy we saw Tuesday was someone who has a future beyond defensive stopper.

Tom Pritchard: Summer league games don’t often do much to showcase big men who don’t score in big numbers, so there wasn’t much to see from Pritchard on Tuesday. He had zero points and four rebounds, but the lack of scoring was mostly because he was rarely passed the ball. There wasn’t much that could be derived about how he could do playing off of McDonald’s All-American Cody Zeller.

Pritchard said it’s going well so far, though.

“It’s been great,” Pritchard said. “It gives me good competition when we’re playing against each other. When he’s on my team, it opens things up, makes things easier for me. I’d like to think I make things easier for him. When we’re both in the game, we’re pretty big, and I think it will be a pretty good threat.”

Pritchard said he’s trying to get down to 245 pounds, and he’s down to 249 now, and he’s trying to be more assertive inside.

“I just want to be more aggressive,” Pritchard said. “Obviously offensively, aggressiveness is something I’m trying to develop. Through the years, I really haven’t had that at IU. I’ve been working on my shot with Seth Cooper, one of our managers, and basically, just being aggressive.”

From Hugh: Pritchard stayed on the baseline, looking like he was waiting for the ball to come his way or he was just staying out of the way of the dribbler-and-drivers. Obviously you’d like to see him more aggressive, demanding the ball. But he is what he is, and the willingness to do things like battle big men in the post and set screens on offense is what makes him valuable to Indiana.

Matt Roth: Roth was taken out of the equation by the style of the game more than anyone else. He sat literally wide open in the corners for entire possessions without his teammates so much as looking his way. He barely even saw the basketball until the waning minutes, and when he did he pulled up from about 24 feet only to have the shot rim out. He didn’t score in the game, but he was allowed to take the ball one-on-one in the final seconds.

From Hugh: Roth took four shots during Tuesday’s game, all 3-pointers. If one goes in, maybe it allows him to develop something of a rhythm and for his teammates to see he needs the ball more. But he didn’t. Roth did tell me afterwards that he has been trying to cut weight this offseason and continue to work on his overall game. Asked if he was planning on using his redshirt year or using this as his final season, he said he wasn’t concerned about that right now. He has started graduate school in sports administration.

Maybe that means he gets more shots next time. Games are every Tuesday and Thursday

18 comments

  1. I like what I hear about the IU players, particularly Sheehey and Oladipo. Hulls is dependable to get better every year, not leaps and bounds, but better. Pritchard I think will be a good complement to Zeller; maybe with Zeller, Pritchard and Watford in the lineup IU can finally hang with the top-level teams physically. If Roth can just give us some spot-up shooting when we need it, he’s made a valuable contribution. I’m confident about the team this year based on the improvements returning players are reported to have made.

  2. A very good sign. If Sheehey and VO continue to elevate their games it could mean a postseason tournament for IU this season. They are more athletic than anyone else on the team and can make significant contributions on defense and rebounding while providing much needed scoring threats. And if Mo Creek is 100% healthy things really look good.

  3. Any reason why their jerseys says Indy Pro-Am 2010 when it is 2011? Any other notable college players in the games?

  4. My guess is they didn’t buy new jerseys yet.
    There are quite a few, but the names that stood out last night were pros. Eric Gordon, D.J. White, Chris Thomas and Rod Wilmont are all on the same team. I’m going out on a limb here, I know, but I think that team just might have a shot to win the whole thing. Bonzi Wells and Lance Stephenson were also there.
    There are some Butler guys playing, though not all of them were there last night. Chrishawn Hopkins, Eric Fromm and Kyle Marshall are all on teams.

  5. “Lots of one-on-one, everyone freelancing, nothing even resembling a set play.”

    So do the player assessments mean a whole lot when you premise it’s playground ball? Most young players measure of improvement is how well they can handle double teams and hard defensive pressure. Offensive games always look vastly improved when defensive tenacity is absent from the contest.

    With the exception of Hulls(his improvement was already obvious last year), I think the guys absent from these scrimmages(Abell, Zeller, Jones, Elston, Creek) hold the keys to the engine a strong season for the Hoosiers. Abell bringing speed and defensive tenacity to the backcourt …Zeller’s ability to dominate the glass and keep bigs honest with the versatility to open the lane and take his game outside occasionally …Jones having less one-on-one mindset and cognizant the advantages to giving up the ball with more options on the floor…Elston playing within himself(unlike “Showboat” Sheehey) and living up to his enormous potential…and Mo’s confident swagger and healthy spring back on the court filling up points from the perimeter.

  6. oops…And Watford is obviously another key component a strong Hoosier season. He doesn’t benefit one iota from “freelance” ball. As many his critics have pointed out on this blog(though I don’t agree he lacks in hustle), a better-schooled defensive player is the difference-maker for Christian to go from very good to exceptional.

  7. Cupcake,
    No they don’t mean that much. It’s summer ball. For them it’s something to do. For us, it’s something to cover. For them, it’s a beneficial supplement to open gyms because they get to play against someone other than each other. For us, since much of what they do is closed, this league provides us the best opportunity we’re going to have to tell you how the players are progressing individually. Of course it’s not definitive. It’s just better than nothing.

  8. And JR, I mean, he looks good to me, but like I said, there’s only so much you can extrapolate from these. And it’s not like all the Pacers were there.

  9. I don’t have a problem with WS looking a little cocky. To play at the level we expect these kids (and they are) to play you have to border on an arrogant belief in your skills. Physically, he reminds me of Rex Chapman, if I can venture into Kaintuck. The most successful of my kids honestly believed he was going to dominate every time he stepped on the mat. Obviously, he didn’t or we’d have Olympic gold hanging from the mantle. But you have to believe it in yourself. I like the look in Will’s eyes. I don’t think he’ll try to showboat when the real games begin but I really like the fearlessness.

  10. Dsutin-

    I understand perfectly..Summer leagues are still better than letting your skills regress. And it’s good to let you guys have some unstructured fun in covering Hoosier talent provided by the rare open access. Hulls looked strong…man, he can shoot the ball.

    Chet-

    Always value your opinion. I think your very honest and you bring experience raising your own kids that have been involved in sports. Maybe there’s a borderline when it comes to “cockiness”. You can believe in yourself to the point of appearing nearly arrogant in your abilities, but if it hampers a realistic look at all the areas you could work to improve, then it can be problematic in reaching your fullest potential. I like Sheehey’s in-your-face attitude…I often like it because it can bring others with unfounded arrogance back down to the level of earthly beings. I just hope the “showboating” is not intended to compensate/mask areas he needs a lot of work. Do the work, then hold the world above your head. Weaknesses(as I perceive them): He doesn’t have much of a jumper while on the move and his ball handling skills in traffic are somewhat suspect. Sheehey has great potential and a real upside with his level of athleticism. Basketball is a strange game. You see guys that seem so close to breaking through in terms of what it takes to be competitive at a higher collegiate level and beyond, and for whatever reason, it just never happens. That being said, I’m in no position to judge these guys. I’m just blogging my bullsh** opinion..They have all reached a level far beyond what I ever achieved at the game. Rare athletic ability and generous physique is still a dead end without persistent determination and a certain intangible knack for the game to grow into. I loved the sport of basketball, but I was too lazy to put in the needed hours to get anywhere near a college level experience. Looking back, I wish I would have pushed myself more.

  11. oops..I think /you’re/ very honest. Sorry to Dustin for butchering his name too…(Can I blame the mistakes on being lightweight compared to my long ago college days? I just put down a couple bottles of Sam Adams Summer Ale and found myself under the influence a slight buzz…Tasty beer)

  12. Yeah, I post more more with Sam doing the editing. I guess we will only know come December or January. I think he will show up with the jump stop, mid range jumper but who the hell knows? I just like to see a kid with athletic skills, and lots of eligibility, show confidence against someone who is obviously over their head, skill wise. I guess I’ve watched too many Rocky movies.

  13. Cupcake, Chet…good comments. I just wonder if this sn’t breaking down into two very separate season…1v1 Summer basketball (sort of like baseball’s Homerun Competition t the All Star game) and 5v5 Real Basketball? Don’s see how one transports into the other. Yes, I also believe Sheehey could be a brilliant player (as could Olipo and Zeller) but they’ll have to change a mindset and that will require some very good work by TC.

    Please don’t discard Creek (I really do believe he will make a tremendous comeback and remind us of the one with the potential) and Watford.

    Rex Chapman!…. I’d forgotten about him. Owenboro????

  14. In Sheehey’s defense, he was kidding most of the time. The showboating didn’t have much to do with actually showing off as it did getting laughs from his teammates in the stands, who were pretty much falling over laughing the whole time. He’s not really that arrogant of a kid, and I don’t think his attitude is going to hinder his game.
    Now, there’s always the chance that one of his opponents or even teammates in this summer league doesn’t take it as a joke and that could cause it’s own set of problems. But I don’t think you’re seeing a deep personality problem that’s going to hold him back.

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