Senior send-off on deck for Hoosiers

The player-specific messages shuffled across the South Lobby videoboards every few seconds at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall on Thursday.






For Indiana’s five seniors, the end is nearly here.

There will be more games to come, perhaps even additional postseason contests staged in Bloomington, but for the handful of Hoosier veterans on the verge of exhausting their eligibility, Friday night’s regular season finale against No. 16 Ohio State represents one final salute.

The 2018 senior class is a Hoosier medley, including core players, transfers and fan favorites who have strived to lay the foundation for what’s to come during the Archie Miller Era.

And for Miller, IU’s first-year coach, there is only one fitting send-off.

“The only thing you remember about your Senior Day is did you win or lose?” Miller said. “That’s what we’ll do.”

Here’s a closer look at the players Miller hopes will help the Hoosiers produce a winning effort on Senior Night against the Buckeyes:

Collin Hartman

When he takes the microphone for his postgame address, Collin Hartman won’t attempt to top last year’s senior send-off.

He couldn’t if he tried.

“This one will be much different,” Hartman said with a laugh. “Short and sweet.”

You’ll remember Hartman last February dropping to his knee and proposing to fiance Hayley Daniel, an IU cheerleader. It was one heck of a send-off, except Hartman never left.

He had options, of course. The Cathedral product could have taken his Indiana degree and stepped into the next phase of his life. But after losing last season to knee surgery, Hartman wanted to do something meaningful with his final year.

He looked at his new coach and saw a chance to help build something special from the ground up.

“It’s been a journey,” Hartman said. “As this team has gone on, we’ve come together and grown together as a team throughout the season, coming together and learning the system and just working through everyday trials and tribulations together. We’ve grown together and we’ve become really close, and it’s been a fun ride so far.”

Even though, individually, it hasn’t quite gone to plan for Hartman.

Injuries have taken a toll on the combo forward’s ability to play and produce consistently. Since preseason practices began this past fall, Hartman has nursed ankle, groin, shoulder and thumb injuries spanning the past few months.

At the same time, Hartman has remained positive, while earning the respect of his new coaches.

“Deep down inside, he’d say to himself, ‘I’m a shell of probably what I was at one point in my career,'” Miller said. “The injuries certainly played a big role (with) his inability to really get in rhythm. I wouldn’t be surprised, though, with his attitude and how things go — I gave him a lot of credit in front of the team. I thought he helped us win the Iowa game. I thought the Iowa game maybe he didn’t score a ton, but his assists, his defense, he helped us win that game.”

Hartman’s teammates call him “old man,” though he’s quick to note that point guard Josh Newkirk, born in April 1994, is two months older.

Still, the nickname still fits a player who has been tied to Indiana basketball since his verbal commitment to former coach Tom Crean in November 2010.

“I don’t know if there’s very many people that have been a part of the program longer than I have, from my commitment to graduation,” Hartman joked. “I’d like to maybe claim that. I don’t know if that’s a thing, but I’m going to claim it.”

Robert Johnson

His first taste of Hoosier basketball wasn’t even on American soil.

Robert Johnson suited up in IU colors for the first time in August 2014 during Indiana’s week-long tour of Montreal, adding scoring ability to an Indiana team that oozed firepower.

“It doesn’t even seem like it was that long ago to be honest,” Johnson said. “I still remember first putting on the uniform and just having the feeling of I’m finally here, I’m finally a college athlete.”

During the course of his four seasons at Indiana, Johnson earned his place in the program’s record book. The Richmond, Va. native enters Friday’s game against Ohio State ranked No. 23 on IU’s all-time scoring list with 1,384 points. He’s fourth on IU’s all-time list with 234 3-pointers, and he just tied the Indiana single-game record with nine 3s in Saturday’s win at Iowa.

And in short order last spring, Johnson also earned the trust of his new bosses.

“Can’t put it into words, just how much he’s given to our staff,” Miller said. “It hasn’t been just like one day or one week. It’s been literally since the first second we arrived on campus until today, he has been all in, and he’s worked extremely hard not only individually on his own game, but he’s really just done an amazing job of giving everything he has to our process.”

Reaching this point in the season hasn’t come easy for Johnson, who played through offensive inconsistencies early this season. While it took time to rediscover a consistent scoring touch, Johnson eagerly accepted his responsibilities on the defensive end, where nearly every night he was tasked with guarding the opposition’s most talented player.

It’s that consistent approach that has endeared the four-year starter to his coaches and teammates during the course of his Indiana career.

He and Hartman are roommates on the road, where their conversations naturally drift far beyond basketball. In Johnson, there’s a willingness to be that guy — a friend, a listener, a leader.

“I really commend him for that,” Hartman said, “and I thank him for being that person.”

For Johnson, being a Hoosier has been about much more than the game he came to play.

“Something for me that I’ll cherish is the impact that we’ve had on other people’s lives,” Johnson said. “I think being here is a special place. You get to inspire a lot of people that you don’t come across every day, and for me, I think that’s been special.”

Josh Newkirk

He wore another team’s uniform during his first trip to Bloomington.

Newkirk occupied point guard duties for Pittsburgh when the Panthers rolled into Assembly Hall for the 2014 ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The Raleigh, N.C. native came off the bench to lead Pitt in minutes (34) and assists (eight) that December night, adding 16 points in the process.

“Coming from Pittsburgh to here, I never would have imagined that,” Newkirk said. “It’s been a long journey. To finally be here, after five years, it’s surreal.”

Much like his stay at Pitt, Newkirk has experienced a range of high and low points during his two years with the Hoosiers.

He averaged 10.3 points during conference play last season, ending the campaign better than he found it. He also lost his starting job at the point earlier this month, as IU searched for more dynamic play-making ability at the position.

Now in a new role, Newkirk is trying to enjoy what is left of his college career.

“(I’ve enjoyed) being around these guys day in and day out,” Newkirk said. “Just remembering the summer grinds that we’ve been through, all the running that we used to do, all the weight lifting. I think that’s just the little things, little things like that, going through adversity with these guys. I think that’s some of the little things that we’ll cherish forever.”

Freddie McSwain

There was a point when he thought a school such as Indiana would be far beyond his reach.

When he committed to IU out of Neosho County (Kan.) Community College in April 2016, McSwain had merely a handful of years’ worth of organized basketball playing experience. In Bloomington, he saw an opportunity to grow.

Although his game remains quite limited, McSwain has excelled in one area — rebounding.

No one on Indiana’s team jumps higher than the Hinesville, Ga. native, who has grabbed 90 offensive rebounds during his two years of Division I basketball. If he played enough minutes to qualify, McSwain would rank eighth nationally this season with an offensive rebounding percentage of 15.9.

“Just coming from junior college to here, I embrace just being here,” McSwain said. “I love these guys, love this team, and like Rob was saying, just making an impact on other people’s lives and having people watch us every day, watching us, our games, and I’m just truly grateful to be in front of everybody.”

Tim Priller

He doesn’t play much, but that doesn’t seem to matter.

During his four years at IU, Priller has functioned as a fan favorite.

Nevermind the modest statistics — 26 points, 21 rebounds and four blocks in 35 career games — Indiana’s student section howls when Priller enters games for final-minute mop-up duties.

“My four years have been great,” Priller said. “The fan thing is pretty cool and all that, but I really just want to be remembered as a great guy with a great attitude that tried to help my team in any way possible.”


  1. Congratulations to all these guys and thank you for your hard work and dedication to our program we love. We all appreciate you being loyal to IU during a coaching change. Hope you all find a way to finish the season on a high note. Good luck in your future endeavors.

    1. Ben_M-
      I concur …which I stated on another Scoop headline/video offering (VIDEO: All five seniors talk about saying goodbye, the fans and their careers). But for formality purposes:

      Harvard for Hillbillies says:
      February 22, 2018 at 6:42 pm

      Hope they still have a few more magical games left …Maybe they can experience a Big Ten tournament title for the first time in Hoosier history? Upsets may abound….and maybe these guys will get some great memories to go along with the hard work they’ve put into a tough situation. Best to all of them.

    1. The ROCK says:
      January 3, 2018 at 4:14 pm

      Hartman, while having a nice stat sheet, most certainly did not play “to make his teammates better”. In fact, given that he’s 5th year and supposedly ‘the leader’ the fact that this team is NOT a team and is so listless fall on him. I think guys sincerely don’t like him, and I can see why. It’s an unlikeable team with him as –to me– the most unlikeable player on the team. I don’t see ANY reason to EVER play him and will be very glad when he (finally) leaves along with the rest of the Seniors and all those who transfer.

      The ROCK says:
      January 3, 2018 at 10:29 pm

      Even when we ‘won’ games this year they look like strangers, and I think (and could be wrong) it’s because they can’t stand going into the same locker-room as Hartman and McRoberts. If it’s not that, then what is it? Priller? Very possibly…get rid of that thug too.

      Happy Graduation…to all our unlikable senior thugs! lol.

  2. perhaps even additional postseason contests staged in Bloomington

    Miller-You shouldn’t poison stories with your opinion…or make digs on a team based on what you believe will happen. They still have plenty of chance(albeit very outside chances) to play future games staged outside of Bloomington.
    That’s why they have a Big Ten Tournament….And that’s how Iowa got into the Big Dance the season Luke Recker, a Hoosier transfer, buried 3-pointers and a baseline floater in the closing seconds to claim a Big Ten Tournament title game.
    It has been done by a team on the outside looking in….and it can be done again. Keep the poison out…please.

    1. Harv,
      That’s called covering the bases and is far more likely than a Big Ten Tournament run. I don’t think it’s a dig. As a matter of fact, the idea that there will be any kind of postseason is a compliment all things considered.

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