Hoosiers preparing for point guard-by-committee approach

Archie Miller has one of the best forwards in the country in Juwan Morgan, one of the most heralded freshmen in Romeo Langford and a cadre of complimentary players to piece around them.

What Miller doesn’t have is one clear, go-to option at point guard.

So Indiana will enter the season with a committee approach to the position, giving Devonte Green, Robert Phinisee and Al Durham a platform to earn starter’s minutes in the months to come. While Green has, at times, been one of the most skilled players on the floor in Big Ten contests, bringing consistency to his game remains a checkpoint he’s yet to meet.

Phinisee, a former four-star recruit, has the potential to become IU’s point guard of the future. Navigating the learning curve at Indiana, however, will take time. Durham, too, is factoring into the competition during this month’s preseason practices thanks to his balanced approach.

With Indiana’s season opener less than three weeks away, identifying the Hoosiers’ top option at the point will be an ongoing assessment.

“That’s one of the best battles in practice,” Morgan said, “watching them go against each other.”

Not since Yogi Ferrell graduated in 2016 has Indiana had the kind of high-level point guard play that great teams enjoy. This year, Miller is putting the burden on Green, Phinisee and Durham to earn the bulk of the minutes and provide the steady playmaking abilities that will help IU play well into March.

“Those guys are pushing each other,” Miller said.

That’s been evident from the start of the preseason, especially in the head-to-head matchup between Green and Phinisee.

Green, a junior, dazzled in flashes last season, then drove his coaches mad at others.

During a four-game stretch in early February, Green enjoyed one of the most encouraging runs of his young college career when he shot 56 percent from beyond the arc and dished 19 assists and committed only five turnovers across games against Ohio State, Michigan State, Rutgers and Minnesota. His performance at Iowa on Feb. 17 stands as his most complete effort to date after he poured in 18 points, hit four 3-pointers and posted six assists against only one turnover.

But Green closed the season by averaging only 3.6 points and committing 10 turnovers over IU’s final three outings, riding yet another of the wild swings that have defined his game during his first two seasons.

As a high school senior, Phinisee answered a scoring need at McCutcheon High School, where he averaged 29.4 points, 6.8 rebounds and 5.8 assists last winter.

At Indiana, Phinisee has challenged Green for the ball-handling duties, offering a contrasting style while keeping pace with the players around him.

“Usually ‘Te has been faster than the other guards,” Morgan said. “But now Rob is just as quick laterally and up and down. I just think they give each other fits. I think that’s a good thing, especially to have that in practice where you have two great point guards going against each other.

“I think they build off each other because ‘Te is more of a street ball (type of player), trying to get by you with crossovers and things. Rob is more fundamentally sound. I think they’re both taking things from the other to add things to their game.”

Indeed, Miller would like to see Phinisee borrow things from Green’s game. Green was IU’s best post-feeding guard a year ago, and also has a natural ability to play the pick-and-roll and attack off ball screens.

“Rob is going to be a guy I really think (is) going to grow,” Miller said. “I think Rob’s biggest asset here early, as I’ve seen him, is right where we expect. He’s got a high IQ. He’s really intelligent. He’s competitive. He’s 185 pounds as a freshman, which gives him an added advantage in strength, defensively.

“I think off the ball, defensively, watching him here early, he’s got a chance to help our team. So I think Rob has just got to work to keep his feet on the ground, do it every single day, and he’ll create his own niche.”

Durham is also part of the equation for Miller, who has gone out of his way to praise the sophomore for his approach and communication style on the floor. Last season, Durham demonstrated through his ball security that he’s an instinctive player who limits mistakes.

He was also one of IU’s most consistent defenders, as well as being the best among Indiana guards at drawing fouls.

“I really like Al,” Miller. “I think Al’s doing a great job.”

Turning great effort into great point guard play will be Miller’s challenge, especially early this season.

“I’m really, really excited about the competition level every day that we have in practice,” Miller said. “That’s something that’s really, really important to have. Rob’s done a really good job, as have the other two guys. I definitely think it’s been impressive to watch those guys play.”