Miller plans to bank 2 open scholarships

BORDEN — Make no mistake, Archie Miller hoped to use the open scholarships at his disposal.

But after a string of misses on the recruiting trail, the Indiana coach will stick with the roster he was projected to have.

Speaking with reporters Wednesday for the first time since the end of last season, Miller said he plans to enter his third campaign at IU with 11 scholarship players — two under the NCAA limit of 13. Miller didn’t completely rule out the possibility of adding a player this summer, though at the present time, such a move appears unlikely.

Miller spun the situation as a positive, and there could be some truth to that view. Typically only nine or 10 players find themselves in the playing rotation in a given year, and Miller believes having fewer players on scholarship — and, by extension, fewer players eyeing premium minutes — could foster better locker room chemistry in the months to come.

But it’s still a gamble, especially with a roster as flawed and incomplete as the one Indiana owns. Right now, it’s a gamble that the 40-year-old coach is preparing to take.

“We’ll be able, for the first time since I’ve been here, to have some roster flexibility with our scholarship situation,” Miller said. “It’s never good in 2019 to have 13 guys on scholarship. It just doesn’t work at this level. You have to have some flexibility to do what we want.

“We would only use one if it was an impactful decision. We’re not going to use one just to be hasty. We’ve had all spring to evaluate things, but going into the 2020 class with some more windows to add some more bodies in that class is something that we’ve looked forward to.”

Indiana’s current scholarship situation is a product of natural attrition, transfers and Romeo Langford’s expected decision to leave for the NBA after only one season. No matter how Miller wants to spin the situation, the truth is that he’s dangled his open scholarships — not to mention the prospect of early playing time — to a handful of recruits over recent months only to see his bids rebuffed in all but one situation.

IU’s only spring roster addition has been Butler graduate transfer Joey Brunk, a forward who joins an incoming class featuring McDonald’s All-American Trayce Jackson-Davis, a forward from Center Grove, and three-star Cathedral guard Armaan Franklin.

Five-star prospect Keion Brooks turned down Miller in March to sign with Kentucky, a snub that ended a two-year recruitment on the part of IU’s staff. Miller tried to play catch-up with a few others, including four-star combo guard Anthony Harris and four-star guard Lester Quinones, but those pursuits ended with similar degrees of frustration.

By banking the two scholarships, Miller will have four grants with which to work during the 2020 recruiting cycle. That, of course, does little to solve some of Indiana’s more immediate problems for the 2019-20 season, such as guard depth, spacing and shooting/scoring ability — areas that simply must be addressed for Indiana to end its three-year NCAA Tournament drought.

One area of hope for next year’s roster rests in the hands of redshirt freshman Jerome Hunter, who missed all of last season with an unspecified lower leg condition. Hunter, the second-highest ranked recruit in IU’s 2018 class, has the potential to be an impact player on the wing in the years to come.

Even so, it’s still unclear when that impact will be felt.

Hunter continues to rehab his condition, according to Miller, while working out in Bloomington and participating in individual drills. But a timetable for his return to the court is not currently known.

“He’s far, far away from having any indication or final decision on where he goes from here,” Miller said. “We’re probably looking toward July and August to see what he’s capable of doing as we continue to progress with what the doctors and training staff have done with his plan. But we’re excited to get him back on the floor. He’s doing a lot more individual work and weight training and conditioning, so it’s good to have him back being active.”

If, by chance, Hunter weren’t ready to hold a role at the start of next season, that would leave Indiana with merely 10 scholarship players. It doesn’t feel like an ideal situation, especially after the Hoosiers learned how injuries can impact a season last winter. At the same time, Miller is smart not to panic and dish out scholarships to unworthy players. That’s the kind of ill-advised strategy that made a mess of former coach Tom Crean’s roster after the 2013-14 season.

Right now Miller, at least publicly, is trying to find the positive in the status of his roster.

“Sometimes when you have 13 guys on scholarship, if (Player) 12 or (Player) 13 aren’t redshirting or injured, you have some dynamics you have to deal with with playing time,” Miller said. “To be able to go into this season a little thinner on that, to me, gives guys more of a light at the end of the tunnel where they have a real purpose and can see themselves being a part of things for the long term.”

26 comments

  1. I agree completely about holding 2 scholarships if players wanted don’t work out. I disagree completely to candy coat it. Rather, say if players are good enough they will play and looking for 2020 top talent.

  2. If injuries could be kept to a minimum we might end up with more players available than last year.

    I am pleased that he is not handing out participation award scholarships as CTC did to fill out the bench when no real basketball players were available.

  3. Mike’s comment, “a roster as flawed and incomplete as the one Indiana owns,” brings up a question.
    Is the roster this bad or did the health issues mar an otherwise good roster? Which brings up another concern, the health of one Jerome Hunter. His lack of availability could make Mike’s comment spot on for the coming year, assuming Jerome is as good as advertised. I’m still of the camp that the loses of Juwan and Romeo will not hurt the upcoming season nearly as much as the lack of a healthy roster.

    1. Agree with Chet completely.
      tai I’m still LOL over MM’s opinion. It just isn’t easily understood the affect often multiple and recurring injuries have to the aggregate # 13 in organized practices and work by individuals outside of practices. Decreasing development of individual players means the same about team development, shooting proficiency, team chemistry and most of all competitive confidence. It was a perfect storm for a young college basketball team and coaches were out of eligibility.

  4. Doesn’t bring up any question. Rather, old and roster is flawed many years now…guys getting into trouble, variety of injuries (LOSERS EXCUSES) from foot, knee, leg, head, arm, hand, thumb, little pinky, and attitude as evidenced by getting a really good recruit here and there but also evidenced by lack of enough high level recruiting that says this is the Indiana Hoosiers.

  5. Whatever the roster looks like for the upcoming season coach, what will be the Fan base response if we miss the dance for the fourth consecutive year?

  6. Ask Leal re-classify. He is a player, much like Armaan. IU could use next season. We already know that we want him by offering for 2020. Think outside of the box Archie! Year 3 must be good!

  7. I attended the Huber’s I U event, the most telling comment of on the men’s basketball was when Don Fisher made the intro for Coach Miller and stated to the crowd, this man can really good coach, but its going to take time for Indiana Basketball to meet the fan’s expectations. The basketball playing future for Hunter is still in doubt, with maybe sometime in August or September to see what his status for the season. After leaving the event and hearing CM’s comments I don’t see the upcoming season being much different that the past two seasons, with the need for a real good 2020 class to get the program started in an upswing.

  8. I believe IU South’s expectations for the 2019/2020 season are appropriate. Better to manage our expectations so as not to over-react when this incomplete roster’s season is over.

    Replacing Juwan’s production is going to be difficult. I think this coming season is going to make IU fans appreciate Juwan’s contributions all the more. With our two new freshman recruits, Archie can replace Romeo, but losing Juwan’s experience and leadership will be obvious.

    1. Po,
      I think a tempered amount of expectation for this coming season is indeed in order as you and IUS have indicated. My main reason for lowered expectations is Jerome Hunter’s status. I believe with Jerome as advertised last year, IU was in the dance, without all the other health issues on the team, a sweet 16 team.

      Where IU goes this next year I believe will depend on 3 main factors: 1) Jerome Hunter’s status and ability to perform as advertised. 2) The overall health of the team and especially Rob & Race at full speed. 3) How much the returning veterans improve one year to the next, especially the upperclassmen.

      Bonus X factor) The 3 newcomers and how fast they fit in to CAM’s scheme.

    2. As much as we all loved Juwan’s game we may not truly appreciate how good he was until next season.

      The guy was a rock. Versatile, reliable, consistent. As clutch as they come. By all accounts a great guy.

      We were lucky to have experienced his college career.

  9. Expectations for IU BB should equal expectations of IU FB. Hope we can manage to win just enough to get into a bowl game and at large bid for NCAA tourney.

  10. I would rather have 10 scholarship player that WANT to play than the extra 3 that didn’t want to be at IU. IF Moore ,a Jr and Forrester a freshman, had worked with SOME level of passion or intensity or drive..they would have seen more floor time last year..the fact the didn’t is why I THINK they left. I give Coach Miller credit for NOT signing the likes of Tim Priller and Jeremiah April..scholarship eaters that provided very Litte

    1. If those guys thought they had a shot at significant playing time next season they would still be on the roster and working out. Getting ready for next season.

      I will be very surprised if any of them end up at as high profile a program the one they are leaving.

      Water tends to find its level. They know where they stood as far as their future at IU a lot better than any of us do. They are probably doing what is best for everyone.

      That’s the way these transfers usually work out.

  11. Archie needs to evaluate his assistants closely. They are not helping recruit quality players we need, and not seeing their value to prepare who we have.

    1. Cali,
      Is it the assistants no aiding in recruiting effectively or maybe IU not offering a strong enough “compensation package?”

      Brings up a second question if this be the case, which many of us have reason to believe exists, does IU want to win recruiting battles in this manner?

      1. Think, If anyone has proof that a program is cheating in any way to Recruit a player, provide proof to the NCAA. Otherwise you are making an excuse as to why you are losing the recruiting battle. Do programs cheat? yes. All of them? No. Which ones for fact cheat based on proof? Only the programs caught. The rest are up to debate.
        Do I want IU to cheat? No. How do I know for fact we don’t? Because we haven’t been charged.

        1. Cali,
          You seem to forget one little thing. There has been proof submitted to the ncaa and it did not do much good. Need I remind you of the phony classes at NC or the coaches on FBI tapes? Exactly what is the ncaa doing?

          John Beilein and Tom Izzo have basically told us just how bad things are on the recruiting trail without actually naming names. As for IU, they did get caught, and nearly destroyed the program over what today would be small potatoes.

          1. Think, Then Izzo needs to follow Beilein to the NBA and his recruiting problem is solved. The NCAA administration has problems too.

            I was born in the same hospital on the same day with the same doctor as Larry Bird. He is a legend, I am not. Life isn’t fair.

  12. JM was damn good. But IIRC the times he spent significant stretches of time on the bench the 5 on the floor made positive things happen. When IU was in the biggest trouble was having RP unable to play.

    1. Sure, it’s a team game and it all starts at the point. RP has been a pleasant surprise and his unfortunate injury showed just how important he is.

      JM has been a stud. Playing out of position he did everything anyone could have asked of him and he never complained. He was money.

      He may surprise us and be a better pro than college player once he get to play his actual position for an extended period. He has tended to get the most out of himself.

  13. Looked at a 1958 Bloomington High School Sectional (couple typed pages program…teams and players listed, game times and officials etc) on fb of one class Indiana State Basketball Tournament. 11 teams started playing Wednesday 3 games, Thursday 2 games, Friday 2 games, Saturday 3 games and a Sectional champion was crowned by Saturday night. 11 teams and 10 games to crown one Sectional Champion. Then, Regionals, Semi State, and State Championship.

    1. In this age of kids becoming ‘recruits’ in the 8th grade I saw a picture from my high school days that brought a smile to my face. It was from the basketball page in the yearbook. I recognized 2 of the players. One would go on to play for Ray Mears at Tennessee.

      Another was signed by Adoph Rupp and would one day land on the cover of SI. Played a few years for the Pacers.

      What made me smile was…this was the JV team. No being called up to the varsity as a 9th grader back then, let alone an 8th grader. They were doing good by getting on the JV as 9th graders instead of the freshman team.

      Then Ward and June tucked in Wally and the Beav and kissed them goodnight.

  14. think, there have been accusations, speculation and evidence, but for those coaches still employed by their schools, not “proof.” For those coaches where there was proof of cheating, those guys have been fired (i.e., AZ’s Assistant coach). But there’s a big difference between evidence and proof, and given the money involved and the terms included in these coaching contracts, schools can’t fire a coach “suspected” of cheating unless they have real proof or are willing to buy-out the contract for huge amounts of money. Otherwise the schools get hammered by wrongful termination lawsuits and spend many millions of dollars. When there is actual proof of cheating, the coaches involved have been fired. I mean look at how IU handled the firing of our former basketball coach who they fired for cheating. IU paid him about $800,00 to “go away” without a lawsuit, even though they had proof that he broke the rules and then lied about it.

    The NCAA is feckless and without any real power relative to the legal system. They don’t have any real investigative power, or the power to subpoena people, question them under oath, or etc. The cheaters and their lawyers know this and are therefore able to violate the rules with relative impunity. And they justify their cheating by telling themselves “look at all the money these kids are generating for their schools, the NCAA, us coaches, the networks, etc., so they deserve to get more than then just a scholarship.”

    Get rid of the one-and-done rule and most of this will evaporate overnight! Either that, or create a division within the U.S. Justice Department that focuses exclusively on intercollegiate athletics.

  15. TJ, I don’t think “desire” was the problem with the guys who recently transferred. I think it was talent, and they didn’t have enough of it to earn playing time. My guess is that Archie “encouraged” the guys who transferred to do so. It’s usually best for both the player and the team when they do. I imagine it’s a serious grind to be a part of a major college varsity sports team even if you’re getting a lot of playing time. So if you’re not playing in games, that grind becomes intolerable, especially if you believe you have the talent to play at a different school.

    1. Sure. They know where they stand. Way more than we do.

      You could make a case that they had MORE desire than, say, a Tom Priller. There was no way Priller would ever get meaningful minutes at IU. He decided he would rather be in that position as purely a practice player than trying to earn playing time on a team where he might actually contribute.

      I don’t think any less of those guys. I hope they find a good fit and I hope IU replaces them with players who have the skills to contribute at this level. Win-win.

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