Miller hopes Hoosiers are more mature, cohesive

One of the first words out of Indiana coach Archie Miller’s mouth during Wednesday’s press conference was “uneventful.”

And considering how the Hoosiers’ 2018-19 season went, “uneventful” was a positive descriptor for the third-year coach as he recapped IU’s preseason practices.

“Hopefully we’ll finish up here in the next five to seven days, but it’s been uneventful, so to speak, which is very rare as you start the fall term, where you don’t have a lot of hiccups, ups and downs, learning each other,” Miller said. “I think our older guys have been very calm. They’ve been very good with their leadership on and off the floor.

“I think our newcomers, two true freshmen and Joey Brunk, those three guys fit in seamlessly.”

An even, uneventful start is far removed from the ups and downs of Miller’s second year, which was twisted by injuries and youth. Last season, the Hoosiers won 12 out of their first 14 games. Then they fell in 12 of their next 13.

Uneventful points in the right direction. While last year’s squad had five true freshmen and a grad transfer, this year’s group returns eight potential contributors and adds just three. The freshmen of last season, minus Celtics rookie Romeo Langford and transfer Jake Forrester, are a year older. The grad transfer Brunk, along with seniors Devonte Green and De’Ron Davis, provide another layer of maturity.

Miller was asked about the 12-of-13 streak that marred last season. He hoped it has shaped the Hoosiers in a positive way.

“I think that maturity will be a huge part of the development of this team, to not get carried away with the outside noise, the negativity, the cluster that everyone deals with in athletics in this day and age,” Miller said. “You have to be able to stay tight, stay calm, and be able to have great togetherness through those times.”

Even if not much out of the ordinary has occurred the last several weeks, there were some noteworthy items Miller discussed at his media day press conference. Here are a few.

Trayce at the four

One of the strengths of this year’s Hoosier team could be its size, including Davis (6-foot-10, 255 pounds), Brunk (6-11, 245) and freshman Trayce Jackson-Davis (6-9, 245).

Miller was asked if he could envision those three playing together in pairs. That will require Jackson-Davis, who has been practicing at the four, to guard on the perimeter.

“Very, very hopeful with Trayce,” Miller said. “His lateral mobility, athleticism, and watching him here early as the season goes, he knows he has to defend on the perimeter. He’s going to have to do that to be able to play with other guys.

“He’s going to have to learn early and probably go through some hard times getting used to guarding college actions and scouting and whatnot.”

Miller believes this team is built to play more inside-out offensively, but finding ways to get the Hoosiers’ bigs the ball isn’t as much of a concern. Defense, particularly with Jackson-Davis, will dictate whether IU can get a 6-9 body on the floor with 6-10 or 6-11.

If the freshman can handle it, the combination of two bigs, along with forwards like Justin Smith (6-7) or Race Thompson (6-8), could give the Hoosiers lots of length on the defensive end.

“I think defensively this team has a chance to be pretty good,” Miller said. “Has some real size three through five where you could be 6-7, 6-8, 6-9 … around the basket and on the glass protecting the paint. That’s sort of what the league is built on.”

Hunter progressing

Redshirt freshman Jerome Hunter’s status was clarified Tuesday when the program put out a statement saying the 6-7 forward was cleared for all basketball activities.

Miller shed even more light on Hunter’s progress Wednesday.

Hunter sat out last season with a lower-body condition, and he underwent medical procedures to remedy the issue. But he has been practicing with the team since August.

“He hasn’t missed a workout,” Miller said. “He doesn’t obviously look to be the full-strength Jerome we inherited as he came off high school season, but that’s natural with any guy that’s taken six, seven months off. He’s got to get his legs under him, get his basketball game back in terms of rhythm, catching, running, contact.

“He’s bigger and stronger, but he’s not playing as strong as he once was. I think all that is going to come with repetition of being out there every day. We’re hopeful. One day at a time.”

With the Hoosiers’ two double-digit scorers from last season no longer on the roster, Hunter is a player Miller hopes can eventually provide a spark in that department, especially with his outside shooting.

Miller and IU’s medical staff continue to monitor his progress.

“We work with him every day. Communication is always the most important thing,” Miller said. “I suspect there will be some days he doesn’t feel as good as the other guys will. We’re all very, very hopeful. I think he’s very, very grateful. I know I am very, very grateful.”

Devonte gets more ‘rope’

Speaking of scorers, senior Devonte Green may be one of the more gifted players of that type on IU’s roster.

Green, who produced 9.4 points per game in ’18-19, is the Hoosiers’ top returner in that category. There are times his shot selection could drive a coach mad, but Miller emphasized that he’s willing to give the 6-3 guard more “rope” this year.

In the last seven games of his junior season, Green averaged 15.4 points per contest.

“To be able to get the most out of him, you’re going to have to live with him doing some things at times that probably you would like to take back,” Miller said. “But for him to be able to be himself, for him to be able to do it at another level more consistently, he’s got to have some more rope.”

In working to get Green more shots, Miller brought up junior guard Al Durham, who may play more point guard this season. That will allow Green to do more things off the ball.

“When he needs to score, we have to have the ability to put him in situations where he’s a more primary offensive weapon, where he’s not bringing it up, he’s more or a receiver than a facilitator,” Miller said.

Brunk a leader

Brunk doesn’t only have a chance to impact the Hoosiers with his basketball skill.

According to Miller, the transfer from Butler has already established his voice.

“We do have a group of guys that naturally are kind of quiet. I think that’s where Joey has been a great boost with his voice,” Miller said. “His personality has really (improved) our workouts, our locker room.”

With a team that is still relatively young, the redshirt junior has an opportunity to lead, in words and in action. Brunk was declared the Hoosiers offseason “champion” for his dedication to the weight room.

On the floor, Miller mentioned Brunk while talking about the Hoosiers’ potential growth on the defensive end.

“Although Joey is a new player, he’s a college player coming in and has competed at a high level,” Miller said. “He knows what it’s like in terms of effort level. We got to get everybody on the same speed in our scheme.”

17 comments

  1. Based on all the official basketball pointy heads the best IU will finish is 9th Place in the B1G. I don’t think 9 teams will make it into the Big Dance so either we win the B1G Tournament or we play in the NIT again.

    1. My head isn’t pointy …but I would have loved to see this year’s team with a Romeo Langford completely ready for a second season of college ball.

      With our inside game looking as strong as it’s been in decades(Jackson-Davis, DeRon, Thompson, Smith, Brunk) just how big would it have been to have a superstar complementing all the other pieces(new and matured)?

      Romeo was born one year too early for Archie….It’s sometimes just that fine of line between banners and boredom in the world of college basketball.

      This is the team Romeo could have anchored to a championship…(much in the manner Isiah anchored the ’81 Hoosiers).

  2. I feel the Hoosiers are going to surprise a few of the pointy heads. These are the same brainiacs that were ready to hand Michigan the B1G trophy in football this year without even a sniff of all the issues that have been plaguing Harbaugh since he got there. National sports media is getting worse and worse. Pays to be a big mouth and not a thoughtful or insightful person anymore.

    National media has given up on the Hoosiers. Here’s to proving them wrong…

  3. Biggest problem is we really don’t know what we have. The team was so decimated by injury last year that there is no way to assess the capabilities. It wasn’t just the injuries but who was injured. Most of those injured were crucial to what AM is trying to do with IUBB. The 3 most severely injured were CAM’s recruits. Additionally, if you go by their rankings, after Romeo they were the next highest rated recruits in order, if you add DD in that list.

    I really cannot think of any college basketball team which could lose that much in one season and still function. Not to mention the injury to ZM basically made him a non factor which I don’t think enough people take into consideration. Agree or not, ZM was the team’s emotional leader, which is why he was made a co-captain. Romeo was severely limited by the thumb and even AD had hand issues during the season. Please tell me, if you have that kind of year injury wise, how the only direction you can go could be anything other than up? Assuming the team stays healthy and there is a modest amount of talent, it has to be better.

    1. I’ll bet most of the people doing the preseason rankings only have a passing knowledge of the injury issues last year. They are looking at 300 teams. They see how a team did last year, who is returning, and the incoming class, of which they likely only have a modicum of knowledge about, as well.

      I wouldn’t pay too much attention to what some guy who primary covers the ACC, for example, has to say about the Hoosiers upcoming season.

    2. One of the best comments I have seen. You get it. No one, outside of the program anyway, knows what IU will have. I have been watching IU for over 40 years and I have NEVER seen the rash of injuries that befell the Hoosiers last year. I think a LOT of people are going to be surprised by this team. Words are not important here, just performance. I will be there rooting for them.

  4. Please tell me, if you have that kind of year injury wise, how the only direction you can go could be anything other than up? Assuming the team stays healthy and there is a modest amount of talent, it has to be better.

    Justin Smith was healthy but his game almost regressed compared to his freshman season. I was hoping for much bigger things from him last season. He was inconsistent …and the athleticism had yet to translate into a real scoring threat with seasoned abilities. There were still many troubling issues with, primarily, guys not AM recruits(including Green’s glaring carelessness with the ball).
    I would love to blame the entire mess were on injuries….It certainly played an easily professed salient role, but there was some poor individual play yet to be cleaned up…I’m not sure how fair it is to expect Archie to ever clean up a certain rawness or aloofness…or lack of b-ball IQ from kids he did not recruit.
    I just read a piece from V13 on a football thread giving Allan a couple more years to build his team because V13 believes a roster complete of almost all Allen recruits is the only fair assessment of his progress in building a competitive football team.
    My expectations are sort of similar with the basketball program. My expectations will remain more quelled until Archie has some solid recruiting cycles and eventually builds a roster of his own hand. I believe his recruits will demonstrate higher b-ball IQs…I also think they will be recruited for their team-first attitudes, mental toughness, and seasoned fundamentals. They may not necessarily be “upside” for future NBA stardom 10 years down the road. Romeo was a far more seasoned baller than most Crean recruits…He simply didn’t have enough around him to make it work as a one-and-done.

    1. Penix…a mystery novel.
      Hoosier Basketball….a mystery novel.

      I need some plot…I need some teasers to your tale of a future ‘best seller.’
      Can you give me a back cover? Where do you see it all going…? Does Penix locate the murderer of IU Football? Does Archie locate Bob Knight’s diary in a storage unit near Damon Bailey’s childhood home?
      It’s all a mystery….When will beating OSU, Michigan..or PSU in football not be a mystery? When will deep runs in an NCAA tournament not be a mystery (e.g. the 28 Elite Eights and 17 Final Fours for “Conference Midwest Elite” from 2010-19 embarrassing our fat ZERO)?

      Losing isn’t a disease….It’s a mystery. The library is getting full…of only mysteries at IU.

    2. H4H, our favorite Jester,
      Outside of the exhaustive filibustering, you might have actually stumbled upon a salient point. Yes, if Romeo had blessed with enough talent around him a deep tournament run was possible. However, who is to say he didn’t have that kind of talent around him? The only problem was they were sidelined most of the season with injuries? As I have said more than once, let’s see what happens this season with Race, Rob, Jerome and a healthy Deron. If they perform as was hoped for last year, you, me, and a whole lot of other folks will be shedding tears over what could have been last year with Romeo and Juwan in the mix.

      1. It’s going to be very difficult for Indiana to achieve greatness without a superstar or two sticking around longer than one season…or, sometimes, even two.

        I also think the inside players coming in are more suited to a deep run. Brunk has been around a program which breeds leaders. He can likely coach kids on the floor better than our last coach. He’s experienced and he’s going to be a different sort of force inside than we’ve seen in some time. Just more ammunition all around this year….There wasn’t enough ammunition last season…if even 100% health. Phinisee needed to mature and develop his shot. Injury set him back but he was still wet behind the ears.
        Archie needed a couple more seasons to mature a team ….timed with the arrival of a superstar like Romeo. The leadership and experience was not going to magically appear from those who were injured. Morgan was a warrior…but we needed more like him.

        We are arriving late to the party after a long hiatus from ‘elite’ perceptions…It’s going to be tough to do this thing without a superstar who truly hungers for the banner ….and truly loves the college game enough to take some risk and postpone the NBA dream for a season or two.

        I don’t see a true superstar on this team…All the rest of the components are 90% there……but you need a superstar(or two would be even finer).

        Don’t get me wrong, it happens to lots of teams…Butler gets Hayward back for one more season…? or if they don’t lose Brad Stevens to the NBA? They came so….so….so close to the stars aligning for a banner but it just wasn’t in the cards. Superstars and ‘Super’ coaches…and ‘Super-subs'(shout-out to John Laskowski) just don’t come around that often in this tiny state …..And when the do come along, there are a lot of elite programs pickpocketing our chances.

  5. Summation:
    Archie looks at recruited pieces to a puzzle heading for a potential matured team playing for banner. Five to seven on a roster playing collectively stronger than the individual pieces.
    Crean looked at recruits as a function of their individual chances to play the game at the highest level. Pieces remained pieces…. e.g. “I believe in you”…more than “We believe in each other to make a great team.” And many of those “pieces” were very behind the development curve.

  6. This group will show it’s maturity by winning some away games this season. Thus far in the first two seasons under coach Miller the Hoosiers are 6 – 17 (.260) in away games. The last non conference true road win for this program was November 30, 2011 at North Carolina State. I have enough fingers to figure out how many years ago that was. Cup cakes at home just make you fat. Once this team gets to .500 or better on the road we can talk about dancing.

  7. Injury issues in football for years and basketball now have become much of the main focus or reasoning for failure in both programs rather than having the depth to overcome.
    Several teams have injuries and lose players but have depth to overcome and be elite. Having said this many of these programs are unlawful hypocritical cheaters. Insert school names and offenses as you wish.

    1. t,
      I understand your point, but from a basketball perspective how many of even the “elite” teams could have withstood what IUBB faced last season? The criteria I am using for better or worse is the recruiting ratings for each player. Admittedly HS kids don’t always live up to their ratings, but the world of AAU ball has been changing that. This being said, if you look at the ratings of the injured, Romeo, Jerome, DeRon, Race, and Rob were some of your highest rated guys. Players expected to have major impacts last year. 4 of those 5 were recruited to be in CAM’s system.

      With all those players incapacitated for varying lengths during the season, CAM was left with multiple ill fitting parts. Must of this can be laid at the feet of what CAM found in the cup board when he arrived. However, please tell me what school out there could have survived having 5 of your top players knocked out or severely limited for significant periods of the season? All 5 were expected to be in the top 7 to 10 players of the rotation. How do you overcome that?

  8. So if we’re completely healthy, we likely bow out at the Round of 32…(possibly winning our first match-up). The inside game, the talent, the b-ball IQ ..and the experience was simply too thin to go any deeper…(even for a Cinderella run with a 100% injury-free squad).
    Somebody mentioned “real world” this morning….Shouldn’t we keep it there? Nobody gets a team deep into the NCAA tournament in two years with the condition and the culture it was left by the previous coach. It took Archie two years to simply teach those players who stuck around the concept of defense(especially team defense).

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