Lander signs with IU to join class of 2020

A report from our Indianapolis Star colleague Zach Osterman with Jon Blau on furlough this week:
UPDATED

Five-star Evansville Reitz point guard Khristian Lander will enroll in classes and join IU in 2020 as planned, handing the Hoosiers’ ambitions for next winter a significant boost.

A team spokesman confirmed Monday morning that IU had received Lander’s letter of intent, a point of procedural importance in Lander’s bid to reclassify from 2021 to 2020 and begin his college career this fall. The erstwhile Mr. Basketball candidate checked in as the No. 17 player in the country in the 2020 class, per the 247Sports Composite. That same ranking also considers Lander the No. 4 point guard in his class.

When he committed to IU following a visit in February, Lander — a prime candidate for Mr. Basketball had he stayed in 2021 — made public his desire to reclassify and enter college this fall. Now, he’s made good on that plan.

In what turned out to be his last season at Reitz, Lander led the Panthers to a 17-7 record. Now he’ll turn his attention to college, where he’s expected to bolster a backcourt as deep as any Archie Miller has had in four seasons in Bloomington.

“(Lander) is a tremendous addition to our program not just as a basketball player, but a great person and terrific student,” Miller said in a news release confirming Lander’s addition to the program Monday. “I knew when I first saw Khristian at 15 years old that he was a special player. He has great feel for the point guard position. His competitive drive has pushed him to elevate his game rapidly and his family has done a great job of keeping him grounded and humble.”

Lander finished his high school career with 1,314 points, and he averaged 21 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.6 rebounds assists per game as a junior.

Whenever Indiana can reconvene as a team — the Big Ten moratorium on team activities remains in place at least through May — he will be expected to compete for playing time at the top end of Indiana’s rotation, alongside returning starters Robert Phinisee and Al Durham.

Lander’s arrival next season pushes IU’s complement of scholarship players to 12. While it’s possible the Hoosiers could seek to fill that 13th spot, at this point, Lander’s arrival appears the last major roster addition. Indiana also awaits Justin Smith’s final decision on whether to stay in the NBA draft or return for his final season of college. Players retaining their eligibility had until June 3 to make a final decision, but that deadline has been pushed back due to the NBA’s own schedule delays surrounding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

41 comments

    1. Remember how we’ve agreed on how Indiana basketball going to a multi-class h.s. tournament may have removed much of that battle tested edge from youngsters all in line to get blue ribbons? Now add the removal of a senior season to gain maturity and leadership/edge qualities within an already weakened h.s. testing ground?

      Lander is an immense talent….but the maturity and battle tested strengths will be interesting to witness (or not witness out of the gate). Just how much can the talent make up for not walking through the fires? And do you really ever have to walk through fires to get your name quickly on an NBA draft board? Lander could end up being the age of many seniors in high school at the time he’s jumping to the NBA.
      But deep NCAA runs take poise and maturity. Will he be far more advanced than his age in the intangible categories of the game? This will remain a bigger question mark than his body being ready.

  1. I just hope his body is ready for the rigors of Big Ten BB. I always get a little nervous when younger guys, whose bodies are still maturing, start playing with guys that are two to five years older than they are. I just want this very talented young man to remain healthy.

  2. Good news …bad news.
    Unless another Hoosier guard enters the transfer portal, this probably kills any shot at landing McClung. I would have loved to see McClung in a Hoosier uniform….There is a certain mystique with McClung and he’s great for national interest and television ratings. We also could benefit from the added ‘chip on the shoulder” present in McClung. He’s sort of a Jordy Hulls with far more athleticism and a meaner streak. We need a meaner streak and a ‘won’t back down’ mentality.
    I’m not sure how long that will take with freshmen barely freshmen….even with exceptional talent.

    But Lander is just what the doctored ordered for this team. It’s imperative to have a standout point guard if you’re going to make noise in March. He may just be an overnight sensation. I would not be shocked to see another transfer at the guard position. Some guys are going to get more accustomed to pine if they stay.
    I don’t see the ‘point’ of Phinisee, Franklin and Lander on the same roster (in addition to other combo/shooting guards coming in).

    Archie is building an extremely very solid top-to-bottom roster. Nice to see a full bench of talent. Nice to see the back 1/3 of our scholarships not spent on gambles for a coach’s resume and a successive slew of overly raw trapeze acts and projects only recruited because of NBA “upside” far down the road.
    This is the sort of roster we haven’t seen in decades. It’s loaded. The only issue may be finding chemistry via a stable starting five.
    The recruiting 3-peat of landing three successive Indiana Mr. Basketballs is proving a return of McCracken as a true destination and basketball classroom for top Indiana talent.

    It’s a great beginning. Hope we can coach ’em up, build chemistry, get the ‘chip on the candy stripe shoulder’ back…and return to deep NCAA tournament runs/Final Four weekend. It’s finding the identity and leadership that still concerns me most (the grit and ‘don’t back down’ mentality). You’d never see a Mac McClung laughing it up on the bench when his team is getting embarrassed. We’ve seen too much of that from guys wearing candy stripes.

  3. Boom BOOM!
    Not worried a bit about this baller being to fragile for the B1G. He’ll play plenty of nonconference minutes to determine how many conference minutes he’ll get. Be good to have a real PG to spell Rob. Great opportunity for Lander and especially IUBB.

  4. See if I can go 2 for 2…I had Damezi correctly considering Loyola.

    No that we have Lander early, any slim chance at McClung is gone.

    I’m predicting McClung will be a Michigan Wolverine. It’s a long shot very few are predicting, but it’s my guess. I don’t think McClung will head to California. Too much talent at place like UNC. West Virginia doesn’t give him any real fresh start or change of scenery (too close to his roots). McClung is a perfect fit for Michigan….and blond hair works well with maize and blue.

      1. Only a 4-hr. vertical leap from Ann Arbor to the Mackinaw Bridge.

        Michigan’s Mac McClung…..It certainly roles off the tongue.

  5. ND would also be a great fit for McClung…..Catholic girls couldn’t get enough of his ‘bad boy’ image.

    See what you started, Price? You got my hopes up on McClung. Damn you.

  6. This is great news! First dominant guard since Yogi. This kid should make a huge difference and I would love to see him and Leal, assuming Leal is ready, to be the starting guards. Phinisee, Durham, Franklin and Galloway and Franklin would be nice assets coming off the bench. I would love to see Geronimo push Smith for playing time. Bottom line is IU now has a much deeper team.

    1. No way Lander and Leal are the starting guards. As a matter of fact, I think it would be a bad sign if Lander starts, because you would hope a junior point guard like Phinisee, assuming he’s fully healthy, has developed to the point of being better able to run the team and mentor the new guy in the process. However, your assessment of depth is correct. IU is getting closer to having two viable, interchangeable players at every position and should it need two ballhandlers on the floor at times, particularly in a late-game situation with the lead, pairing Lander and Phinisee is a good option.

  7. I do think a ‘backup’ point guard is an overrated idea. Most the great ones tend to stay out of foul trouble. And you need to develop one to run the show and really make the chemistry work. Can any of us ever think of a backup behind Isiah…? …or a Trey Burke…? or any of the dozens of college greats at point guard who were the engines leading their teams to Final Fours and titles.
    In my humble opinion, if Lander is here this fall, you hand him the ball and let him go. Sorry, Rob…You are now a role player. I don’t put a 5-star reclassifying into a backup role. He’s my starter now. He’s my starter next season (if he doesn’t win us a banner in his freshman year and head for the NBA as a one-and-done). They say he’s the “complete package.” That’s not a kid you put on the bench to watch.

  8. Phinisee just became an insurance policy.
    By mid-December, Lander will be starting. We need to get the most out of the final seasons of Smith and Brunk (and, probably TJD assuming he goes pro). Lander is just the sort of “package” to enable that trio to really do more inside damage. I just don’t think Phinisee has that extra gear or inventiveness in his game to make the most of our front line (which remains very strong but a bit unrefined).

    Got to get Lander running the show now. Get the pace and physicality initiation, along with the early shock of big time college ball, out of his system before the Big10 season begins.

    Opportunity rarely strikes twice. With Lander running the show, this is a potential Final Four team. Do any of us honestly see that potential with Phinisee now? Do we see it next year after losing Smith, TJD and Brunk?

  9. I agree with Jeremy, but I think the amount of playing time Lander gets as a young freshman PG will be based in large part on his ability to play defense. But outside shooting and making free throws will also be a big part of which PG gets the most minutes.

    Bottom line is that the 2020/2021 roster will be more talented than the 2019/2020 roster. Now Archie needs to sign another big man to back up and eventually replace our one center.

  10. As much as I think Lander has starting potential, I believe there will be a rotation between him and RP. The main reason for this is to preserve both their bodies, RP’s to avoid nagging injuries, and KL to allow time to mature.

  11. Another thought I’ve been pondering since seeing the 2020 class ranking jump into the top 15. Where is the sweet spot for building a perennial championship contender? Do we really want a top 5 or even top 10 recruiting class every year if we want to get old and stay old? I looked at the top 5 for 2020 with their continual revolving doors of 5* one and done players and I don’t see many recent championships. The only thing we do know based on recent history is those programs which have the right mixture of experience and talent hang the banner.

    I am thinking CAM may be approaching the right mixture of one 5* and heavy on the 4* with an occasional 3* each class. The 5* kids will give you that extra pop at crunch time but the 4* guys will hang the banner for you.

    Other than that, I suspect the practices this fall will be a sight to behold with AD, RP, AF, and KL going at each other. Throw in the other guards and it could be worth the price of admission. That’s not even considering the bigs and forwards.

  12. Lander will be the starter by mid-December. If his concern was wear and tear or maturing his body, he would never have reclassified. Best place to preserve his body would have been another year of high school.

    This young man wants to start, expects to start, reclassified to get to the NBA sooner. To not put him at the forefront of the guards immediately (unless he simply looks completely befuddled in early games) would be a grave mistake.

    5-star point guards come around once every 20 years to Hoosier basketball. I believe this young man has far more talent now than Yogi in his senior season. I’m pretty sure Archie influenced the process to get Lander here this fall. He’s likely in the weight room while I type. Will duties be shared early? Of course…But as we approach conference play, this is our starting point guard.

  13. Blue collar 3 and 4 star guys staying and developing are key maturing roster ingredients to provide stability and steadiness, but you don’t win championships without a premier post player and an exceptional ( most often 5-star level) point guard.

    I don’t think we see TJD after this season. He is our standout in the middle. Had Lander stayed in high school, Trayce is likely gone had Lander planned his arrival in the fall of 2021.
    The 2020-21 season is the window of opportunity and Lander is coming now to enhance those rare ‘road to a banner’ odds before everything goes into reset again.

  14. H4H is right. Lander needs to play immediately. Since when does experience trump talent. There are lots of players that have experience, but are not talented enough to produce top tier results. Phinisee lacks quickness and does not create his own shot. I like him and he is a good ball handler, but he is limited. Durham and Franklin are not good ball handlers and decision makers with the ball. There is a reason they were 3 star recruits. As I said earlier, they will see meaningful minutes, but that needs to be off the bench. Nevertheless, I am glad we are even having this conversation.

    1. HH,

      I’m going to disagree with you and H4H on this one, experience will overcome talent and far more times than you might believe. Most relevant to the discussion are the prime examples of Villanova and Virginia. Neither school hand superior talent from one end of the bench to the other compared to the high flyers (Duke, KY, etc . . .), yet they managed to hang 3 of the last 5 banners. Since Coach K sold out to the one and done mentality after his last championship in ’15, Duke has not seriously challenged for the title. Hasn’t seen a final four since.

      It is not so much talent or experience that hangs the banner as much as it is the right mixture of talent and experience. Recent championships have proven older more experienced teams with the right amount of talent win out. As for Lander, he will take his fair share of bumps and bruises this year. Just as one might expect any freshman point guard to do.

  15. ^^^ Agree. There wouldn’t be anything more foolhardy to make a 5-star point guard watch. The #4 point guard in the nation needs to be mentored by Phinisee?
    I love Phinisee’s toughness, but putting Lander behind him for anymore than 4 weeks would destroy all my confidence in Archie Miller.

    This isn’t like last season when keeping Franklin off of the floor too long seemed counterproductive (which some of us questioned as well…while Green was allowed his senior/seniority minutes).

    This is top talent. Top talent should be allowed to work out the kinks in game situations. The maturing needs to come now…on the floor. The familiarity and chemistry with TJD needs to happen now.

    If Archie sits on his thumbs and plays the same game of favoring “seniority” and the final “holdover,” he’ll be punching his own ticket for the next former coach put on a bus.

  16. Also…

    Lander finished his high school career with 1,314, and he averaged 21 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.6 rebounds per game as a junior.

    You might want to correct that statement. My guess is that he average 6.0 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game….in addition to his 21 points.

    1. I get where you guys are coming from, but you are also talking about a kid that should still be in high school, so there’s both physical and mental maturity to be gained. I’m not saying Lander is going to ride the pine, because he’s not. I’m just saying that it’s not a good sign for IU if all the eggs of success are put in the basket of an early enrollee. And Lander is not a one-and-done like Romeo, point guards rarely are. He might be the next Yogi, but Yogi was a role player, albeit starter, with a bunch of seniors when he was a freshman and didn’t truly become the dynamic difference-maker we all remember until he was a senior.

  17. I hope RP starts the whole season just to see whining and complaining that will go on through the comment section and he’s the better floor general and that counts you can have all the scoring in the world but TJD is your best player and having PG that can understand when and where to get him the ball is paramount

  18. Great sign for IU men’s basketball. However, it would be even greater if one of these great signed recruits actually be a difference maker in the win column for IU. Not just a shooter disappointment or an injured thumb or physically beat up. For this to happen it’s going to take a year/season rather than an NBA Jump with an early young freshman having a stellar year meaning that team play is elevated when he is on the floor.

  19. So in a hurry to grow up….No senior prom. No last summer of youth to truly live carefree.
    I just don’t get it.
    Most of life is simply a grind. You rarely get to enjoy a weekend or a sunset….It’s just worry after worry and the clock moves increasingly faster with each passing year.
    Makes me wonder what’s gotten into everyone’s heads. Why is this growing up fast encouraged? My parents threw me into school too young. I was the youngest in my class…On top of being ‘pushed,’ I was an rather shy kid and a late bloomer physically. I’d do anything to have that year now. I was a very strong athlete and it would have made a world of difference…I loved sports but I competed against guys who were early to mature…and older. I remember trying to find a chest hair in 8th grade while surrounded by ‘star’ jocks with full sideburns and chests as hairy as Burt Reynolds.
    It was almost as if I was two years behind at every sport. I swear to this day some in my class were on steroids as well…They were on a maturity graph heading way ahead of my own.

    At the end of the day, my selfishness as a Hoosier fan is getting in the way of commonsense. This young man shouldn’t try to beat the clock….It will outrun him soon enough. Cherish the final ‘summer of your youth’. It’s nothing you can ever get back.

    I’m not sure if it was the right thing to keep the scholarship promise upon his reclassification. Maybe Archie should have just shut the door. And maybe it wasn’t fair to our other experienced guards who had this decision dangling over the head until a point its nearly too late for them to have options..(as in transferring out)? First they had to deal with favored holdovers getting their “entitled” time on the floor…and, now, they get to witness a different form of entitlement that allows a kid to jump onto a Hoosier roster without completing four calendar years of high school?

    If Lander is too immature (physically and mentally), then bringing him now is a sign of desperation on our part. Maybe we worry he won’t want to be a Hoosier if we give it to him straight? Is it a sign we’re immature to desire this forcing and pushing of a 17-year-old into the grind of adulthood for our own selfish desires …? Is it a sign of our own immaturity to unfairly put our current guards into whirlwind of new uncertainties and broken expectations?
    Why? Because the clock moves too fast for us and we resentfully want to steal their youth away faster?

    Nope….I was wrong. He should be a starter….but at his Evansville high school this fall and enjoying the last summer of youth.

  20. Rob will be the predominant PG for 20-21. Until Landers can play D against P5 talent he’ll be learning behind Rob. Phinisee is going to be 190 lb. Landers will be a year or more before he attains that weight. Gonna be fun to watch.

  21. Come January/February I think we’ll have a strong team and with the Final Four held in Indy. That’s the potential good news. The ‘downer’, the virus combined with the projected flu may create a season like we have never seen before. Players temps before each game and a positive from one person results in a forfeit? Healthy layers more important than skilled? Could happen. Vaccine developed may negate concerns. Than I read that a virus ‘never seen before’ isolated from the glacier melt.

    Jeremy…….Define Jon’s furlough……

    1. Hey Ron,
      We are each having to take one week of furlough (unpaid time off) per month right now, so Jon will be back on duty Monday while I take a week off. Zach was off last week. We will do the same in June, then the company will decide if it continues.

  22. There’s no question which player, PR or Lander, will turn out to be the most talented and successful. And if Lander was joining the team after another year of physical maturity in HS, I’d agree that he would become IU’s starting Point Guard by the end of December. But he’s very young, and he simply may not be mature enough to carry the responsibility or endure the physical demands required of a starting PG in the Big Ten. The worst thing Archie could do to Lander or the team this season is to put too much of a physical and/or mental burden on this teenager’s back.

    Since it is unlikely that Lander will go pro after his first season, Archie does not need to rush him or risk injuring the kid by placing to big a burden on his back. Both Lander and PR will get lots of playing time this coming season. Defense and shooting ability will likely determine who gets more.

    1. Guys…guys…guys. You’re in a dreamworld. He reclassified because he and his mentors believed he was physically and mentally ready. He’s the #4 point guard in his class. He’s a 5-star. Eric Gordon was a 5-star. Did Eric Gordon sit?
      I don’t care if he is slightly behind the curve and in diapers when he arrives. The fans will demand to see him on the floor. The pressures upon Archie will be to get him on the floor (see Michael Penix….Was Penix physically ready?). Desperate times warrant desperate measures. Hoosier Basketball is nearing a now or never phase. TJD is gone after this season. We won’t save a 5-star point guard for when Trayce is gone.
      We’ll quickly learn Lander’s skills are at another level. We will quickly see how he can create more havoc with more skill sets and quickness.

      He will be starting by mid-December. Phinisee is now insurance. And there’s an argument that Phinisee may still be more fragile than Lander. Lander may be more of a Ramsey….while Rob Phinisee remains as reliable at quarterbacking our basketball team as Penix for football.
      Rob bumps his head on the table and he’s out for four weeks. He’s hardly had a full year under his belt. It’s no fault his own, but you can’t run a team that way.

      I would have probably preferred Lander staying in high school. I think this scenario could be disruptive to chemistry. We had too many disruptions last year with injuries and decisions to hand the ball to “holdovers.”
      Lander’s reclassification may be perceived as unfair to some who now have nightmares of life on the pine …(especially because Lander’s decision has finalized very late). I honestly think we needed McClung more than Lander right now. We needed experience. We needed edge. We needed a chip on the shoulder. We didn’t need more diapers. Diapers doesn’t stop giggling on the bench when getting embarrassed at home.

      But now that Lander is here? He’s now big man on campus. He’s not here to make a slow gravy….He’s here to make an impact now. He’s here to take over games in crunch minutes. He’s here to ‘march’ in the madness. He’s here to be an “it factor.” He’s here to make our front court more dangerous and dynamic. He’s not here to have Joe Concussion Protocol show him any ropes…or take him for the occasional walk on a leash.
      He’s here. Play him. This is not a time for revolving door rotations and managing training pants. This is the quarterback we’ve been waiting for….Just don’t throw him into the fire when it’s a must-win against Penn State. I believe Archie has more brains than that….

      1. H4H,

        First off, you disarm me with the MP analogy, funny how our words come back to bite us. I do see you line of reasoning from that standpoint, and if it turns out that RP is more like PR in this situation, I have to agree.

        However, how will you and others pushing KL for the immediate starting point guard role handle it if RP won the starting job outright for this year? If he is as competitive as I think he is, RP is not going to lay down and hand the keys over to KL without a fight. Unless I misjudge him greatly, I think RP will make KL earn the starting gig every step of the way. Just like PR made MP fight for the starting QB position every step of the way.

        1. Many things to consider:

          a) Is it possible Lander is overrated?
          b) There is still tremendous uncertainly surrounding h.s. sports. Distancing may be even more difficult …and if another spike/outbreak occurs this fall, college ball can function at a much more practical level of distancing than h.s. ball. I believe these factors may have also influenced the reclassification.
          c) I’m concerned with the annihilation/shellacking that happened to Reitz when they went up against stronger 4A teams.
          d) It’s the real world. Lower level talent can often appear to “win the job” in practice. The “experienced guy” (Ramsey) knows how to sell it…and look the leadership part. But does that translate to the talent level needed to make the big plays against the best competition. What is your opportunity cost by not getting the eventual far superior talent his reps …or his time on the court now simply because the lower level talent is more experienced in the “leadership” role (often a limited sample set against cupcakes and softer, early season competition)?
          e) Last season…Archie faced criticism (whether you believe it fair or unfair) for giving into seniority at the expense of our overall team play/chemistry/success. Many believed Green had no business getting the minutes he was receiving. He faced harsh criticisms for his repeated inconsistency. He was hit with ‘gotcha moments’ in postgame press conferences. A certain sect of fans felt we were sacrificing (opportunity cost, again) our immediate chances to get a steeper line of improvement by the end of the season because pecking order was ruling the day.
          Will pecking order rule the day again…or do we get the talent on the floor now so they are ready by February/March? There is no question that Phinisee will look like a world-beater against Pensacola State College or Grand Canyon University…or the slew of other cupcakes on an early schedule. Is that boost to his ego worth not getting Lander up to speed quickly? Was it worth allowing Ramsey to gain confidence and appear a world-beater while Penix watched (finally inserting Penix when his game-changing abilities were needed against top competition/Penn State)?

          Conclusion: Lander may be overrated and he’s smart (knowing how the pandemic could still disrupt his senior year of h.s.). I still say he has to be groomed to be the starter…and I think the opportunity cost to give that role to Phinisee for much of the cupcake slate of games is a cost that may come back to bite you. I
          I get Lander starting ASAP…This is the real world. You just hired the new hotshot. No company waits and adheres to pecking order before putting the new hotshot to work. You have to show the entire “team” that this is the future…and the future is now.

          1. I guess I could have said all that more succinctly.

            I’ll give it a try:

            If Ramsey/Phinisee starts, then my conclusion is Penix/Lander is severely overrated, severely untested and was more a sell job for the coach/program than us truly landing a superstar ready to play at Division 1 level sports.

  23. Sasquatch had a phase when he wanted to start working from job instead of working at home… in the woods. He found a disposable razor left in a campsite recycle bin….He decide he was going to clean up and shave from head to toe. By the time he reached his waist the razor had broken.
    Sasquatch had no choice but to accept his ‘furlow’ ……..until the pandemic would end, campsites would fill again, and another razor could be found.

  24. Yikes…Reitz lost to Carmel by almost 26 points…? Lost to Evansville Bosse by 20…Lost to New Albany by 24.

    I guess reclassification makes sense. Maybe I’m getting my hopes too high.
    I should do more research. And why doesn’t Reitz make their box score totals available to Max Preps? Every game you get this: “Evansville Reitz has not entered stats for this game.”

  25. Same thing happened to S.B. and D.A. when they played Carmel. It is not unusual if Carmel has a decent team for them to lockdown outside teams from Indiana. Usually, Carmel has a decent team. To me the goal for Lander as a freshman is simply to make IU better that helps translate into wins when he plays. He may be a starter early on or not but he will play a lot. Pretty much as simple as that. Following years (how long he plays for IU) will determine how much of a difference maker or game changer he will become.

  26. My guess right now is that Lander will play three years for IU. Almost certainly two years, with the third season being determined by his physical development, level of performance and the team’s success. If he was coming it at a normal age, I’d guess that he’d play two years. But given his relative youth, three seasons in candy stripes is more likely.

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