(BLOOMINGTON, Ind) Meet the 2019-20 Indiana Hoosier basketball team. IU held it's media day this past week with all 11 scholarship players meeting with reporters ahead of the upcoming season. Indiana will begin practice this Saturday with a lot of hope abounding that the Hoosiers can get off the sideline and back into the NCAA tournament after missing the 'Big Dance' for the last 3 seasons. Beginning his third season, Archie Miller has yet to take the Hoosiers dancing and the Indiana fan base is ready for that to change. When Archie met with reporters this week change was something that was talked about a couple of times. When asked about comments he made previously about getting more ball movement this season Miller said "I think each team is different every season, you have to play to your strengths." "The quest for this team is by far and away offensively to have more movement." Last season many wondered exactly what the offense was besides having then freshman and current Boston Celtics guard Romeo Langford drive to the hole and score or get fouled. This season there should be a much more diverse cast of characters with scoring coming from a variety of places.
There's no question that the Hoosiers will need everything they can get from their returning players. There are veterans like seniors De'Ron Davis and shooting guard Devonte Green, who is expected to be a main scoring force for Archie Miller this Winter. At 9.4 ppg the New York native is the highest returning scorer and was the only Hoosier to break the 40% plateau (41.0) from beyond the arc last season. He will need help in that area if the Hoosiers are to end the season above where the national media has predicted, in the bottom third of the Big Ten. A healthy De'Ron Davis will go along way in helping the Hoosiers get back to the tournament. The 6'10" former Colorado Player of the Year has shown glimpses of being a force down low and get's the ball in the basket at a very efficient rate, 55.7% last season, which is 7th all time at Indiana. Hopefully solid play down low and more minutes (13 min/gm) from the big man will help open up the shooting for Indiana. "I feel pretty good right now. I've taken better precautions for my body, obviously continue to improve my diet, overall I'm healthy, as healthy as I can be right now."
Al Durham, Justin Smith and Rob Phinisee have plenty of playing experience and are considered Indiana's three returning starters. While Durham spent most of his time off the ball last year,he will be splitting his time this season between the 1 & the 2 spot backing up Rob Phinisee at the point this year because Indiana has failed to land a true point guard backup. That might not be a bad thing since Durham is the 2nd highest returning scorer (8.3 ppg). And while he only shot 34% on 3FG, he was 2nd on the team last season with 40 trey's. The junior also led Indiana at the free throw line at 74%.
If Indiana is going to better than average they need a big year from Justin Smith, who should play a major role on this team on both ends of the floor. And it's time for the third year player to do just that. The Illinois native is the 3rd highest returning scorer at 8.2 ppg while averaging 4.5 rebounds per contest. Smith is 6'8" and a physical specimen but seemed to at times wonder exactly what his role was last season. At media day he was asked that going into his third season if he has just scratched the surface of his abilities - "Yes. I think that everyday is an opportunity to get better. I'm going into everyday with that mindset just trying to really focus on how to make myself 1% better each and everyday."
With Indiana having only true point guard in Rob Phinisee he will spend a lot of time on the court with the ball in his hands like he did last season. The sophomore played in 29 games last season having missed 5 games with a concussion. His numbers were pretty good, but will need to get better if the Hoosiers are to get better. He had a team high 94 assists and a 2.29 asst/turnover margin was the 3rd best for IU since the 1996-97 season. He will need to increase his 6.8 ppg output as the Hoosiers will need scoring from all over the floor this season.
There are some question marks with Race Thompson and Jerome Hunter, both having missed all or most of last season with injuries and we didn't see a lot of Demezi Anderson, who's shooting could sure help this team. Hunter has been cleared for all basketball activities after sitting out the season with an undisclosed lower leg condition. How long will it take to get into game shape for the redshirt freshman? For Indiana's sake hopefully not too long. The Pinkerton, OH native was a top 50 recruit as one of the top high school players in America, finishing his prep career with 1,314 points and 729 rebounds. Race Thompson missed most of last season with a serious head injury after sustaining a concussion in practice. The Minnesota native played in 9 games and showed he could be a lock-down defender against Ethan Happ of Wisconsin late last season. Demezi Anderson was expected to help with Indiana's shooting woes last year, but he only appeared in 21 games. Anderson will undoubtedly need to work on his defensive prowess if he is going to get more minutes from Archie Miller. But if he can fix that issue he could be a surprise with a polished long-range shooting game.
And there are some new faces in freshmen Trayce Jackson-Davis and guard Armaan Franklin as well as 6'11" grad-transfer Joey Brunk, who is expected to play a "big' role in the front court. While Jackson-Davis is just a freshman, at 6'9" he's one of IU's tallest players and will most likely get plenty of minutes as well. Brunk comes to Indian after two seasons at Butler and don't be surprised if the junior becomes one of Indiana's leaders this season both on and off of the court. "It was something we talked about when I was getting recruited, but I do think that is kind of a little bit of my personality. I'm comfortable with who I am, I don't have any problem talking and speaking up on anything"
Next Wednesday, October 2 Archie Miller and seniors De'Ron Davis and Devonte Green will travel to Chicago for the Big Ten basketball media day. Then on Saturday October 5 Hoosier Nation will get their first live glimpse with Hoosier Hysteria set to take place in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. Indiana is expected to host commits Trey Galloway and Anthony Leal as well as 5-star point guard target Khristian Lander, 6'8" Trey Kaufman and probably a few others. The one name Hoosier fans are hoping to see is 6'11'' Dawson Garcia, who would really put a bow on the 2020 recruiting class for Archie Miller.