(Photo Credit: IndianaHQ)
On Saturday, the Indiana athletic department clearly drove the point home that they are willing to go to great lengths to gain positive notoriety for their basketball programs.
New locker rooms were revealed with a dedicated player lounge sponsored by none other than recent Hoosier stars Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller. An incredible video feature projected directly onto Branch McCracken court introduced the 2018-2019 players and associated staff.
However, what stood out most about Hoosier Hysteria was not the latest and greatest technologies, or even the pyrotechnics. While the reinforcement of program investment gave fans another blanket of optimism that the program headed in the right direction, the on-court introduction of a few of the less familiar faces provided the most basketball insight for the evening.
Archie Miller has continued to allude that players on the current roster may have to adjust their expectations about playing time. Part of the reason included the pure depth that the team currently has, specifically in the front court. Jake Forrester made an already difficult decision even harder.
The 6’8″ forward displayed his unique ability to inject energy into the game. For what seems to be a loose combination of Thomas Bryant’s personality and Juwan Morgan’s on-court hustle, Jake put a stamp on the game as soon as he stepped on the court.
Aggressive rebounding, fearless rim attacking, and the motor to move up and down the court are going to be reasons why Archie calls up number four. Forrester was very active and had seemed to have springs in his shoes – constantly jumping at loose balls and hustling on every single play of a scrimmage so that he could to seize the opportunity.
Saturday also represented the first time fans got to see Evan Fitzner in action. The relatively less heralded graduate transfer would have been a pleasure to have last year. His skills and abilities would have covered up the Memorial Stadium sized gap in shooting.
The San Diego native broke the scoring seal during the player scrimmage with an honest top-of-the-key three assisted on a beautiful back pass from Devonte Green. Two more threes sank both from dishes initiated by freshman guards, Rob Phinesee and Romeo Langford. He carried confidence in his stroke, and with his towering 6’10” stature, one would assume that he generally does not get blocked.
That being said Evan Fitzner will have to show what he is capable of down the paint as well. In order to truly maximize his potential and to create more challenges for opposing defenders, Fitzner can stretch and space the floor if he presents a front-court threat.
Early predictions for the season’s leading scorers include senior Juwan Morgan, freshman Romeo Langford, and grad transfer Evan Fitzner.
Again, another factor into Archie’s sudoku-esque puzzle to allocate playing time.
While Race Thompson already has a full year under Archie’s philosophy, fans have been relatively unfamiliar with his capabilities due to him taking a redshirt year. In fact, it was at Hoosier Hysteria in 2017 when fans got to some seem extended minutes of Race Thompson.
In short, Race commanded authority when he played. Race joined the program with an already athletic build, but two summers’ worth of Clif Marshall will essentially turn you into the hulk.
The Minnesota star powered in the paint, used his body to create space, and finished at the bucket impressively well. When his scrimmage team was down 2 to 6, Race put back a thundering one-handed lob from Al Durham which chained an Assembly Hall eruption.
Race’s versatility may also be a surprise to fans. On another distribution from Al Durham, Race executed a quick jab towards Jerome Hunter but instead sent off a three pointer from left-center. Nothing but the bottom of the net.
Race validated himself, proving that he belongs.
The spread of playing time will be an interesting statistic to monitor. While the known quantities on the roster did not seem to regress by any means, they did not necessarily surprise anyone, as much as they could in a single short scrimmage. The takeaway from Hoosier Hysteria 2018 is that fans should be anxious see more of the lesser showcased players.