After the long stretch of face-stuffing action from Thanksgiving through Christmas, most of us abruptly end the holidays with an intention to become a better version of our 2018 selves. New Year’s resolutions represent an annual January tradition of signing up for gym memberships and audio book subscriptions that get solidly utilized for a week, maybe two. Hopefully with a little motivation from the coaching staff, the men’s basketball team may have a bit more success at maintaining and following through than the average fan. We take a stab at what we think each player’s top 2019 goal would be.
Remain on the court and incorporate NBA feedback. Morgan has been the go-to option for this team. While we have full faith in Juwan’s bench cheerleading routine, there is only so much he can help this team when he sits on the bench in the first half with two early fouls. Indiana would have had a much better time against the Razorbacks on the road, and potentially a different outcome, if Juwan Morgan could have stayed on the court. With minutes not limited due to foul situations, we hope Juwan can incorporate feedback he got from NBA scouts namely to be a more consistent mid-range and deep shooter.
Back to business behind the arc. While Romeo was never a particularly great three point shooter, it’s undeniable that his current 21% behind the arc does not represent his true shooting capability. Between visiting his high school and New Albany Mall, we anticipate Romeo to be splashing hundreds, if not thousands, of threes over the holiday break.
Keep the pedal to the metal downhill but continue to stay under control. Phinisee has clearly exceeded expectations so far as a true freshman point guard. In fact, Phinisee seems like the clear floor general on the court already, which is fantastic for Archie Miller. In addition to his steady orchestration of the offense, a more aggressive play style involving more shots would be nice to see, especially after he hit the game winner vs Butler.
Make them remember the name. Smith still seems raw as a starting power forward. He has got the pure athleticism and talent, no question, but he has yet to find an optimal way to mesh in Archie’s system. While he is overall solid in terms of his ability to run the offense, defend, and add versatility to the lineup, Justin Smith has not yet found a way to stamp his name on a game this season. Can he dominate the glass? Become the second option on the baseline offensively? Or even square up more often at the top of the key? We all know that he rains threes in practice. So why not take a few more in games? If Smith can seem even a little threatening from deep, that surely would free up more inside opportunities for Juwan Morgan.
Consistency, Confidence, and Close outs. Durham has ranges of 0-18 points, 11-38 minutes, and 0-5 turnovers in games this season. Even though he is only a sophomore, him along with Justin Smith are truly considered the veterans of the team. Whether it an issue with confidence or something else, Durham is still discovering where to find his consistency on a young team that needs that stability greatly. Al has been able to stay on the floor largely due to the his ability to add backcourt length to Archie’s packline. Against quicker guards on the perimeter, Al often does not gap-close quick enough, leading him to get beat on the penetration.
Let the game come to him. As one of the more polarizing players on the court, Devonte Green’s skills on the floor without the ball in his hands is heavily underestimated. One improvement he has made over the summer seems to be his understanding of when to shoot and when to make the pass. His shot selection this year has been a tremendous upgrade during this same time last year. The turnovers are Green’s biggest weakness, yet if he plays the point, he is expected to make great passes. Green would be much better on the floor with Phinisee, Langford, and/or Durham. Green has also shown improvement from deep, so hopefully Archie gives him the green light more often.
Inspire the lower classmen. A lot of fans are wanting Zach McRoberts to shoot more threes and be a presence offensively. And while that would certainly help Archie and the staff, the request is asking for a fifth-year senior to add a brand new element to his game during his last go around. Forget that. You do you, Zach, and continue to be one the most energetic and selfless players on the court. With a number of close games already this season, we can only hope that his mentality rubs off and gives the lower classmen 10% of the McRoberts-hustle.
Return back to basics (for Evan). Evan Fitzner right now has been more of a substitution piece for Juwan Morgan or De’Ron Davis. Between getting out-rebounded by other guards and generally out muscled for positioning under the basket, one can tell that he is not playing very comfortably. Fitzner needs to find a way to return back to his natural habitat behind the arc. How can he do this with Archie calling the shots? Well, he needs to show his ability to stretch the court and splash from deep.
Unleash the beast. Since his injury, De’Ron has been on a minutes limitation as noted by Archie in his press conferences. With the non-conference schedule in the rearview mirror, it’s time for De’Ron to break the chains and dominate. The Big Ten is tall, strong, and wide, and Indiana needs their own frontcourt to step up. We have seen De’Ron’s ceiling in the 2017-2018’s season marquee matchup against Duke at home. The former top-40 pick is in his Junior season and he needs to show his worth if he is interested in playing at the next level.
Handle the ball, handle the pressure. Even with just limited minutes, ‘Mezi has proven that he has the stroke to knock down tough shots beyond the arc. In those limited minutes, he has also showed that he might not be ready to bring up the ball and facilitate the offense against tougher match ups. Although Damezi would best serve Indiana as a wing, he can maximize his opportunities this season if he can work on his ball handles given Indiana’s shorter guard rotation.
Get added to the rotation. Right now, Clifton is a fringe rotation player and will come in depending on the foul situation. Between practice and the limited minutes he sees, Clifton should prove to the coaching staff why he deserves a more consistent 5-8 minutes each game. No one would appreciate additional breathers more than the workhorses of Juwan Morgan and De’Ron Davis. As mentioned above, more Moore minutes could also mean Evan Fitzner returns to his more comfortable positions along the perimeter.
Learn from the Jedi. If you exclude the Montana State game, Jake Forrester has scored a point for every minute that he has been on the floor. At Hoosier Hysteria fans got an earlier glimpse of the Thomas-Bryant-like energy injected into the game anytime Forrester steps on the hardwood. Since then, Jake has continued that momentum. Between Juwan and De’Ron as mentors, the best resolution for Jake for 2019 is to learn as much as possible. Skills like Juwan’s court vision while having the ball and De’Ron’s great paint footwork will pay off long term.
Prepare for the debut. While there is no specific time table for Race Thompson’s return, he already has almost a year and a half under Archie and he certainly has a lot to bring to the table if he can return soon. The staff had continually remarked on Race’s performance in practice last season. With his experience, you can be sure that whenever Race gets clearance from his concussion protocol, he move up on the depth chart and get opportunities to contribute on the floor. In the meantime, Race should get his body right, ball handling under control, and keep dusting off his post moves.
Be efficient with recovery time by shooting. We have seen this with many players that go through a lower body injury. During their rehabilitation process, even if they can’t run, they can at least get hundreds of shots up. Before his surgery, Jerome Hunter beat out Juwan Morgan and Romeo Langford for a gold jersey. When asked how Jerome won it? Archie simply responded, “He made shots.” On a team that desperately needs better free-throw shooting, Jerome can help improve the team averages if he returns this season.
Johnny Jager, Quentin Taylor, Vijay Blackmon
Be the best #BenchMob. Look… Johnny knows it, you know it, we know it, Archie knows it. Bloomington native Johnny Jager, wants to rock the bench. Romeo Langford may hold back his emotions on the floor, but the #BenchMob will certainly make sure that they handle the celebrating on his behalf. Between team chemistry and road games, don’t sleep on the power of the bench. Another key responsibility for the bench is to step up when their number is called. Given the number of injuries for Indiana specifically in an already depleted backcourt, this trio in particular has a real shot to show their worth this season.
BONUS: Archie Miller
Keion. Brooks. Junior. Well that first but then it would probably be a good idea to keep looking for ways to improve the team’s free throw shooting and turnovers.