Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Making a difference – IU’s Collin Hartman back for more





By Pete DiPrimio

BLOOMINGTON – Collin Hartman is full-go, which is big if you bleed Cream ‘n Crimson, and even if you don’t.

There’s just one thing to consider --  he won’t really be full go.

Not in July.

Not with so much riding on a healthy season.

Still, the do-it-all senior is fully recovered from the knee injury and surgery that sidelined him all of last season. He’s able to fully participate in summer workouts, which means, barring another health glitch, which is no guarantee for a guy who is far too familiar with hospitals and rehab, he should be ready to roll when it matters, which is in November.

How will he roll when it does matter?

Given he can, in measured doses, play every position, it comes down to this:

Do what needs to be done.

Hartman can absolutely do that. He has, after all, averaged 4.1 points and 2.7 rebounds while shooting 40 percent from three-point range over his career. He also plays solid defense, hustles, leads and cares.

You win with players like that.

So what does Hartman hope to get out of what will absolutely be his final college season?

“Simply put, whatever the game calls for at that point in time whether it's guarding big or guarding a guard or scoring 20 or scoring 0 and getting rebounds or steals or whatever,” he said. “I just want to be able to play every position that coach needs me and be able to be a Swiss Army knife. Where he could put me anywhere at any point in time and I can carry out my job.”

Yes, Hartman did use the Swiss Army knife cliché, which should be retired along with platform shoes with goldfish swimming in them, but that misses the point, which is he plans to fully utilize his versatility.

Getting and staying healthy is crucial to that. So what is Hartman able to do now?

“As we approach these team workouts, we'll be very, very smart with him,” coach Archie Miller said. “There is no real reason to speed him up. But I think confidence-wise, mentally and physically, he feels as good as he's felt in a long, long time.

“We'll continue to take him slow, but he's ahead of schedule just in terms of where he's supposed to be, doing what he's going to do, and the way he's handled things in this off-season, he's given himself a chance to kick off October, November, full go.”

In other words, just because Hartman is now cleared for contact doesn't mean he's going to get heavy doses of it now.

“It is a big step, obviously," Hartman said. "We have taken this process somewhat slowly. We have been very diligent in the rehab and really staying safe, taking the time that we have. There is no need to push into contact and risk a third injury. It has been good to take those steps forwards and see the progress.”

For a while, Hartman didn’t figure to return for a final season. But the departure of former coach Tom Crean and the hiring of Miller created new possibilities Hartman decided to explore.

“It is a change,” Hartman said. “It is cool to be a part of two eras. I had four great years with Coach Crean, won a (Big Ten) championship. I have known him since I was in eighth grade. We have an extensive history between the two of us and I am appreciative for everything he has done for me, and I am also looking forward to what we do with Coach Miller and what we have going forward in this year.  One of the main reasons I came back was just because I do not get another chance at this.”

As far as who he talked to while making the decision to return, Hartman said, “Obviously, my mom, my family, Coach Crean, the coaching staff and everybody around me.

“But, I really took to heart what people said who did not have their biased opinions in the matter. Those that did not get anything out of me staying or going. I talked to people that were neutral that gave me an insight on life. Those are the real people that I really took in.

“I love my mom more than anything, but I knew she wanted me to stay, and that's what she was going to try to sway me to do. She did a great job staying neutral. So I did talk to people who did not have a stake in whether I stayed or I left.”

Last season IU stumbled to an 18-16 record and failed to make the NCAA tourney for the second time in four years. That cost Crean his job. Does Hartman wonder what might have happened if he had stayed healthy and played?

“There are always what-ifs. You cannot change it. It is what it is.

“Last year I tried to do my best and communicate.  We were a young team and a lot of unfortunate incidents with OG (Anunoby) and injuries. A lot of things did not go our way. In situations like that you do the best you can.

“For myself it was just talk to these guys: keep coaching, keep coaching, keep coaching and just be diligent in your work day in and day out.”

Hartman’s return is big, but he’s not like the second coming of, say, Michael Jordan. So what will he bring?

Try toughness, leadership and an appreciation of all things Hoosier

That matters.

“Collin's a very vocal leader,” guard Josh Newkirk said. “He brings a lot of things to the table that goes unnoticed, like just his hustle, just him being out there and being a leader. So it will definitely help us."


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Are these Indiana basketball Hoosiers primed to lead?





By Pete DiPrimio

Forget, for just a second, the priorities of defense and turnovers in Indiana’s basketball world.

Instead, consider the area that might ultimately be the key for an Archie Miller debut coaching season to remember:

Players taking charge.

“I feel like there won’t be any questions of leadership at all,” junior forward Juwan Morgan says.

Morgan shares a summer media gathering spotlight with sophomore teammate De’Ron Davis. The Hoosiers are two days into team summer workouts and leadership is an ongoing process for a team in transition from former coach Tom Crean to Miller.

If you remember last season’s 17-15 mess, you know player leadership was among the problems. The Hoosiers are working to address it. That means Morgan and other veterans such as Collin Hartman (who has just been cleared for full practice participation from last fall’s knee surgery), Rob Johnson and Josh Newkirk are trying to do what needs to be done.

“Personally, I think I will most likely do that,” Morgan says. “Collin is still right there. So is Rob. Josh has started speaking up more. I think everybody will take part in it.”

The impetus, Morgan says, didn’t come from the coaches.

“That was something we decided upon ourselves because we realized missing Collin last year, like me and OG (Anunoby) used to joke about it, calling him the annoying guy you always hated hearing, but you knew he was right. I think that's what we really missed last year.”

Hartman missed all of last season with a knee injury. Without him making on-court impact, the Hoosiers badly underachieved, although the reasons went far deeper than his absence.

As far as the leadership issue, Johnson is confident this season will be different.

“We have multiple guys that have game experience, that have played at a high level for the past couple years with me, Josh, Collin and Juwan. Guys who have given valuable minutes to the team.

“With all those guys it will help. We’re looking to build every day.”

Building starts with recognition.

“Leaders have to be coaches on the court,” Johnson says. “That's something that should be able to be reflected whenever you watch us play.”

Who have emerged as leaders?

“Rob has always been a leader by example,” Hartman says, “but I think he has really taken up a more vocal role in his leadership. Josh, Juwan and guys like that have stepped up.  Everybody has really matured throughout the summer and I think we have really grown together as a group.”

And what does Miller think about all of this?

“The upperclassmen have established they have a good way about them in terms of their communication, leading by example. But we need a group that has a loud voice.

“Rob's a guy that's going to have to step out of his comfort zone a little bit. He's done a better job this summer than he did in the early spring. He's really, really worked hard and shown people how it's done. But he's talking more.

“Collin is a huge boost. He and Juwan both have been fantastic in every regard of what we're doing, in terms of them communicating, talking. You've got to have a team that can communicate with one another. And there's got to be a sounding board, and I think those older guys know that.”

Knowing is one thing. Doing is crucial.

We won’t know that for another five months or so.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Freshmen Key For Big Indiana Basketball Success



By now you know the Indiana Hoosiers are not considered the preseason basketball big dogs of the Big Ten. That honor goes to Michigan State and Michigan.

IU lost four thousand-point scorers -- Jordan Hulls, Christian Watford, Victor Oladiopo and Cody Zeller -- plus valuable reserve forward Derek Elston. A couple of veterans -- Remy Abell and Maurice Creek -- transferred.

Much of the burden for this year will fall to veterans Yogi Ferrell and Will Sheehey. Both got a big jump on that by playing for Team USA in the recently concluded World University Games in Russia. Sheehey, last year’s Big Ten 6th man of the year, displayed an improved offense that included scoring 20 points in the tourney finale. Ferrell showed he does have three-point range, although it must be consistent for him to be a dominant offensive player in the manner of, say, Trey Burke.

But when it comes down to it, the Cream 'n Crimson key is the newcomer impact.

Veteran Evan Gordon has one year to show that transferring to his third college was a wise move. He’s a career double-figure scorer who will provide much needed backcourt stability, leadership and production.

Still, just how good Indiana is this season depends on the six freshmen, who comprise a top-10 recruiting class. Forward Noah Vonleh has instant impact potential, which is what you’d expect from a top-10 recruit. He can rebound, block shots and play defense. If he’s not yet Cody Zeller’s equal in offensive skill, he just might be in work ethic.

There’s a lot of promise in Troy Williams, Stanford Robinson, Luke Fischer, Devin Davis and Collin Hartman.

But since these guys train in private, we don’t really know how they’re doing. That’s where associate head coach Tim Buckley comes in. He has provided insight into what this freshman class could deliver.

“I’d say this group is more highly credentialed than any of the previous groups,” he said. “That’s why it’s important that this group continues to keep that edge to be great, because that’s what the other groups had. They had that edge.

“They love confrontation at the rim. They love to go after it, to try to block shots or take charges. It’s a very competitive group."

Then Buckley offered an assessment on each freshman.

“Starting with Noah. Physically, he’s college ready. He’s very strong. He’s very powerful. He’s very polished around the basket and explosive. He’s going to continue to develop his perimeter game. In my humble opinion, it was a great decision on his part to come here because that’s what we’ve been able to do. That’s where Cody will excel in the NBA because he was put on the perimeter to drive the ball and shoot. Those are areas he’ll continue to develop and grow.

“His attitude is as good as anyone I’ve ever seen, especially for someone as highly credentialed as he is. He wants to learn. He wants to get better. He wants to know, what more can I do.

“Stan Robinson fits the motor part. He’ll given you everything he has on a consistent basis. Sometimes he goes too fast, but it’s a lot easier to slow guys down than hurry them up.

“His skill level will get better. Right now he’s pretty left-hand dominant, but we’re going to continue to work on that right hand. I think he’s going to be a very good shooter once the repetition of his shooting exceeds the pressure of the game and the pressure of the practices. He’ll be a quality defender once he learns the schemes.

“Troy Williams is a spectacular athlete, but he is as good a passer as he is an athlete. It’s neat to watch. When he’s playing in 3-on-3 or 4-on-4 situations, he finds the open man and he sees things maybe a play ahead. Once he gets his rhythm down with his shooting that will improve. When he gets to point where people don’t know whether to close on him hard or back off, that’s when he’s really going to have the defense at his mercy.

“Devin Davis is a better player than most people think. He’s a hybrid, a mismatch type of guy. He’s more athletic than he looks. He’ll go up and dunk it and surprise you with that at times. He’s also pretty good at putting the ball on the floor. He does a great job of reading the defense as a freshman. He knows where you’re playing him and how you’re playing him, to spin or counter with another move.

“Collin is a knock-down shooter. He’s going to continue to expand his game a little bit. One thing he can’t get away from is making those shots when he’s open and when he’s available to take those.

“Luke Fischer has gotten bigger and stronger. He’s already put on seven or eight pounds since he’s been here. He’s a winner. Having gone undefeated the past two seasons (in high school in Wisconsin). He’s going to stretch and grow. He’s more likely, than the other big guys we’ve had here recently, to step out and shoot. He’s got to get better at it, but he seems more comfortable at it than some of the other big guys.”

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Hoosiers Hot After Basketball Recruiting Prospects



So here was Tom Crean in Indianapolis, in Philadelphia, why not Georgia, and back in Indianapolis, all in the span of five days.

When you’re seeking to land another top-10 college basketball recruiting class, the frequent traveler miles add up.

The Indiana coach isn’t alone, of course. Coaches from all across America just wrapped up the first of July’s three five-day evaluation periods and there’s plenty at stake, which means every coach needs to spend lots of time sitting on uncomfortable bleachers being visible so teenagers will know they care.

Hey, earning millions of dollars a year has it’s glitches, not that we’ll ever know personally about that.

Anyway, the Hoosiers have just one committed player for the Class of 2014, and that’s guard James Blackmon, who pledged to the Cream ‘n Crimson before his high school freshman year.

They’re after a bunch of outstanding players, both in the Class of 2014, and beyond, and they are well positioned to land them.

They are taking a strong look at Michael Humphrey, a 6-10 Class of 2014 center from Phoenix (peegs.com’s Jeff Rabjohns was the first to get this). They have joined powerhouses such as Kentucky, Kansas and Louisville in offering Stephen Zimmerman, the 7-foot Las Vegas center rated No. 2 nationally in the Class of 2016.

They are pushing hard for Quentin Goodin, a Class of 2016 Kentucky guard whose family allegiance is firmly split between Louisville and Kentucky. They are after Colorado forward De’Ron Davis and Colorado guard Austin Conway, both in the Class of 2015.

And they absolutely are all over Class of 2016 guard Eron Gordon, the younger brother of Eric and Evan.

Oh, yes. How can you pass up a chance to land a 6-10 power forward with the name of Goodluck Okonoboh? Crean can’t, and has a strong chance of landing this Class of 2014 standout. It certainly doesn’t hurt that his former travel ball teammate, Noah Vonleh, is now a Hoosier freshman.

And don’t forget talented Indiana Elite 2015 guards Hyron Edwards and Jalen Coleman. They helped Indiana Elite win the 16U division at Indianapolis’ adidas Invitational.

Yes, the competition for these players is strong, but IU under Crean has proven it can more than hold its own. Figure the Hoosiers will wind up with another top-10 class.

Of course, Crean and his staff haven’t forgotten the players already on campus. The players are engaged in a typically energetic summer of  strength training, conditioning, basketball skill development and playing.

That doesn’t include Will Sheehey and Yogi Ferrell, who helped the U.S. to a solid -- but not medal winning -- effort in Russia as part of the World University Games.

So how has the Cream 'n Crimson summer gone?

“It’s been amazing,” director of basketball operations Calbert Cheaney said. “We have all six of our freshmen in and also we have (Arizona transfer) Evan Gordon in. Workouts are going great. The kids are doing very well. They’ve adjusted to the educational part of it. Going to class and managing their time, so it’s been a very productive summer.”

We’ll have more on this in the next few days.



*****

Yes, it’s been a while since I’ve posted a blog. The reason -- too many projects, ranging from IU-related topics, to book writing (let’s just say it’s a challenge making the ancient Roman emperor Nero kid friendly) to sports videos to a quest to convince my son that there is a difference between knowledge and wisdom and much more.

A cynic could say, man up you lazy SOB, but who needs cynicism in a world that offers the Pittsburgh Pirates on pace to win 100 Major League baseball games.

Anyway, I will try to be more consistently from now on, although there might be a break at the end of the month when I take my annual trip to Colorado to do manly stuff such as hiking, biking, white water rafting and, of course, proving once and for all that Bigfoot is real and not a myth.



Saturday, March 16, 2013

Does IU Deserve a No. 1 Ahead of Louisville?



If Jordan Hulls were the Czar of NCAA basketball, he knows exactly who he’d put as the No. 1 seed of all the No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament.

Yes, that would be the Indiana Hoosiers.

Or course, that would immediately cause an outcry and calls for a federal investigation given Hulls is a senior guard for IU. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have an opinion that starts with IU being a No. 1 seed.

“I think we are, but it doesn’t matter what I think,” he said.

Those who matter are part of the NCAA selection committee. Their job is to fill the 68-team tournament that is set to dominate the sporting world for the next three weeks.

IU is in position to be the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Regional, which almost certainly would mean opening round games in Dayton and then, if it wins those, a trip to Indianapolis for the Sweet 16 and the Elite Eight.
In other words, given how well Cream ‘n Crimson fans will travel to those locations, the Hoosiers would have, in essence, four home games to earn a trip to their first Final Four in 11 years.

“That would be a good experience to stay close,” Hulls said. “Hopefully it does happen, but we’ve just got to get better.”

That’s an understatement after IU suffered a season-worst 68-56 loss to Wisconsin in Saturday’s Big Ten tourney semifinals. It is just 3-3 in its last six games. While the selection committee is supposed to look at the overall body of work, it won’t miss that closing streak in its deliberations.

REALITY CHECK: Those six games were against Big Ten teams, which are part of the best conference in the nation. In other words, that’s not nearly as bad as if it came against, say, Atlantic Sun competition.

Anyway, the Hoosiers have shown some vulnerability. That puts it on equal footing with the rest of America. Parity is everywhere you look and a dominate team doesn’t exist. The blather that Duke was unbeatable now that Ryan Kelly had returned took a big hit when Maryland upset Duke with Kelly in the ACC tourney.

So who is the best of the best? You could do a lot worse than the outright winner of the Big Ten, which IU is. Still, with Louisville winning the Big East tourney with an amazing comeback against Syracuse, the Cardinals could supplant the Hoosiers in the No. 1 pecking order.

What would that mean? You could have Louisville No. 1 in the Midwest, which would put it in Indianapolis for the Sweet 16. You could have IU No. 1 in the East, which would put it in Washington D.C. for the Sweet 16.

All that assumes, of course, that there are no major upsets.

So is Louisville better than IU? Specifically, is its body of work better than that of the Hoosiers?

Louisville has a strength of schedule of No. 8. Its RPI is three. It has a 9-4 record against RPI top-50 teams. It is 14-5 against the top 100 in RPI and its worst loss was to Notre Dame, which is No. 36 in RPI. It has beaten four top 25 in RPI teams, including two on the road.

Indiana has a No. 5 RPI, with a strength of schedule at No 11. It has a 9-5 record against top-50 teams, 13-5 against those in the top 100. Its worst loss was to Illinois (a No. 37 RPI).The Hoosiers also seven victories against RPI top 25 teams, including three on the road.

If you believe ESPN.com’s Joe Lunardi, Louisville will be No. 1 in the Midwest with IU No. 1 in the East.

The Hoosiers can’t do anything about that, but they can improve the flaws that erupted against Wisconsin. They can defend better, rebound better and just play tougher.

"We'll learn from it," said forward Cody Zeller. "We'll figure out what we did wrong. We'll make the corrections and get ready for next week because that's what's most important."

Zeller couldn’t be more right.