Monday, October 18, 2010

Inside Or Outside, IU’s Watford Is A Big Key

Maybe you saw Christian Watford confuse himself with Steve Alford at Hoosier Hysteria. Suddenly there was this 6-9 forward draining 35-foot wing jumpers with the greatest of ease.

Watford nearly won the three-point shooting contest. This is not what you’d expect from Indiana’s leading returning rebounder. It is not what coach Tom Crean expects once the season starts.

Yes, Watford has the green light from three-point range if he’s open and it’s a good shot. He did make 15 three-pointers last year, although his 31.9 percent shooting from that range did not make him IU’s No. 1 long-distance option.

Who was? Guard Maurice Creek shot 44.8 percent from three-point range. Jordan Hulls shot 40.2 percent.

Anyway, Crean wants to push the offensive pace this season and he’d like to do it with fewer set plays. That can only happen with good decision making. Having a 6-9 guy launch 35 footers on a regular basis does not necessarily reflect a good decision.

Taking high percentage shots does. Watford is more than capable of that. He averaged 12.0 points last year. He could be a double-double guy this year if he hits the boards with the necessary passion and plays with consistent effort.

“We need him to score,” Crean said. “He can be an inside-outside, outside-inside guy. It depends on what the situation calls for.”

Watford was a strong free throw shooter last year (a team-leading 80 percent) who sometimes struggled with overall accuracy (37.5 percent from the field). No matter. He’s worked on improving that accuracy and will play a huge role in IU’s drive for a winning record and postseason opportunity.

“We’ve got to score more and the way to do that is with better ball movement, more offensive rebounds, getting the break started more. Most importantly, not give a team easy possessions. At the same time, we have to take possessions away from people and create more turnovers.”

This is the blueprint Crean is working from behind the shelter of closed practices. On Friday, Oct. 29, we’ll get the first public peak of what it will look like. Throw in a Cody Zeller sighting (it’s part of his last official visit before making his college choice) and it could be a heck of a night.

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