Friday, January 7, 2011

Football Times Keep Changing -- Hill In, Wateska Out; Basketball Bright Spots

Sometimes it’s about who you know. That’s not exactly a galaxy-rocking concept, but it basically explains why Mark Hill is Indiana’s new head strength and conditioning coach for football and Mark Wateska is not.

Both guys, we’re sure, are excellent at what they do, but Hill has a connection to Oklahoma and new football head coach Kevin Wilson. Wateska does not. Wilson wants his own guys, not somebody elses, as he embarks on making Indiana football special.

Wateska was the football strength coach under former Hoosier coaches Gerry DiNardo, Terry Hoeppner and Bill Lynch. He remains the assistant athletic director for strength and conditioning. What does that mean? He has responsibility over the entire strength and conditioning program of all the sports. In terms of specifics, he’ll now be the head strength and conditioning coach for Olympic sports.

Hill now runs the football strength show and he has, as you would expect given Wilson’s other hires, impressive credentials.

Hill spent the last four years as the strength and conditioning director at Minnesota. Before that he was the associate director of performance enhancement at Arizona. Before that he was the assistant strength and conditioning director at Oklahoma. He and Wilson worked together for the Sooners during the 2002 and 2003 seasons.

“Mark worked with Jerry Schmidt, who is the best in the business, for four years at Oklahoma,” Wilson said in a university release. “Jerry’s offseason program and overall player development are Oklahoma’s strengths, and Mark is a direct descendant of Jerry’s principles. He was part of starting a new program at Arizona and Minnesota, so he is used to coming into a program from Day One.”

Hill worked with 19 Minnesota players who earned All-Big Ten honors, including Eric Decker, now a receiver for the NFL’s Denver Broncos. At Arizona he trained cornerback Antoine Cason, the 2007 Thorpe Award winner as the nation’s top defensive back and now a member of the San Diego Chargers. At Oklahoma he worked with 13 All-Americas, 28 NFL draft picks and winners of the Butkus, Heisman, Lombardi, Nagurski, O’Brien and Thorpe awards.

“It’s great to be a Hoosier. I have known Coach Wilson for a long time. I’m happy to be with a coach I trust and respect. He is a hard worker, structured and has a great game plan in place. We are going to be successful here. Coach is putting together a great staff. He is going to lead us where we need to be.”

Hill is a former wide receiver for Tennessee-Chattanooga good enough to total 100 catches for 1,329 yards.


Are you ready for a few highlights in what is spiraling into more Indiana basketball gloom?

Yes, we know people are getting tired of what seems like a never-ending series of defeats that no number of wins over patsies can overcome.

Still, even while the Hoosiers struggle, there are a few bright spots that offer reasons for future hope, even if it's next season.

For instance:

VICTOR OLADIPO is averaging 14.3 points and 5.3 rebounds in his last four games while shooting 51.7 percent during that span. He ranks seventh in the Big Ten in steals at 1.5 a game. All this makes you wonder why he wasn’t considered a prime recruit when IU signed him and how much better can he get?

JORDAN HULLS ranks third in the Big Ten in three-point shooting (51.6 percent) and is sixth in the conference in overall shooting at 56.8 percent. The sophomore guard is averaging 11.7 points in Big Ten action, two-points better than his overall average.

CHRISTIAN WATFORD ranks eighth in the Big Ten in scoring at 16.4 points. That’s the most of any sophomore in the conference. He’s fifth in free throwing shooting (82.8 percent) and has made a conference-leading 82 free throws in 95 attempts. Yes, he was a no-show against Penn State and Minnesota, but other than that he's been solid.

VERDELL JONES is 45 points away from becoming the 42nd player in school history to score 1,000 career points. The junior guard averages 13.0 points for his career, 12.3 points this season.

If he maintains his pace the rest of his career, Jones could finish with more than 1,500 points. Only 14 Hoosiers have ever done that.

Jimmy Rayl didn’t do it. Walt Bellamy didn’t do it. Neither did the VanArsdale twins and a bunch of other former standouts.

What does that mean? For one thing, freshmen didn’t used to be eligible, so players only had three varsity seasons instead of four. For another, teams play more games now.

For another, well, let’s not quibble. Jones might not be a future NBA No. 1 draft pick, but he’s developed into a very solid offensive player. And if he ever picks up his defense and improves court awareness and passing, who knows how good he could be.

In time we'll find out.


  1. Why are you so high on Jones, III? He's an unathletic, no defense, turnover machine. The infrequent games he scores are offset by his normal poor play. I'll be glad to see him use up his eligibility.

  2. I'll have to agree with the earlier post. I like that Jones slashes into the lane once in awhile, while most of the rest of the team fears contact (did you see where Georgia made 30 free throws against Kentucky?), but the results are often chaotic. Sort of like Gordon during his last few games with IU. Not a compliment.