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.