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.