Derek Elston is another one of those individuals that we still can’t be certain exactly what we have as a player. He has shown flashes of great skill and capability in his first two years but has also shown a tendency to take himself out of the game both mentally and physically. This is the year where he will certainly have to try and prove himself to be a capable power forward going into the future.
Elston was a 2009 graduate from Tipton High School and averaged 20 points, 11 rebounds and 3 assists a game in his senior season. The PF with a Big Three ranking of anywhere between 90th in his class and just outside of the top 150 was even in his recruitment an uncertain commodity. The numbers didn’t lie and his physical stature was encouraging but he was still raw in many aspects of his game. He garnered attention from Illinois and North Carolina and received an offer from Purdue before choosing the Hoosiers.
As a freshman he played in all 31 games and started seven. The highlight of his career to date came in a 27 minute, 17 points, 8 rebounds performance in an overtime win against Northwestern. He showed a lot of promise in his first season if not that he still had a long way to develop. However, for being a freshman, averaging 15 minutes a game and contributing 6 points and 4 rebounds you have to be happy with that. Overall it was an incredibly encouraging season and I thought he would make that big leap as a sophomore that had him as a go to physical force in the dribble drive offense. Unfortunately that didn’t quite come to fruition.
As a sophomore he became the focus of a lot of Hoosiers fans complaints. He averaged about an extra 30 seconds a game more, a half a rebound less and a full point less than his freshman year. The major reason that his numbers were as such was the incredible fouling pace he had when put on the floor. A lot of that had to do with the same reason Tom Pritchard fouled a lot, mismatches. Rarely were both on the floor at the same time so both were required to guard their man AND cover for the power forward as well because there wasn’t another guy on the floor that could handle size and strength defensively. Thus if Elston played a full game at his foul rate he would have fouled out with 3-4 minutes to play in every game. That has to change first. Elston needs to work on his footwork to improve his defensive capabilities in the post.
For this season much more is expected of him if the Hoosiers are to succeed. Even as a high schooler, with his physical advantage, he played a lot of mid to long range basketball. He has had two years now to transition to a back to the basket post threat. This is the year that he must show he’s capable. The mental errors have to drop dramatically and the defensive awareness has to increase. Should this happen you can expect big things out of Elston with Zeller and Pritchard to help on the depth chart and he should be starting next to Zeller by midseason. I however, am a little more pessimistic than that. I think a reasonable accomplishment that would be concerning if he doesn’t reach is 18 minutes a game, 7 points, 5 rebounds and a dramatic drop in fouls. Last year he fouled at one every 7 minutes. This year that has to change to less than a foul every ten. I don’t mind physical play, but it has to be smarter. Elston will be the most interesting player to watch from the aspect of how he makes the jump from year 2 to 3.