Per the Bloomington Herald-Times, senior AJ Ratliff is no longer on the IU basketball team. Comments earlier this week indicated that Ratliff's absence was not academics- or discipline-related, but related to "personal issues." I'm reluctant to say much because I have no idea what those issues are, but it seems quite a shame to walk away just as IU enters what should be its most exciting end to the regular season in years. On one hand, I hope it's nothing awful, but on the other hand, I hope that AJ isn't passing up his only chance at Big Ten and NCAA Tournament success for anything less than a good reason.
As I noted a couple of days ago, since returning from his first semester academic suspension in December, Ratliff has really struggled. In nine games this season, Ratliff shot 18 percent from the field and averaged 1.7 points per game. For his career, Ratliff averaged 5.8 points per game. His best season was last year, when he shot 45 percent from the field, 41 percent from three point range, and average 9.3 points per game. Ratliff's career highlights came in big games: as a sophomore, he scored 21 points on 6-9 from the field in IU's first win over Kentucky in six years. Last year, he scored 20 on 7-9/4-6 shooting in IU's win over #2 Wisconsin. Like most Hoosier fans, I had hoped that Ratliff would find a way to regain his form and contribute down the stretch. Oh well.
Perhaps most significantly, the IU program is now facing a significant AJ deficit. In 1996, AJ Guyton began his productive four year career at IU, graduating in 2000 as one of the school's greats. In 2000, AJ Moye instantly became a fan favorite because of his hustle and ability to compete in the paint with much taller players, most memorably with a jump-ball block of the much taller Carlos Boozer in IU's 2002 NCAA Tournament upset of #1 Duke. After Moye departed in 2004, AJ Ratliff enrolled and enjoyed an up-and-down career that is now over. Three AJs, evenly spaced. Does anyone know Adam Ahlfeld's middle name? As far as I'm concerned, it is "James."