Maybe we should start a pool on when I will finish this series. Memorial Day? Fathers' Day? Fourth of July? Fall football practice? I'm determined to finish it much sooner than that, before the 2010-11 season fades even further into the past. Before I begin discussing the enigmatic Derek Elston, I suppose it's worth noting that it's now May 10. The end of the spring semester, final exams, and graduation all are in the past, and there have been no reports of transfers. Tom Crean added Remy Abell to next season's roster, and the Hoosiers remain overcommitted by two scholarships for the 2012-13 season. Despite all that, Tom Crean's "never stop recruiting" philosophy still has him and his staff following Gary Harris of Hamilton Southeastern. Fans generally have responded to this by presuming that Crean knew something we didn't know, that someone would be leaving. IU has not lost any players, however, and it is becoming increasingly unlikely that IU will have a ride for Harris in 2012. Perhaps Crean's approach with Harris is simply a very time-consuming hedge. Maybe he doesn't actually expect to have a ride for Harris, but in the event that there is unexpected attrition because of academics, discipline, or disgruntlement, Crean isn't going to be caught flat-footed. That's my best guess at this point, because it does not appear that any of last season's freshmen or sophomores are going anywhere.
It's not a coincidence that I bring this up in my Elston post. Derek has been the subject of transfer speculation all season as he spent time on various levels of Crean's doghouse. Elston's overall numbers (here is his Yahoo page) were fairly stagnant compared to his freshman year. Despite ample opportunity, Elston's minutes did not increase appreciably. He shot slightly better from the field, improving to 51 percent from 47 percent, but all of his other numbers: points per game, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks, declined modestly. After shooting a respectable 36 percent from three point range as a freshman, he slipped to 17 percent as a sophomore and did not make a single three pointer in Big Ten play. Of course, these numbers don't tell the whole story. Even a layman like me could tell that Elston really struggled to grasp his role defensively this season and made a ton of poor decisions on that end of the court. Finally, he found himself bounced from a game at Northwestern for what appeared to be an intentional trip of a Wildcat player. Elston played well in IU's win over Minnesota, but for the most part, his best games statistically came in games in which IU played poorly, such as losses to Northern Iowa and at Iowa. All in all, a sophomore slump that lasted the entire season.
I really don't know what to make of Elston. He certainly doesn't seem to lack skill and athleticism. He strikes me as agile for a player of his size and with a nice jumper as well. Is it a mental issue, a matter of commitment, a problem of distraction? I don't know. I do know that IU needs help in the frontcourt, even with Cody Zeller arriving, and if Elston (or Tom Pritchard or Bobby Capobianco) can make major strides in the offseason, then there will be excellent opportunities for playing time. Hopefully one or more will find a way.