It's that time of year again, when we here at Crimson Quarry take wild liberties and tell you with irrational confidence what you should expect to see out of a basketball team that is in no way even remotely close to its final form. With that being said, Indiana should be pretty good next year. The only real question is how good?
After a season that kind of caught the fan base off guard after the doom of Maui, the Hoosiers resurrected themselves and made a truly fun run to a B1G title and a tournament that ended in, uh, well, you know what happened.
So, while the wounds are still relatively fresh, and there's a whole lot of giant footsteps to replace, let's do our best Cub fan impression and look to next year to fill the emptiness in our heart. First up, we take a look at the fresh new faces on the roster for 2016-17.
In with the new, the Class of 2016
There are two big fish in this class, but only one that is already known around campus. That title is reserved for De'Ron Davis, the big man from Aurora, CO, who has certainly made some headlines during his illustrious high school career. A 6'10", 235 lb PF ranked #44 overall in the class of 2016, Davis will be expected to step in and contribute right away in the same type of way Thomas Bryant did this year. While it may be premature and a bit unfair to place Bryant comparisons on Davis right off the bat, do not doubt for one second that he is up to the task.
Davis has been on the radar of major programs for over half a decade now, and throughout his career thus far has not only lived up to the hype, but exceeded it. A true two-way player, Davis has led his Overland HS team to back-to-back state titles (the first two in program history), and was named the Colorado 5A High School Player of the Year.
As the all-time leader in blocked shots in Colorado, Davis' game revolves around the paint, where he is dominant defensively, and on the offensive end also has some very polished post moves for someone his age. Add in a relatively new ability to take defenders off the dribble, couple that with a continued development of his jump shot, and it is easy to see why Tom Crean cannot wait to get him involved in his offense. After recently scouting Davis, Crean had this to say about his prized recruit:
"He's getting bigger, he's getting stronger, he's extremely well coached. He's one of those year-round well coached guys, which I love. the bottom line is there's a lot of upside. He's got a good touch, he rebounds the ball. I enjoyed seeing him play, and I enjoyed his defense, because he had to go out on the perimeter some." (Source)
For some reason, there has not been as much hype around Curtis Jones' commitment over the course of his senior season, but make no mistake, he will be a big part of Indiana's team from the moment he sets foot in Bloomington. As a member of the esteemed Huntington Prep school (Thomas Bryant is a former teammate) and the Boo Williams AAU program, Jones has more than held his own against elite competition while playing a national schedule night in and night out.
A 6'4", 170 lb combo guard, Jones is a prototypical "Crean guard" in that he plays an uptempo, attacking style that should transition seamlessly into IU's somewhat position-less offensive style. While it's easy to compare Jones to the other Virginia-bred products currently on Indiana's roster, Jones' tape very much does show a mix of skills that remind of Robert Johnson and Troy Williams. After only a few minutes of watching him play, his fluidity, ability to penetrate, knock down jumpers, and create for others are very apparent. His senior year stats back it up as he averaged 20 PPG, 5 RPG, and 5 APG during the 2015-16 season.
With Yogi Ferrell and Nick Zeisloft out of the picture, there will be minutes to be had in IU's backcourt, and it's fair to expect Jones to command a sizable percentage of those. After Jones committed back in September, ESPN recruiting analyst Paul Biancardi had this to say about the Highland Springs, VA product:
"Jones can make shots from mid-range and distance, and his ability to score the ball off the dribble, especially off a high ball screen or running in the conversion game makes him a threat from Day 1. Besides his dependable jumper, Jones has a noticeably quick first step to beat a defender, and thanks to his size and vision can score in the paint and at the rim." (Source)
The most recent 2016 commitment is Devonte Green, the younger brother of San Antonio Spurs G Danny Green. While he is ranked as a 3-star by most recruiting outlets, Green is still a bit undervalued, as he is an accomplished scorer and has shown as much this year for his Long Island Lutheran team.
The 6'2", 175 lb PG is a bit of a mixed bag, but he should definitely find his way into the rotation as a high-paced offense suits Green perfectly. Here's a recent scouting report courtesy of ESPN:
"Green is a scoring guard who is a threat in all three ranges. He can make shots behind the arc with a quick and compact release and has become much more consistent in that range in recent years. He's most effective attacking the rim off a live catch where he plays in straight lines with no wasted motion...He has good perimeter footwork, has developed a strong body to be able to play through contact and is capable of either finishing with either hand. He also has the physical tools to be a good defender." (Source)
Subject to a few smarmy reactions, including one from yours truly, after he committed to Indiana last summer, it's fair to say barely anyone had Grant Gelon on their radar before he became the first member of IU's 2016 recruiting class.
However, after seeing Victor Oladipo develop during his IU career, as well as OG Anunoby's meteoric rise from 2-star recruit to national relevance during his freshman season, it's safe to say Tom Crean deserves the benefit of the doubt with Gelon as well.
While those development stories were nice and all, the most accurate description of what Gelon can become is probably more along the lines of a Nick Zeisloft, an underrecruited specialist that can round out his game under the guidance of Indiana coaching. A sharpshooter from Crown Point, IN, Gelon does not have the major recruiting cache of the players mentioned above, but Crean identified something in him early, and as a team is built around parts that fit instead of a collection of shiny objects, Gelon's skills should allow him to find a nice niche in Bloomington.
A 6'5", 180 lb guard, Gelon is known for his shooting prowess, but is more athletic than he lets on, and while he needs to get much stronger to play at the B1G level, IU's strength team should bring out the very best in him. Here's what Crean had to say about Gelon in a recent interview:
"Grant Gelon, I love him," Crean said. "That's one of those signees that, when everybody's looking at it and wondering because there weren't a lot of people on him and some other teams in the state didn't recruit him, that's where we've always stayed true to what we see. you stay true to what you see on film, you stay true to what you see with your own eye, you trust your instinct, you trust your coaches." (Source)
Grad transfer? Thon?
Depending on who leaves for the NBA, there may be 1-2 scholarships available for 2016-17. Whether IU chooses to go the route they have the past few years and aim for a grad transfer a la Nick Zeisloft and Max Bielfeldt, or pour their hearts into crafting the biggest sack of cash they can find and shipping it to Thon Maker, Tom Crean and company will have decisions to be made about rounding out the edges of the roster.
It's way too early to know the complete list of potential grad transfers, but if the current trends continue, there should plenty of choices to comb through. In a best case scenario (for my selfish viewing pleasure), Indiana will not have to think about extra additions as both Thomas Bryant and Troy Williams choose to stay for one more shot, but if one or both leave, you can be assured that Tom Crean will be on the road with his middle-part haircut blowing in the wind, just him and a diet coke, maniacally searching near and far for his roster's best possible replacement.
Look out for Part II soon, where we talk about the familiar faces still around ready to make another run.