Get ready for an offseason full of speculative what-ifs and (perhaps) forced comparisons to the college trajectories of past Indiana players such as Victor Oladipo and OG Anunoby.
That’s where rising junior forward Jordan Geronimo is, following his electric 15-point, seven-rebound performance in 19 minutes off the bench in Indiana’s NCAA tournament win over Wyoming in the First Four. The freshman who logged six DNPs for a team that went 7-13 after the start of Big Ten play in the 2021 season became a sophomore who averaged nearly 12 minutes per game against conference foes, who’s set to become...whatever your imagination creates.
There’s a lot of time and narrative voids for fans and media alike to fill in the offseason, and when you combine 1) Geronimo’s splash against Wyoming with 2) the generally positive feelings of the Indiana fan base after the Hoosiers made the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2016, 3) a 2022-23 Hoosiers frontcourt that could have a lot of available minutes if one or both of Trayce Jackson-Davis or Race Thompson move on, and 4) recent examples of elite athletes wearing the cream and crimson, albeit under a different regime, who went from non-blue-chip beginnings to stardom, then voila, you get visions of a potential breakout junior season for Geronimo.
Here are his stats from his first two seasons at Indiana. The advanced stats are courtesy of kenpom.com.
At 6-foot-6 and 225 pounds, Geronimo has long been considered the most athletic Indiana player and as a sophomore, he saw his offensive rating climb to roughly the national average after being a noticeably less-than-efficient player as a freshman, and that’s in large part from his free throw percentage improving from 27.8 to 56.8 percent. He still needs to improve his percentage to even become a Trayce Jackson-Davis-level free throw shooter but if he can maintain his free throw rate — nearly 50 percent as a freshman and 40 percent as a sophomore — as his minutes and usage rate increase, then he’ll need to convert at the line more often.
Maybe it’s only because Indiana had two quality starting forwards in Jackson-Davis and Thompson, while Geronimo was still in the developmental, reserve phase of his career, but he’s shown just enough capability as a 3-pointer shooter to send Indiana fans’ minds off to the races. He made four of his 10 attempts as a freshman and he hit nine 3-pointers last season, albeit at a 31-percent clip. After not seeing Jackson-Davis make any in-game efforts to become a 3-point shooter and Thompson never being a high-efficiency 3-point shooter despite his 55 attempts last season, there’s still reason to believe that Geronimo could eventually be a stretch-four who could average something like one made 3-pointer a game at a rate of at least 33 percent.
His 3-point makes came in spurts — one in two of Indiana’s first three games, again one in two out of three games in a stretch around New Year’s Day, and one in three of the final four games he played.
However, the best of Geronimo will come at or near the rim. He repeatedly showed against Wyoming his ability to be an aggressive offensive rebounder and put-back dunker, and his block rate climbed by more than five percentage points from his freshman season. Despite playing 568 fewer minutes than Thompson last season, Geronimo and Thompson both finished the season with 24 blocks, which was the second-highest total on the team.
Despite his elite jumping ability, Geronimo may never put up the block numbers that Jackson-Davis had as a junior, just due to the two players’ height differential, but Geronimo could grow to be a quite effective weak-side shot-blocker in the coming years.
There’s a chance the Hype Train has already left the station for good on Geronimo and if a starting spot in Indiana’s frontcourt opens up in the offseason, then you can likely pencil him in to that open position, which could be the metaphorical version of taking a seldom-used sports car out on the open road for an extended drive for the first time. But as dreams of his potential might merge with the college highlight reels of Oladipo or Anunoby, remember that Geronimo averaged roughly four points and four rebounds per game last season, with the third-highest turnover rate among Indiana’s rotation players. Thompson averaged roughly nine and six in his third season playing (and his fourth season in the program) at Indiana, and that level of production would be an encouraging step forward for Geronimo as a junior.
While his physical leaps might seem limitless at times, that may not apply to his metaphorical ones.