Khristian Lander, the former 5-star recruit who 247Sports’ Jerry Meyer once compared to Sacramento Kings guard and former Kentucky standout De’Aaron Fox in his high school evaluation, never found a role at Indiana, as he played in half the number of games as a sophomore (13) that he did as a freshman (26), despite the latter being a season in which he once went more than three months without making a 2-point field goal.
On March 23, the IndyStar’s Zach Osterman reported that Lander had entered the transfer portal, a seemingly inevitable outcome in today’s era of men’s basketball, especially given that the 2020-21 season doesn’t count against Lander’s eligibility and that he’s able to play immediately at a new school through the one-time transfer exception.
Lander, who received reported scholarship offers in high school from the likes of Florida, Kansas, Memphis, Michigan, Ohio State and Tennessee, committed to Indiana in February 2020, just weeks before the pandemic shut down life as we knew it in the U.S., and he reclassified to join the Hoosiers for the 2021 season.
To reclassify as a point guard is a difficult task as it is, let alone to do so amid a pandemic. After playing double-digit minutes four times in the 2020 portion of Indiana’s 2020-21 schedule, he played six minutes or fewer in the next nine games in which he appeared, once going 0-for-16 from 2-point range during a 22-game stretch. Lander’s slight frame didn’t help the transition to college and he sometimes moved like a baby deer on ice as he tried to get a handle on the speed and physicality of the game in an often-limited number of minutes.
Below are Lander’s per-game and season averages at Indiana, with the advanced numbers coming from kenpom.com. He was a noticeably below-average offensive player and his turnover rate, which climbed to nearly 40 percent as a sophomore, was certainly problematic for a point guard.
Indiana fans were ready for a breakout season from Lander; shoot, they were ready for even a breakout game, both due to his 5-star pedigree and eventually, because of his minimal presence, let alone production, on the court. But neither came. His career-high in points scored remains the 10 points he had against North Alabama in the sixth game of his career.
He made 15 shots in 24 career games against Big Ten opponents.
Lander showed great quickness at times and he could potentially develop into a respectable 3-point shooter down the road — he made four of his six 3-point attempts in consecutive games against Rutgers and Illinois as a freshman in one of his rare stretches of efficient scoring production — but he never found a suitable role at Indiana, a program that was desperate to end its NCAA tournament drought and which featured a pair of seniors on its roster last season who also played the position. Xavier Johnson, who can return to Indiana next season for his final season of eligibility, performed like an All-Big Ten point guard in the last month or so of the season, and Lander still has three seasons of eligibility remaining, so it made sense for both sides to move on.
Lander is perhaps a cautionary tale of a 5-star point guard reclassifying, a la former Duke enrollee Derryck Thornton, who played for the Blue Devils in the 2016 season, before transferring to USC, then Boston College. Thornton was listed a 6-foot-2 and 175 pounds as a freshman — roughly Lander’s stature — and he never recorded a season-long offensive rating above 97 in four seasons of college basketball, where the national average is somewhere around 103 on an annual basis.
Lander’s development is perhaps the victim of some circumstances — the pandemic overlapping with his freshman season, followed by a coaching change, followed by the Hoosiers adding another senior at the position — but he offered few signs that he would be a long-term answer at the position. At this point, Lander would likely benefit from simply playing and being able to work through his decision-making with the ball and improving his defensive awareness. That inherently implies a potential step down in competition — say, a school in the A-10 or Missouri Valley, maybe? — and that might allow Lander to maximize his college potential in 2024 or 2025, as a former 5-star recruit.
It just didn’t work out at Indiana.