The Indiana mens basketball team tonight will begin its most anticipated season in years shorthanded.
The Hoosiers – preseason No. 1 for the first time since the 1979-80 season – face Bryant without forwards Derek Elston and Hanner Mosquera-Perea and center Peter Jurkin.
Mosquera-Perea, who was battling a foot injury, and Jurkin were suspended nine games by the NCAA on Tuesday for receiving impermissible benefits before arriving on campus. Elston is recovering from a knee injury.
Having those three guys out now means its more important for me and Christian (Watford) to stay out of foul trouble and stay on the court as long as we can, IU sophomore forward Cody Zeller said Thursday.
Indiana coach Tom Crean addressed the suspensions during a news conference.
My greatest concern is for them. It has been and it will remain that way, Crean said of the freshmen. They dont deserve this. At the end of the day, that is really what should matter the most – the welfare of the student-athlete. They dont deserve it. Nobody deserves it, but those two certainly dont deserve it.
Jurkin and Mosquera-Perea received impermissible benefits from A-HOPE, a nonprofit organization that supports athletes from other countries as they pursue educational and athletic endeavors in the U.S.
The organization was founded by Mark Adams, who because he provided a donation of $185 to the IU Varsity Club between 1986 and 1992, is forever considered a booster under NCAA rules.
They are great kids, and unfortunately that probably masks what they really think inside, Crean said. Its not like this just came about. They have answered every question. They have dealt with every situation. They have dealt with every hypothetical and they have been great. They have been great. They have been brought into more question-and-answer type situations, really more than they should have had to be in. But again, they handled it. They are consistent. They are who they are. I just wish it would be viewed that way.
The suspensions and Elstons injury could mean more playing time for Jeff Howard. The 6-foot-8 junior appeared in 10 games last year, playing 16 minutes.
If we play conventional, our backup is Jeff Howard, Crean said. There will be some conventional and there will be some unconventional.
You learn a lot over your period of time at Indiana, from 2008 on. And the one thing that you learn is you dont sit there and worry about what you dont have. You just try to figure out how to do the best you can and thats where we are at with positions and matchups and all that. We will just let it roll and see where it goes.
Notes: Watford will wear Elstons No. 32 as a tribute to the fellow senior. Watford usually wears No. 2. Watford and Zeller were named to the Preseason Wooden Award List.