FORT WAYNE – Cody Zeller on Wednesday followed Indiana teammate Victor Oladipo in announcing his plans to enter the NBA draft.
Today, the search for a way to replace those players – and much more – begins. The Hoosiers will have to find a way this offseason if they plan to remain among the best teams in the Big Ten and the country.
The culture that these guys have helped establish in here and that the older guys have helped establish in here, it’ll only help us, IU coach Tom Crean said. Everybody is different, and every situation is different, and you want to keep getting them ready for what’s next for them.
With the loss of Zeller and Oladipo, as well as seniors Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford, IU forfeits 52.1 points per game, more than two-thirds of its offensive production. The four all passed 1,000 points in their careers in Bloomington.
IU is also losing its top three rebounders (Zeller, Oladipo and Watford); its best shot blocker (Zeller); its best defender (Oladipo); its best three-point shooters with more than 40 attempts each (Hulls, Oladipo and Watford); and the leadership qualities each of those players brought to the court.
Everyone in this program has worked hard to get this program back, keep on improving it, said Zeller, who was first-team All-Big Ten and a second-team All-American. A lot of credit to coach Crean and the coaching staff for changing the dynamic of this team and instilling the work ethic.
Where IU goes from here will depend largely on whether the group can forge an identity in addition to filling the 4,125 minutes those four departing players logged this season.
Sophomore-to-be Kevin Yogi Ferrell and senior-to-be Will Sheehey will play key parts, as will a lauded incoming freshman class.
The Hoosiers have six players signed for the 2013-14 season, headlined by Noah Vonleh, a top-10 recruit out of New Hampton (N.H.) School.
Troy Williams of Oak Hill (Va.) Academy, Stan Robinson of Findlay (Nev.) Prep and Luke Fischer of Germantown (Wis.) High School round out the group’s consensus top-150 picks, and state products Devin Davis of Warren Central and Collin Hartman of Indianapolis Cathedral will also wear the cream and crimson.
The class is ranked No. 6 in the nation according to the 247Composite, a service from 247Sports.com that compiles rankings from the major recruiting sites – Rivals, Scout, ESPN.com and itself – into one ranking.
The other recruits and I, we’re going to try to make as big an impact as they did, said Williams, a 6-6 shooting guard who is ranked 46th in the nation by 247Composite. We got a lot of athletic people coming in, we got a lot of people who can play inside and out. All over the court, we’ll create mismatches.
But with Ferrell at point guard, Sheehey on the wing and Vonleh as a probable starter at power forward, there are still two holes to fill.
IU must find a way to replace Zeller at center, which could require a rotation of Fischer (6-11) and current Hoosiers Peter Jurkin (7 feet) and Hanner Mosquera-Perea (6-8).
The Hoosiers need some solid options at shooting guard, as well, which could also be filled by committee with junior-to-be Remy Abell, Robinson and some interchanging of the lineups. Sophomore-to-be Jeremy Hollowell could also be in the mix at shooting guard or at small forward.
None of those scenarios account for the program needing to cut at least one scholarship player before next season in order to meet the NCAA’s limit of 13 scholarship players per team.
The process of redefining the Hoosiers will be complicated, and perhaps messy.
Speculation starts in the meantime, and it won’t die down until the first tip next season.
I know what we’re losing, Crean said. I’ve got the stat sheets. But I don’t dwell on that.