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Indiana University

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Talking earns IU freshman raves

Noah Vonleh was the youngest college basketball player at the LeBron James Skills Academy in Las Vegas.

The Indiana freshman was also one of the loudest.

Vonleh, 17, was a college counselor at the Academy, which played host to the top 80 high school players and top 20 college players in the country. And he stood out to scouts, and ESPN’s Jay Bilas, because of his leadership ability and skills.

“I was talking a lot because a lot of guys there weren’t talking,” Vonleh, a 6-foot-9 forward, said July 16 in Bloomington. “Jay Bilas came up to me, he said, ‘Your leadership, your talking can become a great strength if you keep working on it.’

“I just competed, rebounded because that’s one of my biggest strengths and scored well in the post.”

That was enough to earn him rave reviews from the camp, and put the rest of the country on notice.

Vonleh is expected to be one of the Hoosiers’ best players this season, and since he arrived, he has been better than advertised.

“Physically, he’s college ready. He’s very strong, very powerful. He’s very polished around the basket and explosive. He’s going to continue to develop his perimeter game,” associate head coach Tim Buckley said of Vonleh, a top-10 recruit in his class. “Those are areas where he’s going to continue to develop and grow. And his attitude is as good as anyone’s attitude I’ve ever seen, especially for someone as highly credentialed as him.”

Assitant coach Kenny Johnson took it a step further and said if Vonleh could, he would put up a cot at the Cook Hall training facility and as the cliché goes, live in the gym.

“He’s an individual who’s deadset on turning himself into the player he believes he could be and maximizing his potential,” Johnson said.

So far, so good.

Vonleh said he’s put on about 20 pounds since he got to Bloomington on May 29, thanks to IU strength and conditioning coach Je’Ney Jackson.

The freshman is the headliner of one of the best recruiting classes in the Hoosiers’ history. He also wants to be the hardest worker of the bunch.

“I just like to be in the gym all the time, getting better, getting my shot better,” Vonleh said. “I’m going to be playing against a lot of guys that are older than me next year, so I need to get ready, mentally ready.”

Thanks to the Academy, Vonleh already has some experience against that veteran competition. And he’s already learned that in order to make up for a lack of experience, he has to do the little things others forget to do.

Bilas had some more advice for Vonleh.

“He said to continue to stay low when I’m in the post and make my moves quick,” Vonleh said. “Sometimes, I was indecisive, but I gotta keep working on that.”

For Vonleh, the first of the six freshmen to arrive in Bloomington, putting in the time to improve isn’t a problem. “We’re all working hard, getting better with different things: ballhandling, shooting and footwork on shooting, those kinds of things,” Vonleh said. “I feel like we’re just going to keep getting better and better.”

smorrison@jg.net

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