FORT WAYNE – Indiana coach Tom Crean knows the numbers.
His team lost four 1,000-point scorers. It lost two All-Americans, has one four-year scholarship player and must try to replace Victor Oladipo, the No. 2 pick in the 2013 NBA draft, and Cody Zeller, the No. 4 selection.
He has two other numbers on his mind, too: Three-point shooting efficiency and rebounding efficiency.
One will certainly dip this season. The other must be substantially better.
We’ve led the country the last two years in three-point shooting overall, and it’s going to take a small miracle for that to happen, Crean said at Hoosier Hysteria on Friday in Bloomington. So, we’re going to have to find different ways to score. We’re going to shoot the ball, we’ll get better shooting the ball – we spend a lot of time on it – but we’ve got to be a great rebounding team.
There is a lot of competition between similarly built players on the Hoosiers’ roster this season. The group boasts 10 scholarship players between 6-foot-6 and 6-9, with many interchangeable pieces. That leads to hefty competition at small forward and power forward, as well as shooting guard, where some of those taller players could make a mark.
The easiest way for players to distinguish themselves to Crean, whether it be one of the six incoming freshmen or senior forward Will Sheehey, is to rebound at a high level and play good defense.
Sheehey, the returning Sixth Man of the Year in the Big Ten, knows that lesson well. He was edged out for a starting spot last season by Oladipo.
The game doesn’t change, the 6-7 forward said. You got to do the same things to get on the court.
Last year, IU finished third in the country and made 41.1 percent of its three-pointers. The Hoosiers were No. 3 in points per game, with 80, and ninth in the NCAA in adjusted field goal percentage (55.2), which accounts for two-point shots.
This team, full of newcomers and lacking a go-to three-point shooter, can’t replicate that. But its athleticism and length can make up for it.
New players like 6-7 wing Troy Williams, who Kevin Yogi Ferrell said might be a better leaper than Oladipo, exemplify explosiveness. Returners such as 6-9 Hanner Mosquera-Perea could bring some excitement, too.
Freshman forward Devin Davis, a Warren Central graduate who won the Hoosier Hysteria dunk contest, said he’s been dunked on – and blocked – more during IU workouts than his entire high school career.
It’s the same thing for me, said 6-10 freshman forward Noah Vonleh, the top-10 prospect who was the gem of the 2013 recruiting class. You got me, Hanner, Luke (Fischer), Devin, Troy’s in there sometimes and Peter Jurkin. It’s real competitive – guys blocking shots, some people getting dunked on.
Sophomore forward Jeremy Hollowell, a 6-8 participant in the Hoosier Hysteria dunk competition, said teammates are watching their backs – and making sure they put them into each other.
Having guys my size, similar to me, it’s a lot more competitive, the former Lawrence Central star said. Practice is definitely different. You better box out, because we have a lot of athletic guys going at the rim.
That’s definitely different from last year, and it’s just been real competitive. Guys are really coming out and competing, seeing the opportunity with all the guys that we lost.
Individuals will have to win that battle to earn playing time, and the Hoosiers will have to win it as a team, too.
It’s a battle for the rebounds, Hollowell said. Just a battle down there.