The final player from Indiana's 2020-21 roster to make his decision about next season did so Tuesday. Center Joey Brunk will transfer and play his final season of eligibility elsewhere.
“I'm incredibly grateful for Indiana University,” Brunk said in a statement posted on social media. “I have been able to get my Master's Degree and am thankful to have been able to continue my education. I've decided to pursue my final year elsewhere. Thank you Indiana.”
The 6-foot-11, 255-pound Brunk did not begin his career at Indiana. He played two seasons at Butler before transferring to join the Hoosiers prior to the 2019-20 campaign. That year, he averaged 6.8 points and 5.2 rebounds in 19 minutes per game while shooting 52% from the field.
The Indianapolis native seemed set to play a key role for Indiana in 2020-21, but he was sidelined just before the season began with a sore back, an injury that eventually required surgery and kept him out the whole season.
Without Brunk, Indiana did not have much depth inside. Then-coach Archie Miller moved power forward Trayce Jackson-Davis to center, a position with which he is not as comfortable. Though he averaged 19.1 points and 9 rebounds on his way to All-American honors, the 2019 Indiana Mr. Basketball seemed excited about returning to forward next season.
“I was just playing the role coach Miller needed me to play,” Jackson-Davis said of his year at center. “Obviously I tried to do that to the best of my abilities.”
Jackson-Davis decided to return to Indiana for his junior season, with an eye toward expanding his game through an increased role in the high post, where he can better learn to play with his right hand – his off hand – and hit the jump shots that will make him a valuable piece in the NBA. As part of that plan, the 6-9 Center Grove product seemed to be under the impression that Brunk would return.
“With Joey being healthy, it will give our team a much better dynamic, just because he's so big and he's also a really good post player,” he said. “(Playing with Brunk) enables me to go out and handle the ball and do stuff of that nature.”
Brunk's decision to depart from the program could throw those plans into flux. It will put more pressure on incoming freshman big man Logan Duncomb, who played center in high school in Cincinnati, but sees himself as another versatile big that can stretch the defense with outside shooting as well as strong interior play.
The 6-9 Duncomb will probably be thrown into the fire much earlier than the Hoosiers might have originally thought with Brunk leaving.
Beyond the freshman, Indiana remains thin at center. New coach Mike Woodson, who sold Jackson-Davis on the idea of playing further from the hoop next season, will be loathe to play him in the low post again, but his star will now likely have to fill that role at least for certain stretches each game.
Another option available to the first-year Hoosiers coach is moving forward Race Thompson to center. The 6-8 Thompson played at power forward alongside Jackson-Davis this season and held his own defensively even against bigger players with Jackson-Davis off the floor. His methodical back-to-the-basket offensive game also fits much better at center than it does at forward, though he'd be undersized in the low post most nights in the Big Ten.
Finally, the Hoosiers still have two open scholarships and remain active in transfer portal recruiting. Woodson said last week he believes the team is weakest at shooting guard and on the wing and that's where he had focused his attention so far. That list might now expand to include a low-post presence.