Indiana was struggling on offense midway through the first half against St. John's on Tuesday. The Hoosiers had misfired on four shots in a row and were stagnating after a fast start.
Enter Tamar Bates.
The freshman broke the string of missed shots with a baseline jumper off the press break. On the ensuing possession, he faked a drive to the basket, then stepped back into a wide-open 3-pointer that hit all net. The southpaw finished off his offensive flurry with a nifty shot-fake that left him open for another baseline jumper. By the time he was done, Bates had scored seven points in 1:03 and the Hoosiers led by 13.
Bates, a borderline five-star recruit from Kansas City, Kansas, was the first high school recruit Hoosiers coach Mike Woodson signed and he seems increasingly likely to play a key role off the Indiana bench.
The Hoosiers (3-0) take on Louisiana at Assembly Hall tonight.
“He can score the ball and he can handle it,” Woodson said of Bates. “I've got to get him better defensively where he's not jumping around as much where he can be a little more solid there.
“But again, he's a freshman and he's got to get a little more meat on his body. But he's been playing well, man. I like him because he sees the moment. He's not scared of the moment. You need players like that.”
Bates was not afraid on the game's last possession. The coaching staff showed faith in him, putting him on the court with Indiana nursing a two-point lead and eight seconds remaining.
Bates guarded the primary St. John's ball-handler all the way up the court then sagged off his man to trap leading Red Storm scorer Julian Champagnie, who had to hoist a low-percentage 3 as time expired. It was an instinctual, athletic play in the moment and Bates never hesitated.
The IMG Academy product has also not hesitated to establish himself as a vocal presence for the Hoosiers. While many freshmen are seen but not heard, Bates has already become one of Indiana's most demonstrative players in timeouts and on the court.
Bates said he counts intensity and leadership ability as some of the most important parts of his overall skill set. He called himself his own biggest critic and pushes himself to bring energy to every practice and game.
“That's how I've played and how I've conducted myself on the floor since I can remember,” Bates said. “Just a high-energy guy, a motivator, an extension of the coach on the floor, knowing exactly what's going on, what the other team's running.
“From day 1 since I got (to Indiana), my teammates and coaches saw that's what I can bring and that's the standard they hold me to.”
Indiana vs. Louisiana
When: 7:30 p.m. today
Where: Assembly Hall, Bloomington
Records: Indiana (3-0), Louisiana (3-0, 1-0 against Division I teams)
TV: Big Ten Network
Radio: 92.3 FM