Indiana Basketball Recruiting: Projected Roles for 2013-14 Freshman Class
Next season's recruits are generating a strong buzz around the Indiana basketball program.
Then again, the 2012 class got fans excited as well, but only Yogi Ferrell has provided frequent production.
When the 2013-14 season begins, IU will certainly not be the veteran-laden crew that returned this season and blocked the road to playing time for 2012's freshmen.
The question is, what roles can be expected of the 2013 newcomers? Which ones can shoehorn their way into the starting five when games begin again in November?
The speculation is way too early, but let's try it anyway.
All photos via 247Sports or Getty Images.
First, the Scholarship Crunch
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Of this season's 13 scholarship athletes, three are seniors: Christian Watford, Jordan Hulls and Derek Elston.
But six freshmen have signed letters of intent. The NCAA scholarship limit is 13. The math doesn't add up, so where are the other three roster spots coming from?
First of all, consider the guy pictured here. Indiana's fanbase fervently wants to believe that Cody Zeller will stay in college, finish his degree at the famed Kelley School of Business and spurn NBA lottery-pick money for the second straight year. It's a nice thought, and Cody is on record as enjoying the college experience to the hilt.
Still, there is no confirmation from Cody or his family of any parental mandate to finish his degree first, merely a leap of logic based on his brothers staying in college for four years. Luke and Tyler Zeller weren't lottery-pick prospects as sophomores, so there's that.
Expect the worst and avoid the crushing disappointment. Zeller leaving would free one scholarship.
Another can come from the departure of Victor Oladipo to the pros. ESPN draft analyst Chad Ford wrote last week (Insider subscription required) that "Oladipo's stock is rising to the point that he now has an outside chance of being the No. 1 pick." Oladipo hasn't recorded any videos about preferring homework to posing with David Stern, so it'll be a hard siren song for him to resist.
As ESPN's No. 8-ranked prospect in the Class of 2013, it's unlikely that Noah Vonleh will be chained to the bench unless he experiences major growing pains in his early collegiate practices.
Next year's IU roster will have no experienced big men on it, and only quantum leaps from both Hanner Mosquera-Perea and Peter Jurkin will keep Vonleh from the court.
Vonleh's minutes may suffer, since he has a tendency to swat at shots on the defensive end and draw some unnecessary fouls, but his all-around scoring ability should put him on the floor from day one.
Role: Starter at PF
Troy Williams has the capability to make plays on either end of the court. What he lacks is consistent production.
Consistency has been a knock on no less an Indiana icon than Christian Watford, so being tarred with that label is far from a kiss of death to Williams' immediate prospects. If he primarily plays small forward, however, he will be stuck to the bench early on.
Jeremy Hollowell has made plays during his limited minutes, including a four-rebound, three-block effort against Michigan. Starter's minutes could see Hollowell blossom quickly into an All-Big Ten candidate.
The 6'7" Williams may have some flexibility to play in the backcourt, as well, and that can only enhance his value.
Role: Backup SF
Luke Fischer is a skinny fellow, as can be seen in the picture to the left. At 6'9" and 200 pounds, it may be unreasonable to expect him to step in and battle Big Ten big men immediately.
What Fischer does have is a high level of ball skill and great athletic ability. If used in a backup role early on, he can come off the bench and face a team's reserve big men, who are often slightly undersized or slow of foot. Those matchups can be easily exploited by a player of Fischer's makeup.
The question then becomes: If Fischer's not the starting center, who is?
We'll take the leap of faith that Mosquera-Perea will make sufficient strides to start next season, providing a rebounding and defensive presence that Fischer isn't quite equipped to manage yet. If those improvements aren't realized, Fischer may just work himself into the starting five later on.
Role: Backup C
A 6'4" 175-pounder, Stanford Robinson is listed as a small forward on ESPN's recruiting rankings. It's highly unlikely he'll play much in a college frontcourt unless IU coach Tom Crean wants to indulge in a heavy dose of small-ball.
Robinson has a solid all-around game, a capable scorer, passer and defender. Unlike many elite prospects, though, he's willing to let the former go by the wayside to focus on the latter two. He could see minutes caddying for Yogi Ferrell if Crean wants to use a bigger lineup.
Otherwise, Robinson would fit in well as a reserve combo guard, one who could step in and harass an opponent's top backcourt scorer. If he's not more aggressive about getting his shot, though, IU could at times face a scoring vacuum at the guard position.
Role: Backup SG
Devin Davis Jr.
As written here, Devin Davis is sort of a man without a position at the moment. Not quite burly enough (6'6", 200) for the four and not a dangerous enough shooter to play the three, he will enter college as a bit of a project.
If we were formatting a two-deep depth chart for next season (and in two more slides, we will be), it would be hard to find a place for Davis, but he can certainly fit on the roster long-term.
Adding muscle and/or extending shooting range would make Davis a very useful piece in the future. Doing both would make him a difficult matchup for any opponent.
Role: Third-string forward
Collin Hartman is the kind of player that could have gotten major minutes on one of Tom Crean's first two teams. A 3-star prospect by both ESPN and Rivals, Hartman can catch and shoot at a Big Ten level already.
The scouting services, however, aren't keen on him doing a lot else at a Big Ten level, so if he comes to Indiana immediately, he could grow cobwebs sitting on the bench next season.
Perhaps the ideal circumstance would be for Hartman to head for a prep school next season. He plays the four and five for his high school team, but a small forward position seems like more of a fit for him collegiately.
He could use a place where he can gain a year of experience playing on a wing, and the Hoosiers could use the extra scholarship without Crean having to encourage a player like Creek, Etherington or Peter Jurkin to leave. Those players don't have master's degrees like Matt Roth did, so the PR backlash for cutting a veteran loose for a seemingly expendable freshman is a headache Crean doesn't need.
Role: Prep school sniper
A Way-Too-Early 2013 Depth Chart
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PG: Yogi Ferrell/Remy Abell
Abell should get to play a similar role to this season until he proves he can sustain his scoring against quality competition. Ferrell, of course, will command around 30 minutes per game and likely play at an All-Big Ten level.
SG: Will Sheehey/Stanford Robinson/Troy Williams
Sheehey is somewhat similar to Jordan Hulls in that he may struggle to defend the most athletic of two-guards IU will face. The good news is that he's at least big and long enough to contest nearly anyone's shots.
Robinson and Williams can split backcourt minutes as needed, perhaps in an offense-defense platoon if it comes to that. Of late, Williams has even been showing chops as a facilitator, racking 25 assists in three games last week, including a triple-double last Tuesday.
If Maurice Creek is still around, he may or may not see some minutes.
SF: Jeremy Hollowell/Troy Williams/Devin Davis
Hollowell has earned the right to at least get the first look at the three. He's made plays defensively, crashed the offensive glass and shown off an occasional perimeter touch. He could be another potential all-conference candidate if he responds well to extra minutes.
Davis could be next season's Hollowell, showing flashes against nonconference cupcakes before losing time against Big Ten opponents.
PF: Noah Vonleh/Luke Fischer
As said before, if Vonleh doesn't start, something's wrong. As he keeps growing into his frame, he could become a Big Ten All-Freshman player at the minimum.
Fischer's known for his toughness and work ethic, and that could see him in the starting five sooner rather than later. The potential is there for him to play either post position.
C: Hanner Mosquera-Perea/Luke Fischer/Peter Jurkin
Again, this is taking a leap and expecting Perea to become a starting-caliber player. That's a transition that seems farther away now than it might have last October.
Jurkin, likewise, has been hamstrung by his and Perea's early-season suspension and has been battling assorted physical ailments to boot. If his improvements aren't what the coaching staff expects, could he even redshirt?
Again, this is all very early speculation. We'll know very little about how the actual lineup will materialize until practices begin next fall. Speculate away in the comments section.
For more from Scott on college basketball, check out The Back Iron, home of the exclusive Back Iron Index and Bracketometry, telling us which teams SHOULD be in the NCAA tournament come March.