Indiana Basketball: 5 Things Will Sheehey Must Do to Meet Expectations
For three years, Indiana's Will Sheehey has been a complementary piece to the Hoosiers' puzzle. When he was a freshman, Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford garnered most of the attention. Later, Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo were the team's focal points.
Through it all, Sheehey improved year to year and embraced his role as sixth man. Now, the time has come for Sheehey to move from the bench to the starting lineup, from the shadows to the spotlight.
The senior is the most experienced player on the roster and is expected to lead a youthful Indiana squad to another successful finish in the Big Ten and a third straight NCAA tournament appearance.
In order for Sheehey to fulfill his responsibilities to the team and take Indiana where it wants to go, here's what he must do.
Improve Outside Shooting
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The past two seasons, Indiana has been lethal from beyond the arc. Led by Jordan Hulls, Watford and Oladipo, the Hoosiers finished second nationally in three-point shooting percentage for the 2011-2012 campaign and fourth in 2012-13.
The three-pointer was a big part of IU's success.
All three of those players are gone, so Sheehey must help pick up the slack by raising his three-point shooting percentage from a year ago (34.6 percent).
Does Sheehey have to become a Hulls or Watford and make more than 40 percent of his attempts? No, and it's unrealistic to think he will do so.
The Hoosiers won't be as dangerous from outside as they have been, but that's not a surprise. Tom Crean will figure out other ways for the Hoosiers to put up points.
As long as Sheehey can make around 38 percent of his attempts like he did as a sophomore, Indiana will be in good shape.
Convert at the Charity Stripe
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Sheehey did not get it done at the free-throw line last year. He shot an abysmal 65.6 percent.
He loves to get to the rim (35 percent of shots were in that area), which means he is going to get fouled frequently. It then becomes imperative that he is a solid free-throw shooter.
Sheehey wasted too many opportunities at the line a season ago. He shot 70 percent as a sophomore, so he's capable of better numbers.
It will be unacceptable for Sheehey to shoot anything under 70 this year.
Take on Tough Assignments
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Sheehey is a solid defender, but now the time has come for him to truly prove himself. As the team's veteran, it's his responsibility to defend the opposition's best player night in and night out.
It's unrealistic to ask him to be what Oladipo was last year, but Sheehey must be somewhat similar. Oladipo was relentless. He embraced the role of defensive stopper and made the other team feel his presence.
This is the type of defensive attitude Sheehey needs.
Despite the challenge in front of him, he's inherited this role and must own it for the Hoosiers to be competitive.
Coach on the Court
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Most likely, the players who will be on the court with Sheehey are going to be young. Outside of sophomore Yogi Ferrell, who started every game his freshman year, and senior Evan Gordon, the rest of the roster is rather inexperienced.
Obviously, these young guns are going to need time to develop, but Sheehey can help the process. He needs to be an extension of Tom Crean. The head coach can't be on the floor and see everything, so Sheehey must take players aside and help them learn the game plan, opposing team's offensive and defensive tendencies, etc.
Sheehey knows IU's system. He knows the college game. Sheehey is used to Big Ten competition and the conference's hostile road environments.
When things get tough on the newcomers, and they will, he must assist Crean in calming them down and keeping their heads on straight.
Bring the Energy
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Sheehey's best quality is the way he plays the game, with passion and energy. This is what makes him productive and is the reason why he was named the 2013 Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year.
Sheehey was always a spark when IU needed him to be, and it needs an energized Sheehey now more than ever. This aspect of his game can't be lost as he transitions to the starting lineup.
Next year will be different for Sheehey because he is under the microscope of the fans, media and will be a focus of opposing teams. When Indiana succeeds, he might not always get the credit, and if the Hoosiers fail, Sheehey will always shoulder the blame.
This is what comes with being the clear leader and face of the team.
No matter what happens as he deals with his own personal ups and downs, Sheehey has to be Indiana's rock. When tough times arrive, it will be up to him to keep his head up and keep the team together.
If his attitude or energy ever tone down, the youthful Hoosiers will be in trouble.
At all times, Sheehey must display his fearless attitude, relentlessly attack the rim and make his presence known on defense.
If he does, the Hoosiers will make some noise this season.