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Men's basketball turns to Collin Hartman for more than just leadership



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Collin Hartman laughs while being interviewed live on the Big Ten Network at Madison Square Garden on Thursday. Hartman is one of five seniors of the 2017-18 IU men's basketball roster.  Evan DeStefano Buy Photos

NEW YORK – Collin Hartman finds it unacceptable for himself to commit a single turnover, so it’s understandable why he wants to improve after averaging more than one giveaway per game in his last full season.

The senior forward, who missed the 2016-17 season due to a knee injury, turned the ball over 37 times in 35 games as a junior the year prior. 

With Hartman set to play a bigger offensive role this season than ever before, the fifth-year Hoosier is dedicated to being careful and precise with the ball.

“I get mad at myself if I have one turnover in a game just because that’s not what I’m out there to do,” Hartman said. “I’m not out there to turn the ball over. So I just got to be out there and be smart.”

Hartman isn’t a point guard by any stretch — that role falls on fellow seniors Robert Johnson and Josh Newkirk. But IU Coach Archie Miller said at Thursday’s Big Ten Media Day that Hartman’s versatility will allow the Hoosiers to facilitate the offense through him at times.

As a 6-foot-7 forward, Hartman has flashed his ability to play both on the perimeter and as a small-ball center. He averaged 4.8 and 5.0 points per game as a sophomore and junior, respectively, but figures to play more this year than the 17.7 minutes per game he saw his first three seasons.

A career 40-percent 3-point shooter, Hartman is arguably the Hoosiers’ best player at spreading the floor, a fact Miller said is crucial in defining his role.

“Clearly can spread the floor, which is an added advantage, but I think his biggest attribute for us is his ability to think the game,” Miller said. “You play through him a little bit, let him make decisions and let him be a playmaker at times where he has that IQ.”


That high IQ is what Hartman can rely on to cut down on his turnovers this season. Miller said he would love to have a forward with a high assist-to-turnover ratio. Having that type of player was the hallmark of his most successful teams at Dayton, he said.

“I think he’s got the game for it,” Miller said. “We’ve seen glimpses of it. He’s starting to put the ball on the floor right now and pass it. He’s got the ability to do a lot of things out there, so I think he’s a guy we’ll work through a little bit.”

Miller and the rest of his coaching staff are playing it safe with Hartman for now, as the Indianapolis native picked up a minor ankle injury in recent weeks that has kept him out of the last few practices. 


However, the surgically repaired knee, which led him to return this season as a 23-year-old senior, is holding up well for Hartman.

Treatment three times each day is part of what’s keeping Hartman healthy. He also said yoga and ice baths are helping, too. But he’s worrying about much more than just himself and his own recovery.

Hartman is up to five years older than some of his teammates, so there’s plenty of intangible wisdom and leadership he is able to impart on the underclassmen.

To their credit, Hartman said the younger Hoosiers have been “sponges,” soaking up every bit of information and basketball knowledge they can. 

On a team with five seniors, even the team’s other upperclassmen know to look to him for leadership.

“He definitely has a high basketball IQ and understands the offense well, and knows where players need to be at the right time and knows how to put them in the right spots,” Newkirk said.  

That knowledge will be key when Hartman grabs a rebound and turns to push the ball up the floor. Miller has designated Hartman as one of several Hoosiers with the right to take rebounds and either make an outlet pass or take it on his own.

Running the offense through him at times doesn’t necessarily mean playing isolation ball and looking to score, Hartman said. Part of it will be allowing IU’s other wings to get themselves open off the ball.

When they do find themselves open, and the veteran Hartman carefully possesses the ball, he won’t be trying to do it all himself. 

He’s learned too much in his four years, and would be too upset with himself, to wind up turning the ball over.

“Always make the simple, simple play is what our coaches stress, what I stress,” Hartman said. “You don't have to hit a home run. The simple play will lead to the home run."

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