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Monday, March 4
The Indiana Daily Student

sports men's basketball

Hoosiers look to end frontcourt void

IU v. Indiana Wesleyan

Senior Christian Watford has played power forward on numerous occasions in his first three seasons at IU, so when senior forward Derek Elston sustained a torn meniscus at Hoosier Hysteria, Watford seemed an obvious candidate to pick up the slack in the post.

In Friday’s season opener against Bryant, though, Watford will fill in for his fellow senior in another way as well, wearing Elston’s No. 32 jersey instead of his customary No. 2.

“I really didn’t want y’all to know that,” Watford said. “He’s a senior, and he’s been with me for a long time. I just want to come out there with him. He can’t come out and actually play on the court, so I wanted to do that for him.”

Watford approached Crean about the number switch last weekend. After checking the legality of such a move, Crean was happy to oblige.

“I thought it wan an incredibly noble gesture. I really did,” IU Coach Tom Crean said. “And he was dead serious about it ... I think it goes to show how close these guys are in ways we can’t even imagine.”

Watford joked that if he plays well Friday, he may be reluctant to return the number to Elston once he returns.

All kidding aside, though, Watford’s increased presence in the post may be needed early this season.

Elston had surgery two weeks ago, and while reports indicate his recovery may be somewhat ahead of schedule, he will miss at least the first several weeks of the regular season.

Compounding the team’s lack of frontcourt depth, freshmen forward Hanner Mosquera-Perea and center Peter Jurkin were suspended nine games each Tuesday after an NCAA investigation into alleged improper benefits from a booster.

“There is a high level of disappointment because I know what we do, and I know how we have done it,” Crean said. “My greatest concern is for them. It has been, and it will remain that way. They don’t deserve this.”

The team is appealing the players’ suspensions, but in the meantime, Crean said he will explore several options for temporary post depth.

“There will be some conventional and there will be some unconventional,” Crean said. “You learn a lot over your period of time at Indiana, from 2008 on, and the one thing that you learn is you don’t sit there and worry about what you don’t have.”

By Crean’s definition of “conventional” or, as IU Associate Head Coach Tim Buckley put it, “next man up,” walk-on junior forward Jeff Howard would be in line for a boost in playing time before his teammates return. Howard has played all of 39 minutes in his first two seasons with the Hoosiers.

“I still think that he is not quite bought into the fact that we want him to play, but he will,” Crean said. “He will be out there. He does some really good things.”

More “unconventional” options on Friday could include Watford and freshman forward Jeremy Hollowell, who has battled illness this week, playing more at larger positions than originally planned.

Watford said he is even prepared to play center in smaller lineups — when sophomore center Cody Zeller is on the bench — if need be. That could be the order of the day against the Bulldogs, who do not have a single player on their roster taller than 6-foot-8.

“Where they get a little bit smaller is when you get to the power forward, and then usually the small forward is more of a guard,” Buckley said.

Still, down three frontcourt pieces, there is pressure on the remaining players to not take themselves out of the game through careless fouls.

“You don’t want to get into foul trouble, but you have to stay aggressive and get after it,” Zeller said. “You do have to be a little bit more careful.”

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