“We’re excited to be at practice, although right now we’re the product of injuries,” IU Coach Tom Crean said in his opening statement at Big Ten Media Day in Rosemont, Illinois.
Freshman center Thomas Bryant practiced twice Oct. 2, IU’s first day of practice, but he was out the next two weeks due to a sore arch in his foot.
Crean said IU’s coaching staff kept Bryant out of practice and he’s just beginning to participate in non-contact drills. A video posted Sunday from the IU men’s basketball team’s Twitter account showed the 6-foot-10 freshman center catching passes from teammates and dunking.
Junior forward Collin Hartman is sidelined with a rib injury.
Teammate Troy Williams sprinted from near halfcourt, took two dribbles and jumped, meeting Hartman in the paint on his way to the basket. Hartman immediately fell to the ground as shown in a video replay of the collision that was posted on the team’s Twitter account.
“I’ve never seen Troy jump higher, and I’ve never seen a guy be more valiant in taking a charge,” Crean said. “I’d wish he wouldn’t have because he’s going to be out for a little bit because he took some shots to the ribs that are quite sore for him. We’re really dealing with our old guard team right now, trying to get our young freshmen adjusted.”
IU’s backcourt is also returning to full strength after sophomore James Blackmon Jr. and junior Josh Newkirk, a transfer from Pittsburgh who will redshirt this season, underwent surgery in the offseason.
Blackmon had surgery to repair torn meniscus cartilage in his left knee, and Newkirk had microfracture knee surgery in May.
In a media availability at halftime of the IU-Rutgers football game Saturday, Blackmon said he’s back to 100 percent health.
“It’s all back,” he said.
The sophomore guard said he watched a lot of film during his recovery in addition to working on his shot and ball handling.
“With the injury, it was more of a frustration thing,” he said. “I don’t think it hurt my game in any way — it was just more of a mindset.”
Blackmon has been a full participant in practice, but he’s in the process of building his body back up, Crean said. Crean said the sophomore is still honing his rhythm and timing after missing time this summer during his rehabilitation.
The sophomore said he feels he’s at the same point physically as he was during the beginning of the summer before his injury, when he was getting stronger and more explosive.
IU’s coaching staff has been extremely creative in designing workouts for Newkirk, Crean said.
“Even though he can really move only in a short space, hopefully he feels like his fundamentals are getting a lot better,” Crean said.
The next step for Newkirk is to begin jogging so he can eventually contribute to the team as a practice player during his redshirt season.
The team’s health will affect its depth, which Crean said needs to improve for IU to compete at the highest level in the Big Ten.
“We’ve got a long way to go to get our depth where it needs to be to be considered an upper echelon team in this league from my estimation,” he said.
IU will kick off the season with an exhibition matchup against the University of Ottawa on Nov. 3.
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