For the entirety of last season, future leadership was one of the biggest question marks that lingered for the Hoosiers.
Losing leaders such as Yogi Ferrell, Nick Zeisloft, Max Bielfeldt from the 2016 Big Ten Championship team, IU finished four games below .500 in the Big Ten and missed the NCAA Tournament.
Former coach Tom Crean repeatedly struggled to find who was the vocal leader on the team.
In the first press conference of the new season, the players said they were confident in the leadership on this year’s team.
They all said that they believe that this year’s team would be different.
“I feel like there won’t be any questions of leadership at all,” junior forward Juwan Morgan said.
Morgan definitively said he would take up the mantle as a leader, but other leaders such as seniors Rob Johnson, Collin Hartman and Josh Newkirk also have begun to take that responsibility.
This decision to become vocal leaders wasn’t something that came from IU Coach Archie Miller, but was decided amongst the players.
Senior forward Collin Hartman was set to be the go-to leader last season, but a knee injury kept him on the sidelines all year.
While Hartman couldn’t play, he attempted to act as another assistant coach. As he returns to action, he will be pivotal to the development of the Hoosiers as they adjust to having a new coach.
“It is extremely vital at this point because we are all learners,” Hartman said. “We are all learning a new system and new coaches. We are all learning. The leadership comes when we are just pushing guys and getting the best out of each other. Some of that have won before, we know what it takes to win and we just got to take the mentality of winning and transform into this new system that Coach Miller and his staff is implementing.”
Hartman said that the team is taking a different approach to leadership this season, emphasizing communication and vocalizing things.
He said that Johnson and Morgan have both been more vocal on and off the court.
“I think the upperclassmen have established they have a good way about them in terms of their communication, leading by example,” Miller said. “But we need a group that has a loud voice.”
With the coaching change and the loss of OG Anunoby, Thomas Bryant and James Blackmon Jr., the Hoosiers will look to find stability from its leaders.
“I think it’s always important just for the simple fact that leaders have to be coaches on the court, and that’s something that should be able to be reflected whenever you watch us play,” Johnson said. “So, I think that the experience that comes this year, you know, that will really help.”
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IU’s season ended with a loss in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
The Hoosiers finished the season 21-13 overall.
IU is now 5-13 on the season.