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COLUMN: IU men's basketball needs consistency from Devonte Green this season


Then-sophomore, now junior guard Devonte Green charges the basket and attempts a layup during the Hoosiers' game against the Eastern Michigan Eagles on Nov. 24, 2017, at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.  Evan De Stefano Buy Photos

Doctors call it the “honeymoon phase.”

It’s something Type 1 diabetics, like myself, sometimes go through when they are first diagnosed with the disease.

To explain the specifics, here’s my first doctor — Dr. Todd Nebesio, an endocrinologist at Riley Hospital for Children:

“The beta cells partly stop working due to the high blood sugar level," Nebesio said. "As the blood sugar level decreases with insulin injections, the beta cells ‘wake up’ and start to make insulin again.”

This essentially leads to a period of annoyingly sporadic blood sugar numbers and fluctuating amounts of insulin intake. 

But what do beta cells and blood sugar have to do with basketball?

Think about it.

Sporadic fluctuations, aggravating inconsistency — that’s also a good way to describe Devonte Green.

The junior guard will be one of the key players at point guard for IU heading into the season, but if anybody in the Big Ten was the living, breathing, wildly unpredictable embodiment of the honeymoon phase, it would be him.

If IU wants to have the kind of high-level success that many fans are expecting in Coach Archie Miller’s second season, Green is going to need to wake up and change that distinction quickly.

Sophomore guard Devonte Green fights defensive tactics by the Terrapins Monday evening in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. IU defeated Maryland, 71-68. Bobby Goddin Buy Photos

He’s an uber-talented player, who has shown flashes of his excellent array of skills such as a nice shooting touch, quick hands on both ends of the floor and a knack for passing that nobody on last year’s IU squad could match.

But sometimes his decision-making can be mind-boggling on an absurdly problematic level. Those questionable decisions lead to turnovers and ill-advised shots can lead to off shooting nights.

Yes, every player who has ever played the game of basketball has had hot and cold nights. But what makes Green more frustrating is that most players’ perplexing developmental period of careless turnovers and maddening learning lessons ends after their freshman year.

Yet, it’s been two years and he is still making the same mistakes.

One night, good Devonte might show up, but the next night could be bad Devonte rearing his neutralizing presence.

The obvious example that sticks out is what unfolded in IU’s first meeting with Illinois last season. With the Hoosiers down two points late in the second half to one of the worst teams in the Big Ten, Green had just hit a free throw to get his team within two points and had possession of the ball. With three seconds left, he tried hitting a streaking Juwan Morgan near the basket but did so by rifling a low, one-handed bullet of a pass that careened off Morgan’s foot and into the hands of an Illinois defender.

It was a flashy play gone horribly wrong, all but ending IU’s chances at pulling out the victory.

Yet, just two games later in a loss to Ohio State, there was good Devonte, scoring a career-high 20 points, going 4-5 from three-point range and most importantly, recording zero turnovers.

He had a similar performance of 18 points on 4-5 three-point shooting five games later in a road victory over Iowa but followed that with an atrocious outing in the next game in a loss to Nebraska, where he had two more turnovers, six, than points, four.

That kind of inconsistency has been a major problem for Green, and Coach Archie Miller has addressed it multiple times this offseason.

“When he didn't play well or we didn't have that other guard on the floor at times,” Miller said. “That's when I thought we really struggled.”

What makes Green’s development so critical is the fact that he could have the ball in his hands quite a bit. Obviously, the starting point guard is going to control things offensively, no matter who it is.

But even when Green was splitting time with the likes of Josh Newkirk and Al Durham last year, he was taking on a fairly heavy offensive workload. Not counting De’Ron Davis, who went down with an Achilles injury after 15 games, Green’s usage rate of 22.6 was the fourth highest on the team.

The addition of a potential star like Romeo Langford might cut into that usage some but if Green is going to help run the offense, it won’t be that significant.

Sophomore guard Devonte Green attempts a layup during Indiana's game against Howard University on Sunday. The Hoosiers' beat Howard 86-77.  Evan De Stefano Buy Photos

Even with those opportunities he got last year, his production was still spotty. He wound up fifth on the team in scoring at 7.6 points per game but he did so wildly inefficiently. Out of the 10 players that received at least an average of 14 minutes per game, Green finished far and away last in effective field goal percentage at .439 and second to last in true shooting percentage at .474, just .01 higher than Collin Hartman at the bottom.

Stats, playing time, and in some instances even IU victories have taken a hit due to this two-year basketball honeymoon phase that Green has been struggling through. At the halfway point of his career, and with young options like Robert Phinisee and Durham waiting in the wings, that realization needs to start settling in for him.

“As we start practice and games start looming and minutes start to be handed out,” Miller said. “That's where as a junior, you'd hope he would be the guy that could really see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

The honeymoon phase can be difficult to handle and quite annoying.

Trust me. I’ve been there.

But it does eventually come to an end.

“It can last for a few weeks, months or longer,” Nebesio said.

Green’s two-year phase has been just as frustrating but it’s not quite the same.

The question is no longer when it will end.

It’s if.


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