ROSEMONT, Ill. — Fourteen coaches. Fourteen suits.
To start the Big Ten men’s basketball media day, each head coach took to the podium to briefly talk about the upcoming season. Most coaches wore a basic black, blue or grey sports coat with a different colored tie.
But IU men’s basketball coach Archie Miller took a different approach.
For his third Big Ten media day appearance, Miller donned a red sports coat with a white button-down shirt lined with red stripes inside the collar and no tie.
“’He said if I was to have seen what you guys were wearing, I wouldn’t have worn this,’” senior guard Devonte Green said about Miller’s jacket. “I didn’t even know about it until we got here.”
Here are four takeaways from the last preseason press conference before the regular season begins.
At times last season, IU had issues putting capable rebounding bodies on the floor due to key injuries. For example, Juwan Morgan was a natural power forward but was asked to play the center position throughout the season.
Heading into this season, though, Miller doesn’t expect to have that sort of problem due to the sheer number of forwards on his roster this time around. Players like junior forward Justin Smith, freshman forward Trayce Jackson-Davis, junior forward Joey Brunk and senior forward De’Ron Davis all can provide the Hoosiers with the size needed to compete deep in Big Ten play.
“I think the strength of our team and some of the experience level of our team and talents, it really starts on paper with the size and the ability to play an inside game,” Miller said.
Damezi Anderson and Jerome Hunter will need to provide consistent shooting from the small forward position
In 2018-19, IU shot just over 31% from beyond the arc. The shooting woes proved to become a major problem for the Hoosiers throughout the entirety of the season.
With Anderson appearing in only 21 games and Hunter redshirting, IU didn’t have a reliable threat outside the guard position. Now as a sophomore, Miller foresees Anderson playing a bigger role on the wing stretching the defense.
“Right now, he’s as big and strong and as well-conditioned as he’s been,” Miller said. “He’s a 6’6″, 220-plus pound guy, can shoot the ball for us. He’s going to have to bring that to the table for our team.”
Hunter hasn’t seen Big Ten action like most of his teammates, but Miller believes his shooting ability will provide him the opportunity to contribute right away.
“We’re pushing him hard right now, he’s pushing himself hard,” Miller said. “He’s got some things you can’t teach. He can score the ball a lot of different ways, he’s competitive, he’s got a toughness about him and he’s very hungry to play after being sat out.”
De’Ron Davis is in better shape
After suffering a season-ending injury as a sophomore, Davis was relied on heavily as a junior to take most of the punishment in the paint. In 2018-19, he averaged only 5.4 PPG and 2.5 RPG but played in 30 games.
Now with a full healthy offseason under his belt, Davis has changed his body for the better.
Around the beginning of the season last year, Davis was 275 pounds according to Miller. Heading into this season, he’s listed at 255 pounds on the official roster.
“Making that comeback last year for him to get to the floor was hard,” Miller said. “That was trial and error with him coming off that injury. We want De’Ron for the long haul.”
As the most post player, Davis will be leaned on for a leadership role with guys like Jackson-Davis and Brunk still getting used to IU’s system.
Rob Phinisee has found his voice.
Before a concussion in the middle of the season kept him out of three games, Phinisee was seen as a bright spot at the point guard position as a freshman.
He was soft spoken but made his presence felt with his defensive intensity and smart decision making. After spending his second offseason with the Hoosiers, Miller believes Phinisee has become more vocal than he was before.
“He’s no longer that silent assassin,” Miller said. “He’s got to be thinking about other people, thinking about the group. Rob is one of those guys that to me, an added skill to his game is not just the basketball but is the leadership capabilities.”
Phinisee will be asked to lead the offense from day one once again after averaging 6.8 points per game and 2.9 assists per game. IU is hopeful he’ll be the player he was before the concussion slowed down his progression.
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