Khristian Lander stood outside the Evansville Bosse High School gym and spoke with excitement in his voice.
It was late February and only three days after verbally committing to IU, Lander was already entertaining the possibility of skipping his senior year at F.J. Reitz High School to suit up for the Hoosiers in the 2020-21 season.
With a sweat towel slung over his neck after a one point loss to Evansville Bosse in the final game of the regular season, Lander wanted to talk about then-freshman IU forward Trayce Jackson-Davis.
“I feel like if I can get ahold of Trayce, we can dominate the Big Ten,” Lander said.
Lander was anticipating that Jackson-Davis, who averaged 13.5 points and was named to the All-Big Ten Freshman team last season, would be gone for the NBA after his sophomore year. In that hypothetical situation, Lander and Jackson-Davis’ time at IU wouldn’t overlap.
Lander didn’t want to put that in jeopardy. On Monday, he officially announced that he would be coming to Bloomington for the 2020-21 season.
Jackson-Davis didn’t hesitate to express his glee on Twitter shortly after the announcement.
“This year just got scary,” Jackson-Davis wrote.
Before reclassifying, Lander was the No. 1 point guard in the 2021 class, according to ESPN. Now, Lander is the No. 25 prospect in the 2020 class.
The 6-foot-2-inch point guard will provide more depth to an experienced backcourt of rising senior Al Durham and rising junior Rob Phinisee. Last year Durham, who isn’t a true point guard, was tasked with a major role as a ball-handler while Phinisee was on the bench.
Some of IU’s troubles last season stemmed from the inability to consistently score and shoot at a steady clip. The Hoosiers averaged just over 71 points per game, ranking them 165th in the country. As a team, IU shot 32% on 3-pointers, leaving them at 219th in the nation.
Lander is capable of converting those into more efficient numbers. At 165 pounds, he displays quick-twitch speed and the ability to score the ball on all levels. The lefty has a quick, recoiling jumpshot and understands how to use his body to shield defenders when finishing in the paint. Lander also utilizes backdoor cuts when he’s off the ball to enhance the offensive flow.
On that day in late February, Lander carried on about the combination with Jackson-Davis.
“I feel like the pick and roll would be crazy,” Lander said.
The pick and roll with Jackson-Davis could be the key to the uptick in offensive production for the Hoosiers. The 6-foot-9-inch Jackson-Davis showed his efficiency near the basket last year with many powerful dunks. That scenario with Lander, who said he has been working on pick and rolls since seventh grade, could open up more rim-runs for Jackson-Davis and lead to easy points.
As a result, opponents may be forced to send perimeter defenders to crash the paint and help converge on Jackson-Davis, allowing Lander to facilitate elsewhere. Rising sophomore guards Jerome Hunter and Armaan Franklin, along with Phinisee and Durham could have more open looks from beyond the arc.
Last year, Hunter shot 30% from three, Phinisee finished at 33% clip and Franklin ended at 26%. Freshman guard and Indiana Mr. Basketball winner Anthony Leal can also step into the shooting role.The Hoosiers will need to convert on the opportunities that Lander's versatility can create.
Lander's decision has pushed IU into some early preseason rankings. In ESPN’s most recent list, the Hoosiers sit at No. 23.
For Lander and the Hoosiers, the high expectations will come a year early.
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