Devonte Green and Grant Gelon are two newcomers to Indiana basketball. Both freshman are just a few months into their Indiana careers, but as the season opener against Kansas approaches, they are in a legit fight for their future within the program. College Basketball is a cutthroat world; there were over 700 transfer last season in division one basketball. The root cause of many of these transfer is lack of playing time or players being recruited over. The Indiana University basketball program is no stranger to this kind of turnover. Under Tom Crean, Indiana has seen 15 players transfer out of the program with the most recent being Max Hoetzel, Stanford Robinson, and Jeremiah April. This practice of pushing players out the door now has a name: Creaning. Indiana has become known for routinely having more committed scholarship players for the upcoming season than the NCAA limit of 13.
The issue of over-signing is solved through two main avenues: early NBA entries and transfers. Based on Indiana’s current scholarship situation, these paths will certainly be walked by some current Hoosier players next spring. Currently, Indiana has 15 committed scholarships for 2017-2018 while still heavily recruiting players like ESPN 5-star forwards Kris Wilkes and Billy Preston. Further complicating the issue is a pre-season injury to Senior forward Collin Hartman. There is no certainty to whether Hartman will return this season and, if he does not, Hartman could take a redshirt year which means Indiana would have an additional scholarship committed for next season. This kind of scholarship log jam puts pressure on scholarship players whom do not play much to prove their worth now or face the prospect at being relegated to the bench a situation that causes many players to leave the program to go play elsewhere. Two players who fit this category this season are Green and Gelon.
In college basketball, where the games are only 40 minutes long it can be tough to fit more than 10 players into a rotation. Coming into the year, Indiana’s 10 man rotation would have probably looked something like this:
C: Thomas Bryant – De’ron Davis
PF: OG Anunoby – Juwan Morgan
SF: Colin Hartman – Freddie Mcswain
SG: James Blackmon – Curtis Jones
PG: Robert Johnson – Josh Newkirk
However, injuries have muddled this picture. Freddie Mcswain has not yet been cleared for practice following offseason knee surgery and Hartman is out indefinitely following a non-contact knee injury. Given these injuries, the Hoosiers are thin on wing depth and will most likely be forced to play some three guard lineups to compensate. This situation opens the door for Green and Gelon to get meaningful minutes and prove their ability to stick at the Big Ten level. Both of these players, ranked outside of the top 175 in the 247sports recruiting rankings, have lots to prove.
Green and Gelon both have the skillsets to make an impact if given minutes. Green is a guard from New York with a reputation as someone who can play tough defense and knockdown open threes. Given IU’s past issues with perimeter defense it is the kind of skillset that if translated to the next level could lock him down a spot in Indiana’s rotation for the next four years. Gelon is a 6’5 wing from Crown Point, Indiana who is an elite shooter. However, there are questions on whether he is athletic enough to compete at the high-major level. Working in Gelon’s favor is that Nick Zeisloft proved over the last two years there is room in the rotation for an athletically limited player who can light it up from three.
It cannot be understated how crucial it is for these two players to make an impact because the math for Indiana to get down to 13 scholarships could get very tricky depending on recruiting and the health of Colin Hartman. The most likely moves to trim down the scholarship commitments would be for Thomas Bryant and OG Anunoby, both projected as first round picks by DraftExpress.com, to leave early for the NBA draft and for reserve big man Tim Priller to transfer out in search of playing time he will likely never find at Indiana. This would give Indiana room to redshirt Colin Hartman or add Kris Wilkes, but not bring both into the picture for next season. This would be an issue for Gelon and Green because after Bryant, Anunoby, and Priller the options for opening up scholarship get much murkier. Of the remaining players only James Blackmon is a legitimate candidate to go pro but given his lack of NBA level of athleticism and defensive ability it would most likely take a monster junior year for him to be seriously considered in the second round of the NBA Draft. The rest of the players will most likely have a big enough role to make transferring a bad option for them.
Even if Indiana adds only one more scholarship for next season and Bryant, Anunoby, and Priller leave, Green and Gelon will still face serious competition for minutes next year. The rotation next year will most likely look something like this:
C: De’ron Davis – Clifton Moore
PF: Juwan Morgan – Justin Smith
SF: Hartman or Wilkes – Al Durham/Green/Gelon
SG: James Blackmon – Curtis Jones
PG: Rob Johnson – Josh Newkirk
Green and Gelon would be most likely be battling 2017 recruit Al Durham for minutes and this is without taking into account that Indiana may seek to add an additional big man to backup De’ron Davis as neither Juwan Morgan, Clifton Moore, or Justin Smith are true centers.
Indiana’s history of shuttling out players and its current scholarship situation leaves the future of Gelon and Green up in the air. They need to prove themselves on the court this year if they want to stake a serious claim to minutes in the future, much the way OG Anunoby did last season. If they cannot prove themselves when given the chance early this year, they may be forced with the option of riding the bench or transferring in the near future.
Stats and images courtesy of ESPN and Insidethehall