Indiana Basketball: Points of improvement for each returning player

Jerome Hunter, Trayce Jackson-Davis, Armaan Franklin, Indiana Basketball. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)
Jerome Hunter, Trayce Jackson-Davis, Armaan Franklin, Indiana Basketball. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images) /
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Rob Phinisee, Archie Miller, Indiana Basketball.
Rob Phinisee, Archie Miller, Indiana Basketball. (Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images) /

Junior Class

Race Thompson

Race Thompson was Indiana’s most improved player last season, posting the second-highest PER on the team and earning himself consistent 20+ minutes down the stretch. His effort is always present. He rebounds like an animal, gives his all on defense, and can score some down low.

One thing he lacks, however, is a three-point shot. Now, he’s not as far gone as Trayce Jackson-Davis, who has no jump shot to speak of. Thompson has taken threes in college, and has an okay looking stroke, but needs to fine-tune it. He attempted 10 threes last season, after only attempting three in his first season. If he could increase that same volume next season and attempt a minimum of 30 threes, it would be HUGE for the Hoosiers.

Spacing is obviously a huge issue for IU and is the main cause of its offensive woes. Thompson is already so valuable: he is a winner, an effort guy who makes his teammates better, but he adds to the spacing problem. If he could start as the power forward next season and keep the defense honest with his shooting, it would help the Hoosiers tremendously. He doesn’t need to be a marksman, he just needs to keep the defense honest to prevent them from clogging the paint.

Rob Phinisee

One game stands out from Rob Phinisee’s career. March 7th, 2019: at Illinois. Phinisee had 17 points, five assists, and made 58 percent of his shots. He was dominant, attacking the rim with aggressiveness previously unseen and taking over the game with his scoring and playmaking. It remains the best game of his college career.

Since then “Attacking Rob” has had his picture posted on the back of milk cartons all over the Midwest. Phinisee is still a good player. He commands the offense, getting them into their sets, and is a calming presence. He is also the best passer on the team (although De’Ron Davis sneakily challenged him for that title). Phinisee also proved to be valuable as a spot-up shooter this past season.

However, the spark just hasn’t come back since that game at Illinois. There were flashes of aggressive Rob during the 2019-2020 season, but never a complete game.

The coaches need to unlock that dog in Phinisee. If I had to guess, Rob Phinisee feels content being the floor general, letting other people get the glory, and being a good teammate. None of that is bad, and he is a mild-mannered guy so it makes sense, but he can thrive as THE guy. Archie Miller needs to help him realize that he can help the team more as an attacking, scoring guard than as a passive floor general. Aggressive Rob needs to be a mainstay, not an annual visitor.

Damezi Anderson

Damezi Anderson has had two very similar seasons: he plays a lot at the beginning of the season, and by the end, he doesn’t even get out of his warm-up gear.

Anderson is a shooter that can help IU space the floor, but he struggles to do much else. In fact, his one-dimensional game creates struggles for him with shooting. Anderson has only hit 23 percent of his threes through two seasons. He has taken half as many two’s as he has threes through his first two seasons, and has shot only 11 free throws in his career.

Anderson needs to do a lot to expand his game. He needs to improve his ball-handling and get to the hoop more often, which will open up his shot from the outside more and allow for him to have easier attempts. Defensively, he also has a lot of work to do and needs to figure out how to play in Archie Miller’s system. He will have steep competition this season and will need to work hard to carve himself a spot in the rotation with Jerome Hunter and Justin Smith currently ahead of him.