An ode to Indiana Basketball’s game-changer: Aggressive Rob Phinisee
Rob Phinisee is a junior and is going to have increased responsibilities as a leader on this Indiana basketball squad. By several different accounts, Phinisee has stepped up and been a tone-setter for the team in preseason practices and workouts.
The pure point guard from Lafayette has been a reliable player since his freshman season. He has always been able to play with a sense of calm and does many things that make his coaches very happy. At the bare minimum, Phinisee is an expert at controlling the pace of the game, setting up the offense, and hitting open threes when called upon.
However, Phinisee has also shown us he can be much more than just a floor general. In his freshman season, he had a game that made IU fans expect a little bit more.
The Hoosiers had lost 11 of their last 12 games and were reaching to have any shot of making the tournament. They turned their misfortunes around and won three games in a row, including a thrilling game against Michigan State.
The next game, Indiana traveled to Champagne, Illinois to take on the Fighting Illini. It was in this game we saw a different version of Phinisee that has become known to Indiana fans as aggressive Rob.
Phinisee finished the game with 17 points and 5 assists on 7 of 12 shooting. It was undoubtedly the best game of his career and maybe the best team offensive performance the Hoosiers have had under Archie Miller.
What made this performance special is that Phinisee subverted what we had come to expect from him. In this one game, he transformed from a game-manager to an assertive scorer. He scored at the rim in transition, half-court, you name it. It remains his career-high in points for a single game.
Five assists are far from a career-high for the point guard, but these assists were different. I have said for a while that Phinisee is a great fundamental passer, but not a great playmaker. He can hit an open shooter with a precise pass but doesn’t draw the defense enough to actually create opportunities for those around him.
That was not the case in this game. Illinois adjusted to account for Phinisee’s aggressiveness in attacking the basket, and Hoosiers were suddenly starting to get wide open. Indiana has lacked this type of consistent playmaking for much of the past three years. They finished this game with 92 points on 55% shooting with just six turnovers.
We thought that Phinisee might have unlocked something in that game against Illinois. Instead, he went back to being the old Phinisee. A season later, and we have yet to see aggressive Rob return for a whole game.
Phinisee is aware of how much his aggression can affect his team. He told reporters in a preseason interview, “I feel like the more aggressive I am, the better we play.”
This roster is much more modern, and the players will benefit from added shooting and offensive talent. If we saw the return of Aggressive Rob for just a few games, Indiana could be in the top-tier of Big Ten teams. If Aggressive Rob stayed the whole season, it could mean huge things for the Hoosiers are on the horizon.