Basketball in the Bahamas: I hope the Hoosiers all get sunburns

It’s less than a month now until Mike Woodson and his new look Indiana Hoosiers squad embark on their much-anticipated trip to the Bahamas. The trip is scheduled for August 10-16. While there, they will participate in a couple of exhibition games against a professional basketball club from Belgrade, Serbia, KK Mega.

What do we know about this team? Not a lot. My research has revealed a little bit of information. From the highlights I watched, they appear to be a very good passing team, who moves the ball really well. Their cutting and ability to hit the cutter with accurate passes looked pretty good.

I also noticed as I tried to figure out what type of player Indiana will be facing, they are very long. While obviously not in a strength and conditioning program like Big Ten basketball players, these guys are tall. The shortest player I came across was 6-foot-2. The majority of the others stood 6-foot-8 to 6-foot-11.

European big men are different than a lot of big guys here in the States. These are generally 6-foot-10 or taller guys with guard skills and three-point range. They might not beat you up in the paint, but they are going to stretch the floor and make your bigs guard all the way out to the three-point line.

So Trayce Jackson-Davis, Race Thompson, Michael Durr, and Logan Duncombe are going to get some good experience guarding on the perimeter. The good thing about that is, the Indiana coaching staff is going to get to see their big guy’s strengths and weaknesses defending that far from the basket. What’s even better than that; it’s early and there is going to be a lot of time before the season starts to work on the deficiencies they detect. Down the road, once the season begins, and the Hoosiers face a team with a stretch of four or five, the experience in the Bahamas will come in really handy.

Mega’s size is also going to pose some problems for Indiana’s backcourt. I think it’s safe to say that we will have an advantage athletically, but length erases some of that. It will be interesting to see how Woodson and company approach the size Mega puts on the floor. Will we go big, or small? The hope is that you can make them adjust to your personnel, and not the other way around. Good teams are the ones that can force the other team’s hand.

Another thing I cannot wait to see is what kind of spacing and movement we will see on the offensive end for Indiana. I can’t tell you how many times I complained, loudly, to my poor wife, Amy, about the total lack of spacing on the offensive end last season.

Couple that with how much of the shot clock Indiana wasted before they ever really got into their offense, and you had a recipe for prolonged scoring droughts. You have to give yourself time to go into a secondary action if the first one breaks down. Indiana consistently failed to do that, needlessly squandering scoring opportunities with bad shots at the end of the shot clock. I can’t see Coach Woodson, who is used to a 24-second shot clock, allowing that to happen.

On a different note, if you are wondering the quality of basketball being played in the Adriatic League where KK Mega plays, it’s pretty darn good.

Coach Woodson, when the trip was announced said, “I am extremely excited to bring the Indiana Hoosiers to the Bahamas this summer. This will be an excellent opportunity for our young men to grow as a team and begin to learn our new system. I have great respect for our opponent, BC Mega. This will be great preparation for the challenges of the upcoming season.”

As I looked at a list of the notable players that have played for KK Mega in the past, I immediately recognized three names of guys that are playing in the NBA right now. One guy stands out. He has had a little recent success. He was only the freaking Most Valuable Player in the NBA last season. Yeah, Nikola Jovic.

2020-21 NBA MVP Nikola Jokic

NBA MVP Nikola Jokic, former BC Mega player
Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Don’t think for a minute that these guys can’t play with Indiana. If I had to guess, I bet Indiana is going to have their hands full with this team. And that is great. Nothing would get the 2021-22 Hoosiers attention better than getting smacked around by a bunch of Serbians. Mike would have their full attention going into their preparations for the season.

However, let’s not forget that this trip is about a lot more than just the opponent the Hoosiers will face. It’s a chance for these players, who have been through a rough couple of years with Covid, a coaching change, and the transfer portal madness, to get some sun and sand time to relax and enjoy being college kids. Hopefully, it’s a team-building experience, and these guys will be able to gel and bond even better while they are away from Bloomington.

Frankly, I hope they all come back with sunburns and some memories that will last a lifetime.