The Hoosiers were decimated by graduations, transfers, and NBA draft declarations this summer which has left a number of slots to be filled by new faces. Coach Crean ended up filling every spot and therefore Indiana has a number of newcomers this year. In fact, it might be easier to list the players that are returning rather than look at those that are new. The Hoosier fan base will need the two exhibition games over the next week to familiarize themselves with the the new players. Here is a breakdown of the players fans will be getting used to over the next couple of weeks:
James Blackmon Jr. (6'4") - Only D'Angelo Russell of the Ohio State Buckeyes has even remotely received the kind of attention Blackmon has gotten since his commitment to Indiana over hated rival Kentucky. While he may not be viewed as the kind of savior Cody Zeller was viewed as - he is coming in at an important time for Indiana basketball and he is coming in to fill what was a large void last season - shooting / scoring. The Indiana faithful got a preview of just that on the Canada trip this summer where Blackmon led the team with 18.8 points per game. He is viewed by most as the best pure shooter in the 2014 class and that is exactly what Indiana needs after a dismal season of shooting. He comes in as the eighth all-time leading high school scorer in Indiana with 2,387 points and was named a McDonalds All-American (the 28th Hoosier in that category). There are extremely high expectations for Blackmon, and I honestly believe he will live up to them which will mean he is the runaway Freshman of the Year in the conference and may have an outside shot at the Player of the Year award if his and Indiana's season go extremely well.
Nick Zeisloft (6'4") - Coach Crean needed to address the shooting woes of last year's roster and one of the ways he chose to do that was accept the transfer of Zeisloft from Illinois State. He averaged 6.9 points per game at ISU last season which doesn't blow you away, but he wasn't brought in as a pure scorer. He was brought in to provide pure three point shooting not seen since the days of Matt Roth in Bloomington. Zeisloft has already given Hoosier fans a taste of that core competency - shooting 55% from down town in Canada. Let me remind you the three point line was a foot further back there as well. He also placed second in the three point contest at Hoosier Hysteria. I see Zeisloft providing the energy off the bench through his three point shot that Indiana will need at various points this season. He is also known as a great team leader and will share some of that role with Yogi Ferrell.
Robert Johnson (6'3") - Johnson represents the other incoming freshman, besides Blackmon, who has received a decent amount of hype in Bloomington. Many regard him as the second best pure shooter in the 2014 class and he will also likely see a lot of minutes this year backing up the starting guards above. He was 4th in total minutes in Canada and averaged 9.8 points per contest while also pulling down a very respectable 4.6 boards per game. Johnson likely would have a good opportunity to start on most other B1G teams, but this Hoosier team is just too loaded in the backcourt for that to be the case barring any injuries this season.
Emmitt Holt (6'7") - He was a late signing - in August - and looked very good at Hoosier Hysteria as he had a couple solid blocks and rebounds. However, his season (and career for that matter) may have turned upside down this weekend as he was behind the wheel of a vehicle that hit teammate Devin Davis which landed Davis in a Bloomington hospital in serious condition after being found unconscious at the scene. Many details are yet to be found out, but we do know that Holt had a BAC of .025 which is above the limit of .02 for people under the age of 21. Outside of that, we don't have a lot of facts yet which leaves Holt's season very much in question at this time.
Max Hoetzel (6'8") - Hoetzel, who also won the Derby Festival three point contest, knocked off Nick Zeisloft in the finals of the Hoosier Hysteria three point contest 21-18 and had several interesting quotes afterwards including, "I don't lose three point contests" and "I'm Max Hoetzel and that is all you have to know." Hoetzel had not been thought by most to have a chance to be a major contributor to the rotation this year - but he already seems to have the confidence that he can knock down a shot at any point. If he proves able to play on the defense end, he could be a great option as a stretch four this season. With the accident over the weekend involving Emmitt Holt and Devin Davis - there seems to be a wide open chance for Hoetzel to get a lot of playing time this season.
Tim Priller (6'9") - Priller did get to play in four of the five games in Canada and averaged 3.3 points while shooting 56% from the field and 60% from three in limited attempts. He may see some time early against the cupcake competition, but I would be very surprised to see him much after that although his three point shooting capability could stretch the opponent's defense a bit assuming he proves not to be a major defensive liability on the other end. With that said and given we don't have too many details of the Holt / Davis situation, there potentially could be some time available for Priller in a backup role this season.
Jeremiah April (6'11") - April has actually been in a walking boot for most of his time at Indiana which brings back plenty of Peter Jurkin visions. Due to this, he was unable to play in Canada. He was not wearing a walking boot at Hoosier Hysteria - but also did not attempt to play in the scrimmage. The Hoosiers desperately need some size - especially with Davis likely out for the season and April sure could fill that void if he could get himself on the court. With the lack of practice time thus far though, he likely isn't going to play much of a role this season.
There are a lot of new faces to watch this year for Hoosier fans which will make the season that much more interesting. The Hoosier faithful are getting used to this and many hope this group of players will stick around for a few seasons to help build the consistency that this program really needs right now.