The Hoosier's were one of the youngest teams in the nation last year, and boy did they show it. Oftentimes, the offense settled for jumpers in their sets (sometimes completely neglecting to kick the ball into the post at all) and defensively, well, they were somewhere in between harrowing and dreadful. That is all about to change (Tom Crean hopes) with incoming freshman Thomas Bryant, who should immediately flip that problem on its head. Let's take a closer look.
Who: Thomas Bryant
What's his story?: Hailing from New York, Bryant is coming into Indiana by way of Huntington Prep in West Virginia. Bryant - who was believed to return to New York for college - turned down offers from Syracuse, Missouri and Kentucky to sign with the Hoosiers. This signing was so important to Crean and Co. that it is believed (by way of his father) that it played a major factor in Yogi Ferrell's return to campus.
Recruitnik Roundabout: A five-star recruit according the 247Sports Composite, the 6'10" forward is ranked as the second best player in state, the 20th best player in the nation and 5th best at his position. ESPN grades Bryant as a four-start athlete and their 20th ranked player in the 2015 class.
Does he have a social media presence? Yes! His Instagram is fantastic, full of cool edits, inspirational and motivational captions and quite a few stills of his best dunks from high school and AAU.
Two quick favorites:
There's something about ADDING. PERIODS. AFTER. EVERY. WORD. THAT. JUST. GETS. ME. GOING.
Needless to say, I'm ready for the gym now "100".
And of course:
If this is to be believed, the Big Ten is in trouble "100".
What does Bryant say about himself?: Who needs to hear what a coach has to say when the player himself tells you how it will all work? Via our friends at Inside the Hall:
"If I chose Indiana, being a dominant player, I’d be a key focal point because being there and putting the hard work in and also just having a bunch of shooters around you, they double down and I kick out for an open 3 or if they don’t help down, I could get a bucket down low, also."
Well, he's not wrong.
One story that made me raise my eyebrows: From the Indy Star:
Bryant has NBA aspirations, himself, but he expects spend at least two years in college. That should give him ample time to build chemistry with the Hoosiers' talented returning players
Maybe this isn't that big of a deal, but for an 18 year old, five-star, Top-20 freshman, who could easily jump into the 2016 NBA Draft and be a first round pick because of his length and two-way talent, to already be saying he wants to stay on campus for "AT LEAST" two years is kind of refreshing.
While, of course, all of this could change depending how the season goes, Tom Crean has been able to keep highly touted NBA talent on campus for that extra year before. And with how good Indiana SHOULD be with this recruiting class filling in the missing pieces from last year, Crean's hot seat might just got a little cooler...until he subs out his best player in crunch time for no other reason than¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
Why should the average Big Ten fan be excited to watch him play?: If you watched Indiana play at all last year, you know there is a ton of wing talent. A ton. What they lack is back court depth. This entire class changes all of that. But when focusing on Bryant, you notice that he's one of those pure energy bigs. He's 100% active on the defensive end, which teammates feed off of. He's the kind of kid who will surely get Dan Dakich to gush about.
He'll be a starter walking into practice and for good reason. Bryant is a player that changes the tide of a program. He makes everyone else around him better just by being on the court. He will be the cog that moves Indiana from a Top-25 team nationally to a March contender.
What says the tape?: Quite simply, there's an emotional storm coming to Assembly Hall:
- I secretly hope that after every two handed throw down, Bryant collectively looses his marbles while jogging down to the defensive end. I'm talking full on Russell Westbrook EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. (my apologies for the hype periods again).
- Strength in spades.
- I've watched quite a few of these videos and I've noticed how well Bryant keeps the ball high and tight while in the post or after offensive rebounds. He doesn't seem at all bothered by smaller guards flashing and swiping down to help their post defender. When he has two hands on the ball, nobodies punching that from his grasp.
- Did this kid play receiver at all? He's got great hands.
- I somehow neglected to mention this up top, but you can really see the wingspan advantage here (75.5"). If I'm Tom Crean, I'm having Bryant spend 75% of his time working on post moves that get his defender pinned on his front hip while having my guards throw nothing but high passes during offseason workouts and practices. Go up and get it young blood and THROW. IT. DOWN.
- Bryant could be an interesting "screen and all-out-blitz-er" in P&R sets. Think Tyson Chandler-esque.
- More on that: I can already see a lot of P&R's with Bryant as the screener leading to open looks due to his overwhelming presence. Serious question, what do you do against a Yogi/Bryant two-man game if you're the opposing team? Do you cheat down to prevent a momentum shifting, earth rattling, dome splitting poster from Bryant? Or do you over pursue the shooter and let Bryant (who by all accounts has excellent feet and athletic ability) roam the paint untouched? Please Tom Crean, make teams have to defend against this eight to ten times a game.
- Hints of a decent jumper...even a step back! Pick and Pops just became a reality on those cheating defenders...
- There's the block montage I was waiting for (1:56 mark). When ESPN undoubtedly does the College Gameday/NBA switch-a-roo day again this year, can we make sure Jeff VanGundy does an Indiana game? I just want to hear him obsessively go on and on about Bryant's verticality.
- Bryant has extraordinary timing on his jumps. He's not the "LeBron" type shot blocker, where he comes out of nowhere to send your puny attempt into oblivion. He's straight up more times than not, having had great defensive help presence that put him in position to swat away meek attempts. This is something to keep your eye on this season as Indiana looks to vastly improve what was one of the worst interior defenses in the country.
- I want to see more of Bryant's post moves, something I knew I wouldn't get in hype videos (unless of course your name is Jahlil Okafor). The few offensive possessions that weren't dunks in the 20 minutes of total tape I've watched, there was tendency to just bowl his way into the paint. An effective move in high school, but not so much at the college level. Of course this could be all for nothing, just something to watch mature. Again, like I said above, Crean is hopefully just working him on developing offensive moves that will get him easy buckets in crunch time when his athleticism and size may not be enough due to potential foul trouble or double teams.