The Indiana Hoosiers are in the spotlight for the second offseason in a row. Alcohol issues - specifically underage consumption -- continue to haunt head coach Tom Crean and the Hoosier program, as true freshman Thomas Bryant and sophomore Emmitt Holt were cited for possession of alcohol last Saturday morning.
The 2015-16 season, however, will offer unbridled enthusiasm for Hoosier fans across the country. Their Big-3 of Yogi Ferrell, James Blackmon Jr. and Troy Williams all return and are primed for a Big Ten championship. A great portion of hope relies on one newcomer with lofty expectations on his shoulder.
Thomas Bryant comes to Bloomington by way of Huntington Prep (WV) and carries accolades that haven't been accomplished since the Cody Zeller days. The former McDonald's All-American and Jordan Brand Classic All-American, Bryant is in the midst of stepping in for Hanner Mosquera-Perea, who was dismissed from the program after the conclusion of last season. Starting at center in the Big Ten is not an easy task, but with a college ready frame and an unparalleled motor, Bryant should step in the starting center position and flourish as a true freshman.
Bryant comes into Bloomington as a heralded big man, and rightfully so. Not only is the recruit blessed with phenomenal athletic ability, but Bryant may have one of the best work ethics in the class of 2015. Bryant's workout prowess has been on display for the past three years, as his body type has changed significantly from season to season. In 2012, Bryant participated in the USA Basketball program, and weighed in at 212 pounds. After putting on 15 pounds from 2012-13, Bryant weighed in at 241 pounds at his fourth go around with USA Basketball in 2014.
Bryant's length is a keyword in his development as well, as he turned out a 7'5.5" wingspan and 9'4" standing reach in 2014. Using his length and added strength, Bryant should make for an immediate defensive anchor and an enforcer in the paint. Bryant possesses great timing to block shots, has good enough speed to recover to block or alter shots and has a good second jump to help protect the rim.
Offensively, Bryant will prove his worth with his never ending motor and innate ability to rebound - both on the offensive and defensive end. The freshman becomes dangerous on the offensive side of the ball due to his length and quickness and will have plenty of opportunities to clean up missed shots and create points for himself through rebounding and running the floor.
He's not as good at running the floor as Zeller is, but he's more than capable at fitting in with an up tempo style of play. He has shown flashes of a jump shot out to the free throw line extended, but that's still a work in progress.
Areas for Improvement
Bryant's immediate success appears to be on the defensive end. His offensive repertoire is still developing. After scouting him, I didn't see a consistent low post game. If he caught the ball on the low block, he seemed to rely primarily on his size and quickness to get his points. His primary post move was a quick spin over either shoulder and muscling his way to the rim. He'll have to develop a couple more post moves in order to prevent becoming stagnant and predictable on the low block.
His lower body could get stronger, as the rigors of the Big Ten will be physically demanding for the big man. He struggles to get low on the block on offense, and against bigger players, he could get pushed around on defense.
Bryant hasn't been getting the national notoriety of some of his classmates, but that's not to say he isn't deserving of long-term success. DraftExpress already links Bryant to the 2017 NBA draft, making him only a two year college player. The thought of that doesn't seem unlikely, as the NBA is clamoring for big, athletic and long players like Bryant.
Like most freshmen, Bryant's offense will come along as the season progresses, but look for Bryant to step in right away as a starter for the Hoosiers and becoming a solid defensive anchor from day one.