Not too long after adding Zach McRoberts, Indiana and Tom Crean have added another transfer, Johnny Jager. He knows the Bloomington area all too well, as he played on the varsity team in all four seasons at Bloomington South. He then enrolled at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Ind., where he played Division III basketball. He will be transferring to Indiana with three seasons of eligibility remaining.
While at Wabash, Jager averaged 15 points per game, adding 5.5 assists and 2.4 rebounds. He also shot 35.6% from behind the arc and played an impressive 32 minutes per game. IU fans should have modest expectations, though. This is not going to be the same caliber Division III transfer as Michigan’s Duncan Robinson.
The value Jager will add to the team should come mostly through his ball handling abilities. As everyone knows, Indiana will be without Yogi Ferrell’s 34.7 minutes per game servicing the team’s primary ball handling responsibilities. Josh Newkirk is next man up for the Hoosiers, but he is not Yogi Ferrell.
As a sophomore at Pittsburgh, Newkirk averaged 20.8 minutes per game. Clearly, his departure from the Panthers had something to do with his lack of playing time, but the fact that he is not a proven starter leaves a question mark for IU heading into the season. If he can be a dependable back court piece, it will relieve a lot of Hoosier fans of their current concern regarding the point guard position heading into the season. If not, Tom Crean could be forced to investigate other options.
Devonte Green is listed as a shooting guard on ESPN recruiting, but there is little doubt in my mind that the IU coaching staff will groom him to become a point guard. This is largely due to his lack of size (he stands at 6-2), as well as his superior ball handling abilities when compared with other players on the team. However, it is unclear if he will be ready for all of the responsibilities that come with being a backup point guard in the Big Ten, especially one that does not have the luxury of backing up the likes of Yogi Ferrell.
Ultimately, Indiana may end up having to resolve its point guard issue much like it did this season, playing multiple combo guards in the same backcourt while the primary ball handler rests. If Robert Johnson or James Blackmon Jr. have significantly enhanced their abilities to conduct the offense and run the point, then the Hoosiers are in great shape. That would be a huge step for either to take and one that cannot be counted on, at least not reliably.
If all of those contingency plans fail, Tom Crean could be forced to utilize his new walk-on in a larger role than expected. Jager could fill the role that walk-on Harrison Niego played in this year for the Hoosiers. He was a spark plug off of the bench who did his best to run the offense while Yogi Ferrell was not on the floor. Obviously this situation would not be ideal for Indiana fans, but it could be necessary. Only time will tell, but Johnny Jager is a deceptively important piece for the Hoosiers to have added heading into the season.