In preparation of this great holiday of turkey, football, and drinking before 5 o’clock, basketball can tend to take the back seat. Not here in Indiana though. I was helping my daughter with her “I’m thankful for…” list for school and thought why don’t I make one myself. So for Thanksgiving I wanted to take a moment and mention a few things I’m currently grateful for. While tonight is a huge game (any game keeping an undefeated streak going is huge for my simple mind) for Mike Woodson and the Hoosiers as Little Rock comes to town, I just want to take a moment to reflect on everything the Indiana Faithful have to be thankful for with this current squad.
First off I’m thankful for the pair of superbly talented freshmen that we have had join the squad since last season. Jalen-Hood Schifino and Malik Reneau both have immediately made their impacts known since arriving on campus this summer. While Jalen was highly touted as an NBA recruit and has lived up to every bit of the billing, Malik has quickly exploded onto the scene and revealed he too has all the game necessary to dominate the college game already. I’m particularly thankful that both have been able to buy into the identity of tough defense and team play that Mike Woodson has sought to establish. Jalen Hood-Schifino has also had to offer up ball handling responsibilities to a veteran guard that has earned the minutes and right to bring it up. While it’s easy for all of us non-superior athletic specimens to say “well yeah of course he should”, it isn’t that easy for many players. Jalen is as good at basketball as he is because he is a psychopath about it. With it being his singular focus, it is easy to get set in the ways and play that have made you so highly touted. His ability to adapt to playing off the ball more often should be commended.
I’m thankful for the leaps in development that our returning players have been making. Each player returning to this years’ team has brought a new tool in their toolbox. Each has added a layer to their game that may prove the difference in many games down the line. Jordan Geronimo has added a newfound sense of ball control and confidence in his own game. Pairing that with what was already his ruthlessly physical brutality on the court, has made him a very deadly player off the bench. Miller has improved his shooting. Trey has entirely reworked his shot. After shooting the lowest percentage behind the arc, he looks to have made the appropriate tweaks to it. His release is now higher, far more concentrated, and far more repeatable. All in all, we knew that each of our returning players was bringing talent with them, it just seems like they all may have brought far more talent than we may have anticipated.
I’m thankful for the patience of this team. Funny thing about rotational depth, the better it is, the less likely you’ll be able to have it okay with less minutes. If you look at the Indiana roster not only does our starting 5 start at most power 5 schools, our 6, 7, 8, and 9 could all be starting with our 10, 11, and 12 men all getting SUBSTANTIAL time anywhere else. Look at Malik Reneau alone. At Indiana he is our 3rd big man, providing a more than dependable front court option in the second unit. Anywhere else in the nation, other than like 3 schools, he is the featured Big Man. The fact that so much talent is willing to play so few minutes is evidence enough for me that Mike Woodson’s leadership is different and far more compelling to follow than the Indiana program has had in a while.
I’m thankful for the Indiana defense. With the Big Ten being the drag out, beat ‘em up gauntlet the Hoosiers are destined to come across gouging opposing runs from time to time. With the stout nature of this current defense though, the Hoosiers will never be entirely out of a game. The Indiana Hoosiers are fully capable of clamping down any and all opposing offenses. If the Hoosier shooters can find the bucket, they will be able to scratch and claw their way back into any game. With one of the top defenses in the nation, how could you not be thankful.
I’m thankful that the Hoosiers have a captain in the truest sense of the word. Trayce Jackson-Davis continues to amaze me. He has come into this season with a new found persistent killer instinct. While we saw flashes, it was never from starting tip to final whistle like this. Trayce’s talent made him a preseason All-American, it is his overall mentality this season that could potentially make him an Indiana LEGEND. Trayce looks to finally be believe what so many of us have been saying for years, he has the ability to dictate the game on both sides of the court at any point. He is brimming with confidence, and it reverberates throughout the squad. He is leading by example. After convincing Trayce to remain in Bloomington, Mike Woodson has made him his greatest disciple. Trayce takes the identity and attitude Mike wants to establish and personifies it. Giving every other Hoosier on the court a North Star to look towards. As important as the message the head coach is sending is how that message is delivered. Trayce as the middle man makes sure that nothing is lost in translation. Grateful for Trayce and the potentially incredible final season he is giving us.
I’m thankful for Mike Woodson. I’ve always wrote that it is astounding how well Mike Woodson has been able to package the old school traditions and pride of Indiana and sell it to the most highly touted recruits in the country. To get the top recruits in the country, as dumb as it sounds, you need to be “cool”. It is what it takes to win in today’s game. As important as the development of their game is, these recruits are equally interested in the development of their brands. I didn’t say I like it, but that’s what it is. Mike Woodson and the Indiana social teams have been able to provide that to the top guys. He has been able to recruit his tail off and is working to bring the program HE loves back into the limelight. In his second year of attempting to do so, I have only been blown away by the progress. Each week Mike Woodson gets more comfortable in Bloomington it seems that we are closer and closer to the only objective that matters in Bloomington, a national title. As he’s only had this team trending in the right direction under his tenure, I can’t help but be appreciative.
Lastly, I’m just thankful for Indiana Basketball. I’m so grateful for the largest asset I have in my annual war with winter. Like a warm blanket, Indiana basketball is just a welcome comfort of mine. While I’m able to distract myself with baseball and football during the off-seasons, it just isn’t Indiana basketball. So while I’m always ecstatic to see the candy stripes take the court, I am particularly grateful to see the program backed by all the factors that have this Indiana team competing day in and day out, with title hopes a real possibility. A Hoosier Basketball season is always welcome in my life. But a potentially phenomenal Hoosier Basketball season, now that is something to truly be thankful for.
Thanks for taking the time to read this short list of what one Hoosier fanboy is grateful for this Thanksgiving. This was a fun one to write, not having to check stats and just letting it go. If you’d like to read more this is my site so you can definitely find some. If you’re like me and would rather listen to some thoughts, give me a listen on the OFTEN DAUNTED podcast. Episode 3 breaking down tonight’s Little Rock is out now. Available anywhere you listen. Have a great Thanksgiving Hoosier fans. Hug your loved ones, and appreciate the fact that this Indiana team is unlike teams in recent years, it is a special year to be a Hoosier fan. Here’s to it being the new normal.
LUX ET VERITAS!