Yogi Ferrell

Yogi Ferrell
AP Photo

Yogi Ferrell gets one more chance to shape his legacy at Indiana

1 Comment

Yogi Ferrell entered Indiana as the McDonald’s All-American centerpiece of a five-man, all-Indiana recruiting class that was ranked No. 5 in the country. Coming on the heels of a surprise Sweet 16 appearance, this was supposed to be the class that helped bring the Hoosiers back to glory.

An ultra-talented point guard who can score or distribute, Yogi was viewed by some Indiana fans as the next Isiah Thomas. But disappointing results, ugly off-the-court incidents and roster turnover became the trend at Indiana the last few years. After Ferrell spurned the NBA to return for his senior season, he became the only player still at Indiana from the class that was supposed to define the Tom Crean era.

With Crean on the hot seat and a proud Indiana program suffering a Final Four drought since 2002, the pressure is on for a talented Hoosier team to make a big move this season. As the senior point guard, Ferrell knows a lot of that burden falls on him.

“We’re just trying to play better and do what we’re supposed to do and show people what we’re capable of,” Ferrell told NBCSports.com.

“We want to rep our state and put on for the state of Indiana.”

Indiana has seen a lot of new faces during Ferrell’s three seasons on campus. He’s the only senior on the Hoosiers who didn’t transfer into the program.

After some early difficulties during a hellacious rebuild, Crean successfully recruited pieces like Jordan Hulls, Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller. The Hoosiers seemed to be on the right track after knocking off No. 1 Kentucky during the 2011-12 regular season and making a surprising run to the Sweet 16. Ferrell and his 2012 classmates were lauded as the group that would put Indiana over the hump. Sweet 16 appearances were supposed to be the baseline by which Indiana measured success.

Ferrell and three other members of the 2012 class, small forward Jeremy Hollowell, forward Hanner Mosquera-Perea — both four-star prospects — and center Peter Jurkin were grassroots teammates together with Indiana Elite. At every tournament Indiana Elite played in, flocks of Indiana fans would follow, hoping to see the bright future of Hoosier basketball as four commitments shared the floor in the same starting lineup.

Things began to unravel before that 2012 group could even make it to Bloomington.

Shooting guard Ron Patterson, the fifth member of the class, went to prep school instead of Indiana and eventually ended up at Syracuse. That would be the first of many dominoes to fall around Ferrell the next few years.

Indiana was at one point the No. 1 team in the country and made the Sweet 16 in Ferrell’s freshman season, but Oladipo and Zeller left early for the NBA.

Joining the starting lineup and taking the reigns as a team leader, Ferrell and his teammates endured a disappointing 2013-14 season that saw the Hoosiers barely finish above .500.

More members of the 2012 class fled Bloomington. Hollowell transferred to Georgia State after the season and Jurkin soon followed him out the door.

The exodus at Indiana continued the next spring as Mosquera-Perea was dismissed from the program in May along with sophomore Devin Davis. The Hoosiers — again — found themselves with more roster turnover and Ferrell’s 2012 classmates were all gone.

MORE: Previewing the Big Ten

Through it all, Ferrell has tried to remain focused and be a positive influence in the locker room. He expected to be a senior surrounded by familiar faces from that celebrated recruiting class, but plans changed and he had to adapt to being a different type of leader.

“We’re growing and trying to get our new guys to know our system,” Ferrell said. “The season is right around the corner. We’ve had guys come in and out and the personnel has changed. But I have to help get them ready. I have to be a leader on and off the court.”

Indiana has seen plenty of off-the-court incidents during Ferrell’s tenure with the team and he hasn’t been immune to incident himself. After that disappointing sophomore season, Ferrell was issued a citation with former teammate Stanford Robinson and charged with minor consumption of an alcoholic beverage and possession of a false identification.

Ending up in the headlines for a drinking ticket could have sent Ferrell in a downward spiral and sent him searching for a new home like many of his former teammates. Instead, Ferrell overcame the off-the-court chaos and continued to mature both on and off the court.

“I wouldn’t trade Yogi for any player in the country,” Crean said at Big Ten media day.

A glimmer of hope emerged for Indiana’s future last season as Ferrell became more efficient as a shooter, started setting up teammates for more assists and showed more consistency on the defensive end. The point guard’s breakout season, coupled with new reinforcements, helped lead the Hoosiers back to the NCAA tournament after the disappointing sophomore year with no postseason.

Plenty of perimeter firepower returns around Ferrell this season with James Blackmon Jr., Robert Johnson and Troy Williams all coming back. With McDonald’s All-American big man Thomas Bryant entering the starting lineup in the middle, the Hoosiers have top-25 talent — more than enough to make a run in Ferrell’s final season. Crean is sitting squarely on the hot seat and this will be the season at Indiana that could define both the veteran head coach and his senior point guard.

Both Crean and Ferrell have underperformed to the lofty expectations of Indiana fans, but a huge year would erase some of the bad memories.

There is already a noticeable difference in the Hoosiers’ roster this season with the addition of Bryant and former Michigan big man Max Bielfeldt, a graduate transfer senior who should give Indiana more interior depth.

“It’s been nice adding big men who can help us right away,” Ferrell said. “Max being a veteran and Thomas being as talented as he is, those are some high-level guys.”

“We’ve improved on the defensive end. We can get into the ball more [as perimeter defenders] since we have the rim protected.”

As his Indiana career currently stands, Ferrell has put up good numbers and played on some fun teams, but he doesn’t have many important wins to show for it. The only time he’s won a NCAA tournament game was in 2013 during his freshman year when others like Zeller and Oladipo carried the team.

Things didn’t go according to plan for Ferrell during his rocky journey at Indiana, and in a cruel twist of fate, he’s actually come to define the Crean era at Indiana: high expectations, disappointing finishes and off-the-court issues.

But Yogi’s senior year with a talented Indiana team gives him a chance to write his own final chapter. As the driving engine of a Big Ten contender, he gets one more chance to change the way he’ll be remembered in Bloomington.

Indiana eager to get to work with tough schedule ahead

Tom Crean
Associated Press
Leave a comment

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) The new rule in college basketball allowing teams to begin practice two weeks earlier is one that is being embraced by Indiana coach Tom Crean.

Indiana opens practice for the season on Friday with a pair of workouts and they will be back at work Saturday.

Crean said October will be an important month for his team, which he believes could be facing its most challenging November schedule in his eight seasons in Bloomington. The Hoosiers host Creighton Nov. 19 and then play in the Maui Invitational along with teams including Kansas, UCLA, St. Johns, UNLV, Vanderbilt and Wake Forest. On Dec. 2, Indiana will play at Duke in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

In addition, getting into an earlier practice routine should also benefit a team that went through another tumultuous offseason with three players dismissed for “not living up to their responsibilities to the program.” Devin Davis and Hanner Mosquera-Perea were dismissed in May and Emmitt Holt in August.

Crean said his hope is that his team has learned some lessons in shared responsibility.

“Poor choices don’t necessarily mean poor character,” Crean said. “Poor choices sometimes just mean poor choices. Any parent should be able to attest to that. But I think the bottom line is that they have to understand that there has to be a shared responsibility 24/7 with each of them and that’s asking an awful lot. Most people have a hard time with that because you’re asking people to really look out for one another in a lot of different ways. And yet, that’s where it becomes a family.”

Crean said practice in October will be more about focusing on individual skills rather than planning for specific opponents.

“We really want to make this a great month of training, of building their skills and building their endurance but at the same time try to get them ready for the myriad of things they’re going to see as we get into the season,” he said.

Indiana returns its top five scorers from a team that finished 20-14 overall, 9-9 in the Big Ten and lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to Wichita State.

Crean said the Hoosiers are healthy. He did say that sophomore guard James Blackmon Jr., who averaged 15.7 points last season, is still building back up following surgery in July to repair torn meniscus cartilage in his left knee.

After the departures, Crean said that his three freshmen (Thomas Bryant, Juwan Howard and O.G. Anunoby) as well as fifth-year senior transfer Max Bielfeldt will all be counted on right away. Crean said the newcomers have had a great summer and preseason in terms of strength and conditioning.

“Thomas Bryant raising his vertical nine inches in seven weeks is unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” Crean said. “We’ve had guys who were here four years and got a lot better and didn’t get nine inches in a four-year period.”

Report: Yogi Ferrell to return to Indiana for senior season

Yogi Ferrell (AP Photo)
Leave a comment

Yogi Ferrell is expected to announce that he will be returning to Indiana for his senior season on Sunday, according to a report from CBSSports.com.

The deadline to enter the NBA Draft for underclassmen is midnight on Sunday night. Ferrell was initially supposed to make his decision on Saturday evening, but he postponed that announcement.

Ferrell is a dynamic point guard that averaged 16.3 points and 4.9 assists as a junior for the Hoosiers. His return, along with the return of rising sophomore James Blackmon, will make the Hoosiers a preseason top 15 team. A talented playmaker, Ferrell thrived in Indiana’s spread offense a season ago.

Indiana will be a contender in a Big Ten race that will be loaded at the top. He was projected as a second round pick.

College basketball’s eight most important NBA Draft decisions

Yogi Ferrell (AP Photo)
Yogi Ferrell (AP Photo)

Yogi Ferrell, Indiana: No one has more on the line with a little more than a week left before the NBA Draft’s early entry deadline than the Hoosiers, who will be waiting until April 25th to find out whether or not their star point guard will be back on the roster in 2015-16. Ferrell averaged 16.3 points and 4.9 assists last year, but more importantly, he was the point guard that made Indiana’s spread-out offensive attack so dangerous. You can’t guard Ferrell one-on-one, but you can’t help off of James Blackmon, or Robert Johnson, or any of Indiana’s myriad of shooters.

With Thomas Bryant set to join the program next season as well, the Hoosiers have already addressed their issue of rebounding, shotblocking and toughness in the paint. Now they just need their point guard back, because with him, they’re a preseason top 15 team. Without him? The NIT is possible.

READ MORE: Who has declared for the draft, and who is returning to school?

Ty Wallace, Cal: The Golden Bears struggled in Cuonzo Martin’s first season as head coach, but much of that was due to a lack of depth and some injuries. With Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews back, Kameron Rooks healthy, Stephen Domingo eligible and top five recruit Ivan Raab joining the program, Cal as the pieces to be a threat in the Pac-12. But, like Indiana, they need their point guard, Wallace, back. He averaged 17.1 points, 7.1 boards and 4.0 assists last season.

Buddy Hield, Oklahoma: The Sooners are already losing Tashawn Thomas to graduation, and with Frank Booker transferring out of the program, Lon Kruger’s back court depth will already be tested next season. Hield, the reigning Big 12 Player of the Year, is good enough keep Oklahoma in and around the top 15, considering Ryan Spangler, Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard all return. Without him, and the Sooners will have to scrap to ensure a tournament berth.

Kyle Wiltjer, Gonzaga: Mark Few is already losing his starting back court of Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell to graduation, and with all due respect to Josh Perkins and Silas Melson, that’s a loss that is going to be tough to overcome. Getting Przemek Karnowski and Domas Sabonis back ensures the Zags will have a formidable front line, but Wiltjer’s ability to spread the floor due to his scoring prowess creates all kinds of space on the interior. He’ll be a preseason all-american if he returns.

READ MORE: NBCSports.com’s Preseason Top 25

source: Getty Images
Kris Dunn (Getty Images)

Here’s the kicker for Gonzaga fans: It seems going pro is something Wiltjer is actually toying with, but at this point, he’s not an NBA player. But if he gets his degree and decides he wants to start making money playing basketball, can anyone really look down on him for it?

Kris Dunn, Providence: If Kris Dunn returns to school, we’re looking at a first-team all-american that is good enough to carry the Friars back to the NCAA tournament. Without Dunn, who is a late-first round pick, the Friars will likely be back in rebuilding mode. There’s a real chance he comes back, however. Improve his jumper, cut down on those turnovers, and he’s a lottery pick, potentially top ten.

Caris LeVert, Michigan: I’ll just get this out of the way now: I think it would be foolish for LeVert to return to school. He’s broken the same foot twice in the last year, and feet are not a part of the body that professional athletes want to mess with. Playing another year in college is a serious risk, especially if he’s not completely healthy by the start of the year. That said, NBA team are aware of this as well, which means he may have already fallen out of the first round. If he comes back and he’s healthy, we’re looking at an all-american that can climb right back up those draft boards.

With LeVert, Michigan should be really good as well. We all saw how well Beilein had his kids playing by the end of last season, and that was without LeVert or starting point guard Derrick Walton. With LeVert, they’re probably top 25-good. Without him, we’re likely looking at a bubble team.

A.J. Hammons, Purdue: When Hammons is engaged, he’s an all-Big Ten caliber player. This past season, he was engaged, and it helped get Purdue to the NCAA tournament. He’s a defensive menace with a developing post game that would give Purdue a pair of seven-footers on their front line. The Boilermakers still could make an NCAA tournament without him, but if he’s back, they’re a borderline top 25 team.

Jakob Poeltl, Utah: Poeltl is a borderline lottery pick, and it would seem sensible for him to head off to the NBA. But there actually seems to be some doubt in whether or not he is going to go, and if he does decide to come back, the Utes will have at their disposal one of the best big men in the Pac-12. With Poeltl, they should make a second-straight NCAA tournament despite the fact they lose Delon Wright. Without him, they’re probably going to end up being a bubble team.

Freshmen Tyus Jones, Melo Trimble among finalists for Bob Cousy Award

Getty Images

Friday morning the finalists for the Bob Cousy Award, annually given to the nation’s best point guard by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, were announced. Among the players on the list are two of the nation’s best freshmen, Duke’s Tyus Jones and Maryland’s Melo Trimble.

They’re the only two first-year players on the list, which includes six seniors, five juniors and four sophomores.

From a conference standpoint the Pac-12 leads the way with four finalists, with Arizona’s T.J. McConnell, Cal’s Tyrone Wallace, Utah’s Delon Wright and Washington’s Nigel Williams-Goss being the players on the list. In total nine conferences are represented. Also making the cut is BYU junior Kyle Collinsworth, who has tallied an NCAA-record five triple-doubles this season.

Below is the list of finalists for the award, which was won by UConn’s Shabazz Napier last season.

2015 Bob Cousy Award Finalists

T.J. McConnell, Arizona (senior)
Kyle Collinsworth, BYU (junior)
Tyrone Wallace, California (junior)
Ryan Boatright, UConn (senior)
Tyus Jones, Duke (freshman)
Kevin Pangos, Gonzaga (senior)
Keifer Sykes, Green Bay (senior)
Yogi Ferrell, Indiana (junior)
Monte Morris, Iowa State (sophomore)
Terry Rozier, Louisville (sophomore)
Melo Trimble, Maryland (freshman)
Marcus Paige, North Carolina (junior)
Kris Dunn, Providence (junior)
Delon Wright, Utah (senior)
Nigel Williams-Goss, Washington (sophomore)
Juwan Staten, West Virginia (senior)
Fred Van Vleet, Wichita State (junior)

You think college basketball is unwatchable this year? Turn on an Indiana game

Getty Images
Getty Images

I love this Indiana team.

Love them.

And, unless your rooting allegiances lie in Kentucky or some other Big Ten college town, I find it very hard to believe that you won’t feel the same way if you watch the Hoosiers play. Here’s what they do: they push the ball, they spread the floor offensively, they let their quartet of talented perimeter weapons make plays and they fire up threes at will.

When those threes are going down, you’ll have nights like Thursday night, where the No. 23 Hoosiers went 15-for-22 from three, hit 60.0 percent of their field goals and blew out No. 13 Maryland on a night where the Terps shot better than 50 percent from the field and hit 10-for-20 from deep.

In a season where everyone is complaining about how unwatchable college basketball is, the Hoosiers are the collegiate version of the Golden State Warriors. They’re not quite as dominant — Yogi Ferrell is a stud, but Steph Curry he ain’t — but they are now 15-4 overall and 5-1 in the Big Ten, which is tied for first in the conference with Wisconsin.

And here’s the scary thing: they may have just found a way to get better. Hanner Mosquera-Perea, one of just two true big men on Indiana’s roster and their starting center, got injured after their blowout loss at Michigan State. That was thought to be a major blow to the Indiana season, but what it’s done is make them even more difficult to guard. Now, instead of having a center that wasn’t all that good of a shot-blocker or a rebounder letting defenses clog up the lane, the Hoosiers are using Colin Hartman — a 6-foot-8 flamethrower — to open things up even more.

It might be for the best. Yeah, Indiana will take a hit on the defensive end of the floor, but they weren’t stopping anyone anyway. They entered Thursday night ranked 197th in defensive efficiency, according to Kenpom. If you’re going to be a bad defensive team, one that needs to score a ton of points to beat good teams, you might as well have your most unguardable team on the floor at all times. Since Perea got hurt, Indiana has gone 35-for-68 from three. That’s 51.4 percent.

Indiana is going to have some off-nights, but when they’re on, they’re going to be able to play with anyone in the country.