Will Sheehey: The Misunderstood Man?

Indiana senior Will Sheehey is known for infuriating opponents on the court. He's hard-headed, hard-nosed, and takes nothing from anybody. Here's Sheehey's Story.

If Indiana's incoming freshmen had any doubts about who the team leader was before the summer, those doubts were silenced quickly.

During senior forward Will Sheehey's first workout back from the World University Games in Russia, he didn't like what he saw from the freshman newcomers. Sheehey immediately yelled at two of them and booted them out of the workout.

"We were doing ab workouts and they weren't doing them the right way, so they got kicked out of the practice," said freshman forward Devin Davis.

Added freshman guard Stan Robinson: "He made it known to us the first day when he kicked out two people. When we first got here, we knew that it was no games."

And thus you have the new and improved Sheehey, who will be tasked with leading a group of talented but young players into battle this season. It's an entirely new role for the senior from Stuart, Fla., was relied upon as the energy guy off the bench for the Hoosiers in his first three seasons.

With guys like Victor Oladipo, Jordan Hulls, Christian Watford and Cody Zeller no longer on the roster, Sheehey can't be the same person anymore. Now, he has to lead.

"This year I have to be a little more vocal and little more patient than previous years," Sheehey said. "Before it would be like, 'I'm getting on you because you're doing it wrong.' Now it's like, 'I'm getting on you because I'm trying to teach you how things work.'

"Believe it or not, I'm a very patient person. I know you guys probably don't think that. I'm probably going to tell a guy how to do something rather than yell at them. We had guys last year that were also patient. Victor, not so much, but Cody was very patient."

A misunderstood player?

Sheehey's role -- especially last season -- was fairly simple. Come off the bench. Score. Play defense. Get inside the opponents' heads. Be the bad guy if the game called for one.

That role worked very well for the Hoosiers, and for Sheehey, who averaged 9.5 points in 22.3 minutes per game last season. Sheehey quickly became one of the most hated guys in the Big Ten. Opposing crowds taunted him, especially in conference play.

Over time, a sort of "bad boy" persona was created. Sheehey was the guy everyone loved to hate, and he was just fine with that. In one particular game at Purdue, he flexed his muscles at the student section during Indiana's 97-60 rout.

"There's certain things that need to be done," Sheehey said. "Not everyone can be a nice guy because they just get pushed around. It's just another thing you have to do to win a game. Coach [Tom Crean] and I would have talks, he'd tell me what I need to do, and I'd do it.

"There was one instance in the Purdue game that people blew up out of proportion. They said that I flexed or whatever. But if you guys don't remember, Victor flexed literally every dunk last year. But for some reason nobody seems to think anything of it. I get excited during games. Everybody gets excited during games. I don't do anything out of disrespect toward anybody.

"Whatever [Crean] tells me to do, I do it. If he tells me not to do a certain thing, I don't do it. What comes with it, comes with it. I think I'm a little bit misunderstood, but that's just the way it is. I'm OK with it."

Sheehey says the persona he developed was exactly that, and nothing more. He feels he's misunderstood by the media and the public because of some of the things he's done on the court over the years.

"The media in general thinks that I'm some kind of hard ass, I want to fight everyone, I cuss all the time, I'm crazy and all this stuff," Sheehey said. "It's not true at all, actually. I'm probably the most laid back guy on this team. Guaranteed."

Sheehey paused.

"Guaranteed," he repeated.

So where did that perception of Sheehey come from? It's actually pretty simple. Sheehey saw the number of guys ahead of him when he arrived on campus. He knew minutes would be hard to come by on a stacked roster, so he worked especially hard to get good in the areas Indiana was lacking. Specifically, defense and energy.

"If you guys watch game tape of me in high school, you'd be like, 'Is this the same person?'," Sheehey said. "I wasn't needed to be that guy. I was the best player on my high school team. I was pretty much the same way on the court as I was off the court, laid back, relaxed because I knew that I could do whatever I wanted. It was high school. Here I have to find my niche to play, and my niche to play here was to bring energy and to play defense. It's not easy being the guy that has to play defense all the time. And to do that, I had to fire myself up. And that's the way I did it.

"If the team is sluggish, what are you going to do to get it pumped up? You gotta get em going a little bit. And if that's what I gotta do to get everyone going, that's what I gotta do. At the end of the game, everyone wants to say, 'Oh, Sheehey's this, Sheehey's that, he's crazy.'"

Sheehey doesn't need to be that guy anymore. He's a senior leader, and he's going to be on the court. And while a certain amount of those 'bad boy' qualities will undoubtedly remain instilled within Sheehey on the court this season, it's entirely possible he'll look like a different player.

Ask his teammates, and they'll back him up. Off the court, they say, Sheehey is not the same person he may appear to be.

"Definitely on the court, that's how we want him to be," said sophomore guard Austin Etherington, a close friend of Sheehey. We want him to be a guy that has an attitude and plays as hard as he can. When he gets all hype like he does, it motivates everyone else to play harder. People think he's some prick and stuff, but he's really not. He's one of my best friends."

Added sophomore forward Hanner Mosquera-Perea: "Will is one of those guys that will bring everything. He never stops. He knows what it takes to be one of the best players, so he's going to do whatever it takes to bring everything out of you."

'I just knew he was a white boy that was athletic'

Sheehey spent much of his offseason trying to develop his vocal leadership and establish it with his teammates. He's the one remaining player that helped change the Indiana basketball culture with his remarkable work ethic. Now, he must make sure the team's younger players continue that culture.

"Now it's about him bringing people with him," said assistant coach Steve McClain. "He can't wait to be a leader. I think that's a big step in any young man's maturation process. If you're self-motivated, that's great, but how are you going to affect the team? He's capable of affecting things by bringing other people with him."

At first, though, it wasn't all that easy for Sheehey to bring guys with him. Sheehey wasn't a player that got a lot of outside attention last season. That went to Oladipo and Zeller.

Many of Indiana's freshmen -- including in-state recruits Davis and Collin Hartman -- knew little to nothing about Sheehey before arriving on campus.

"Really I just knew he was a white boy that was athletic," said freshman forward Troy Williams. "You don't have too many of those in Virginia."

"I didn't really know anything about him. I just knew he was really athletic," Davis said.

"I didn't know much about him, really," added Hartman. "I knew who he was and that he was really improved and worked hard, but I didn't realize to the extent of how hard he worked."

They learned who he was quickly when Sheehey threw the two players out of his first workout back from Russia over the summer. And now, there aren't any questions as to who the team leader is. Sure, sophomore point guard Yogi Ferrell will play a significant role this season, but this is Sheehey's team now.

"When you come into practice, you would know," Robinson said. "There's no questions who the leader is on this team. You would know -- It's Will Sheehey."

The reason is simple: Sheehey has been through it all. He was in Bloomington for the Hoosiers' 12-20 season in 2010-11. He experienced the heartache. He helped rebuild the program and, ultimately, he experienced the success.

No other scholarship player on the current roster can say that.

"They want to be around him because they understand and they see how successful he is," said assistant coach Kenny Johnson. "They see the results he's getting, and they want to identify how it is that he got there. They're there with him."

'Chase Me'

Ask a group of Indiana basketball fans if Sheehey's offensive role will increase this season, and you'll get a variety of answers. Some think he'll take more shots and score more points. Others think he'll remain an offensive role player.

Sheehey, himself, falls in the latter category. He doesn't see much changing with his offensive game.

"I'm not trying to redefine my game," Sheehey said. "I know what I do well and what I don't do well. I'm just trying to improve on the things that I do well and make sure the things that I don't do well are no longer part of my game.

"That's the biggest key in basketball in general is just knowing your role and playing it. Not everyone is LeBron James, everyone is not a scorer. My role on the team last year was not to be a scorer, that was Vic and Cody's role."

Sheehey may have to score a little bit more this season did he year ago, but not significantly more. Crean and the Hoosiers added a talented six-man freshman class -- headlined by Noah Vonleh -- and that group will help replace much of the scoring Indiana lost to graduation and the NBA after last season.

Mosquera-Perea and fellow sophomore Jeremy Hollowell also figure to play bigger offensive roles than they did a season ago.

"We're a very talented team and I don't know necessarily that me taking more shots makes me a better player," Sheehey said. "Efficiency is key, and if I can take less shots and make more of them, then that's what I want to do. Realistically, taking more shots is probably not going to be the best thing for me. That's not really my game, shooting in volume, I don't think."

Sheehey's greatest impact this season will likely be how leads and helps the team's underclassmen grow. Little in college basketball can be accomplished alone. To succeed in his last collegiate season, Sheehey must be able to teach his teammates to play at the highest level.

"He doesn't get tired. I feel like he doesn't sleep, he doesn't eat," Hartman said. "He just goes and goes and goes. He sets the bar for everybody and he says, 'Chase Me.' That's kind of the goal."

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