Indiana won't be the biggest team around this year. Everybody knows that.
But if Hanner Mosquera-Perea can play a bigger role -- one that includes rebounding and defending at a high level -- then the Hoosiers have a chance to make some noise this year.
"I feel like I have a lot I need to accomplish," Mosquera-Perea said Monday.
Added freshman guard James Blackmon Jr.: “If he keeps playing the way he is, if he keeps being consistent how he is, it’s crazy the leap he could took in a year."
Mosquera-Perea has the size. He's 6-foot-9 and 225 pounds, a combination of muscle and athleticism that helped him become a five-star recruit out of high school.
The problem is, Mosquera-Perea has been wildly inconsistent in his first two years with the Hoosiers. He's had a hard time staying on the floor because of foul trouble, and he sometimes seems lost on the floor. He's shown flashes, but Mosquera-Perea has never given Tom Crean the consistency necessary to warrant him more playing time.
Now, Crean has few other options. Devin Davis is a solid interior player, but he's undersized at 6-foot-7. Mosquera-Perea must produce for Indiana this season if the Hoosiers hope to get back to the NCAA Tournament.
“If I look at last year, practices were pretty good," Mosquera-Perea said Monday. "But every now and then, I would have a good practice and then the next practice would be just OK. Now, so far, practices have been really good for me. I need to keep thinking like I’ve been thinking, ‘Just go for it.’”
Crean said Mosquera-Perea's biggest issue right now is playing through traffic. He's improving, but he doesn't always feel comfortable when the paint, or the high post, is crowded.
Many times over the last year, it seemed as if Mosquera-Perea's issues weren't as much physical as they were mental. He seemed to lack the confidence at times, and everything looked to be moving too fast for him.
As a junior now, and after two years of battling against Zeller and Vonleh in practice, Mosquera-Perea seems to be more comfortable in his role and who is he is as a player.
"He’s scoring around the basket more, going to rebound, blocking a lot more shots," Davis said. "I think it’s just confidence and him being ready to be out and play. He knows this team is going to need him. He’s just able to slow the game down and be more patient.
"I think he’s having a lot more fun.”
Here's the thing: If Mosquera-Perea ever puts it all together, he could be an elite player.
“To tell you the truth, I feel like I can be as good as I want to be," he said. "I’ve been around this program so long and seen great players and just how they do what they do to get where they are. I feel like I can do the same things they are doing.”What I Learned from IU basketball practice
How I voted: Big Ten preseason ballot
Nate Sudfeld out for the season