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Indiana basketball top-10 offseason storylines: No. 5 OG Anunoby

This is the sixth in a series looking at the top-10 offseason storylines for Indiana basketball heading into the 2016-17 season. This piece is about forward OG Anunoby who is projected to be in a much more prominent role and could be a 2017 NBA draft pick.

OG Anunoby had made a few plays beforehand, but this was the moment his highlights went national.

It was Feb. 14 in a nationally televised game on CBS when he bolted down the lane at Michigan State and soared for a thundering dunk.

“Send it in! Anunoby, No. 3, strong finish,” the legendary Bill Raftery said on the telecast.

There were other highlights as well to be sure, including Anunoby’s 360-degree dunk against Chattanooga in the NCAA Tournament.

Those, perhaps, are the moments that garnered the most attention for Indiana’s athletic forward during his freshman season.

Now, as he enters his sophomore year, he is expected to make a jump and go from energizer bunny off the bench to significant and consistent contributor for a team projected as a top-15 squad by preseason magazines.

The 6-foot-8, 235-pound forward averaged 4.9 points and 2.6 rebounds in 13.7 minutes per game last year, finishing with 26 blocked shots in 34 games played.

Making a jump is more involved than it looks on the surface.

Going from energizer bunny off the bench for a team with other primary offensive weapons to a main cog is a leap.

A player has to improve, and he has to do it while going from barely being on an opponent’s scouting report to getting much more attention in preparation.

“I don’t know if we talked to our guys about him for five minutes,” one Big Ten assistant coach told of where Anunoby was in their prep prior to playing IU last year.

Anunoby has a diverse skill set for his size, weight and strength.

As far as impact last year, his defense was as important as anything, including simply being in the right spot, taking away space in which an opponent likes to operate and blocking out even when he didn’t get the rebound.

Those are plays that don’t show up in statistics, but Anunoby made them regularly during his time on the court.

Offensively, Anunoby shot 60.9 percent (53-for-87) on 2s, 44.8 percent (13-for-29) on 3s and 47.6 percent (20-for-42) from the free throw line. The free throw shooting is an obvious area that will need to improve.

For the season, he was used on 17.7 percent of the possessions when he was on the floor, according to Ken Pomeroy’s statistics, which consider 24-28 percentage usage to be a major contributor. (Troy Williams led IU in usage last year at 26.3 percent.)

Anunoby’s freshman season was one of development early then a much more significant role after IU’s leading scorer at the time, James Blackmon Jr., was lost with an ACL injury.

In his first 11 games, Anunoby had a usage percentage of zero eight times. After that it was in double figures 18 times.

With the players IU lost to graduation, Anunoby figures to open the season as a starter or, depending on how IU coach Tom Crean structures lineups, a significant front court player off the bench.

Either way, Anunoby is an important part of an Indiana team with strength and depth in the frontcourt.

How much he will average is an interesting conversation. No IU player other than four-year starting point guard Yogi Ferrell (34.7) played more than 26.2 minutes per game last year. Even All-American Cody Zeller played 29.5 minutes per game as a sophomore.

That suggests, at most, Anunoby’s minutes would double from last year’s 13.7 and that’s probably a stretch with IU’s front court depth.

Anunoby’s play defensively probably will be as important as his offense.

He has terrific physical attributes with his elevation at his weight, and his strength has only increased with another offseason in IU’s strength and conditioning program.

He has good genes as well. His brother Chigbo Anunoby is an NFL defensive lineman.

Public expectations for Anunoby might be based, fair or not, on what could come next as much as what he could be this year in college.

He is projected as a first-round NBA draft pick in 2017.

That projection could impact expectation of college production, and sometimes the two are not directly related.

The NBA is interested based on his physical tools and future potential, especially his ability to defend and rebound.

After the 2016 season, Anunoby took a long and thoughtful look at the NBA before deciding to return for his sophomore season.

But anytime a player is projected as an NBA draft pick, it can affect assumptions of his college impact, even though the two aren’t necessarily connected.

Six-foot-11 Skal Labissiere did very little in one season at Kentucky — 6.6 points, 3.1 rebounds per game — but was the No. 28 NBA draft pick based upon the NBA’s belief in his future potential.

Add all that up, and Anunoby is in an interesting position as he enters his sophomore season at Indiana.


No. 6: Style of play

No. 7: The freshmen guards

No. 8: Depth and lineup options

No. 9: The De'Ron Davis impact

No. 10: Missed time Top Stories