Who's Got Next?

BLOOMINGTON, Ind.—Confirming what many IU fans had hoped, Bracey Wright has stated that he will forego his senior season at IU and enter the NBA draft. While few will question the decision Wright almost made last year, and hinted at making earlier this year, a new question arises: Who will replace him at the shooting guard spot and how will IU account for his 18.3 points per game which was nearly 1/3 of IU's scoring this season.

Wright's departure along with the departure of sixth man Patrick Ewing, Jr. means the Hoosier lineup will be wide open to challenges this off-season by young guys. Sophomore Robert Vaden, who will likely retain his starting spot but could move into Wright's old position as the 2 guard and primary outside threat. Sophomore A.J. Ratliff, who started in 14 games this year, should seem improved time. Junior Roderick Wilmont played in all 29 games but came on especially strong at the end, and sophomore James Hardy, who contributed despite missing the early work as a member of the Hoosier football team will also be looking for some minutes.

That doesn't even include the guards who could be on the way, including an eligible transfer from last year in Lewis Monroe, and Arizona phenom Joey Shaw, a pure-shooting 6'6" guard/forward. Deonta Vaughn has committed but will likely go to a year of prep school, and the Hoosiers are rumored to still be in contact with Zygis Sestokas, a 6'5" prospect out of North Carolina. That having been said, the obvious depth at the position could mean Wright will be replaced by a rotation of players.

To say at this point who will replace Wright depends on who will be in the starting lineup. D.J. White, Robert Vaden, and Marco Killingsworth are as close to locks as can be, but from there it's a crapshoot. That leaves two starting spots for about six other guards. The battle at point guard will come down to Strickland, the turnover-prone incumbent, Lewis Monroe, a transfer from Auburn who started at point guard there in 2003. If both of these guards start then the discussion is over, the Hoosiers technically start two point guards, and Vaden is dubbed the successor to Bracey Wright; however, if only one starts, another spot is still open in the lineup. That will, in all likelihood be a spot filled by Roderick Wilmont, A.J. Ratliff, or Joey Shaw. James Hardy will open the year playing football, so he will be behind the game and at 6'7" is more of a small forward.

A.J. Ratliff was impressive at times this year. He started in 14 of the 26 games he played, averaging 5.8 points. He is inexperienced, but he plays a controlled game; he is good at getting the ball to the rim, but doesn't seem to look to do that often. Wilmont is an energetic, athletic guard who was a pure scorer in high school but hasn't gotten a chance to do much at IU yet, primarily because of Wright's status and also due to some inconsistency. Joey Shaw has a lot to prove as an incoming freshman, but it appeared during recruiting talks that he was being groomed as Wright's replacement and Shaw played very well in The Republic All-Star Classic held in Phoenix on April 10th, garnering MVP honors with 28 points.

Okay, so after all that, who's going to replace Bracey Wright right? Well, the answer is two pronged. It's hard to see Marshall Strickland going to the bench his senior year, but it's equally hard to believe that Strickland will be back at the helm running point guard after three years of proving that he doesn't have the ball-handling ability or decision-making to lead the Hoosiers. Therefore, its most likely that Bracey Wright will be replaced at the shooting guard position by Marshall Strickland, with Lewis Monroe taking over at the point, but in terms of replacing Wright's scoring, the burden will fall on Robert Vaden. Vaden will take the bulk of the perimeter focus of the offense, but don't expect to see him averaging 18 points per game.

The frontcourt will likely house the Hoosiers scoring presence, with White and Killingsworth being the first options. Wilmont will be coming off the bench again, and if Strickland doesn't prove his worth at shooting guard, Wilmont would likely be the one to replace him in the lineup. Ideally Shaw and Allen will get a slower indoctrination into high major conference basketball, but with the kind of depth and talent the Hoosiers have in the backcourt, there will probably be some lineup shuffling throughout the season.

Regardless, it's going to be an interesting summer for the Hoosiers, with a lot of guys trying to earn a spot in the lineup. The Hoosiers will have at least five months to figure it all out, but with a bevy of young shooters, the lineup will be subject to change on a regular basis.

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