During his career, Marshall Strickland has enjoyed good times and suffered through the bad as well. His playing days have been overshadowed by a recruiting classmate who played with one foot out the door.
For the 6-2, 205-pound senior guard, 2005-06 represents one last chance to show Indiana fans who he is and what he can do.
"It's been a crazy trip," said Strickland. "I've been through it all. I've seen this team win and suffer through some losing seasons. Freshman year we made it to No. 5 in the nation at one point and now I feel like with this squad the sky is the limit. But it's up to me and the other upperclassmen to make sure it gets done."
Strickland, along with Sean Kline, will be one of just two seniors on the Hoosiers team that has spent his entire career with the program. They are the only players on the team with NCAA Tournament experience in a Hoosier uniform.
The inexperience does not scare Strickland. Instead it will be his motivation for his senior year.
"It's kind of nice to be a senior," said Strickland. "For the last three years I've been looking up to other guys and now it's my turn. I've got all the tools to lead. This is the best team I've been on for my entire college career. I have every intention of taking advantage of that."
Last season Strickland was the fourth-leading scorer on the Hoosiers with 7.4 points per game and he led the squad with 94 assists. But there are likely changes upcoming for Strickland, who is expected to be more of a combo guard this season instead of strictly a point guard like he was a year ago.
"I think I'll play a lot of combo to start the season," said Strickland. "I'll see some point, I'll see some time at the two. Basically the way our offense is setup the guard spot is interchangeable. Any one of these guards can bring the ball up the floor.
"I've just been tightening up a lot of things to get ready. I've been working on my shot because I know I'll get a lot of open spot-ups this season and I plan on knocking everyone of those down."
Strickland will be the de facto leader for this young Hoosier squad, giving him a chance to let all fans know who he really is.
"I'm going to be me," said Strickland. "I don't think people really know who I am. People will find out and realize I'm a pretty interesting person. I think people try to figure me out, but nobody really knows who I am."
The perfect way for people to get to know who is Marshall Strickland is simple – he must lead the Hoosiers deep into the NCAA Tournament as Mike Davis said he would when he was recruited. Making that easier is the group around him and a more focused approach.
"I think we can win the Big Ten," said Strickland. "I think from top to bottom we are the best team in the conference and one of the best in the nation. It's going to be up to us to utilize our talent to come together and win games.
"We can change it up so much, it's almost impossible to scout us. I think we'll have five guys averaging double figures. That's the way we're going to play. We're going to be a very unselfish team that shares the ball. It's going to be hard for other teams to guard us. We have four guys who can go out and get 20 points any night. If they double anyone, they're going to pay because we have guys who can step up."
Added to that for the first time in his Indiana career, Strickland will have two legitimate post threats to feed off of in the offense in sophomore D.J. White and Auburn-transfer Marco Killingsworth.
"It's what I always wanted since I came here," said Strickland. "To have two big guys like that is what every guard wants. Now I have it and I have to go out there and take advantage of it. The last two years we've been undermanned. We've had guys playing out of position. We didn't have all the tools but this year we got it. It's going to be fun.
"Having those guys in the paint is going to free me and the other shooters up for a lot of open shots. I think it's going to be scary how good we can be with Marco and D.J. down low."
If everything goes perfect for the Hoosiers, Strickland should be able to leave Indiana with his one wish coming true.
"The perfect way to end my IU career would probably be going into senior night number one in the Big Ten," said Strickland. "Winning the Big Ten championship on senior night and going into the tournament with a high seed would be the best way for this trip to end."
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