BLOOMINGTON-After spending last season playing out of position at power forward, sophomore Robert Vaden loved the chance to slide back to his natural wing position during the first exhibition game of the season, scoring a team-high 17 points.
Now, with the injury to fellow sophomore D.J. White, it looks like Vaden will find himself playing out of position on occasion once again. With White sidelined for at least six weeks with a broken foot, Vaden could see a little bit of time again at power forward beginning tonight, when IU hosts Indianapolis at 8 p.m. for the team's second exhibition contest.
"Last year I played the four almost the whole season," said Vaden. "I don't care. If Ben (Allen), Cem (Dinc) or (Sean) Kline can't play for some reason, I would be able to step in. I have some experience down there so I don't think it would be a problem. We have a lot of depth this year."
Vaden did just fine last season, despite being forced to spend most of his time battling bigger men in the post. He led the Hoosiers in steals with 45, was third in scoring with 10.2 points a game and pulled downed 4.3 rebounds a game.
"I just need to play defense, score when I'm needed to and pass the ball," said Vaden. "I feel our defense is going to be the key to a lot of our wins. Defense is the main place for me to step up."
Defense is Vaden's favorite part of his game. Last season he was nominated for the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, despite giving up a couple of inches to just about everyone he went up against. He is prepared to make another run at the honor this season, and he does not see playing the power forward as something standing in his way.
"I think it should help just because I'll be playing out of position," said Vaden. "If I'm playing great defense then I think it should only help because I'll be guarding guys bigger then me in the post and I'll be guarding guys on the wing. It's one of my goals. I pride myself on defense and there would be no bigger honor for me. I was nominated for it last year so I hope to be nominated again this season."
Vaden is convinced the depth that the Hoosiers have talked about all fall will rise to the occasion with White out. Kline, who is expected to start tonight in White's place, appears to be playing some of the best basketball of his career and Allen is seen as someone who can contribute right away.
"It's better (that the injury happened) now than December," said Vaden. "It'll give some guys some playing time like the freshmen. So they can get some experience for however long D.J. is out. We're just going to need some guys step up and play big.
"I see Ben being able to step in. I know he can step out and shoot the three and bang his body inside. We have Kline, he played a good game against St. Joseph's. We've got guys who can come in and play the position."
No matter who steps in at the power forward position, Vaden knows the Hoosiers need to take care of a few things before the regular season starts.
"We need to improve our rebounding and defense," said Vaden. "That's something we were unable to do last game. We didn't rebound well enough or play defense well enough. Even though we won by a lot of points, we didn't play well enough by our standards. We need communicate better and get to our spots in help side."
Vaden Ready If Needed
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