With White Set To Return, Who Is Set To Sit?

BLOOMINGTON-Mike Davis is about to have more players than he knows what to do with.

Mike Davis is about to have more players than he knows what to do with.

In recent years, Indiana Basketball has been saddled with limitations. For reasons that run the gauntlet, the last handful of IU rosters have been devoid of something or someone, leaving Davis and staff without the weaponry to match up with the country's best.

That's no longer the case, at least not in 2005-06. Indiana had nine players play at least 10 minutes in its 79-53 win over Kentucky, and it had an equal number play at least nine minutes in the team's 72-67 loss at Indiana State. Indiana has shooters, slashers and distributors in the backcourt, while the frontcourt has its own gifted athletes along with one very immovable object.

Indiana is about to get even bigger and presumably better with the return of 6-9, 243-pound D.J. White. The reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year, it was White who was supposed to be the headline attraction in Bloomington this year after averaging 13.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.1 blocks a season ago.

After the Kentucky game, Davis said he expects White to return for Indiana's meeting with Charlotte Dec. 19.

"Once we get D.J. back, it takes our team to a different level," said Davis.

But once White does return, does it create a whole new series of questions for Davis and staff to deal with?

Might Indiana have too much of a good thing?

Time will tell. But when Davis gets White back to full strength, he's going to have some difficult personnel decisions to make. By the time the Big Ten season arrives, Indiana will have to settle on an eight or perhaps nine-man rotation, a move that will likely leave a couple of players who either have or expected to play important roles this year on the sidelines.

Who are the potential candidates?

For one, let's start with James Hardy. The 6-7, 215-pound two-sport standout is still waiting to get cleared by the IU medical staff to begin practicing with the basketball team. One of the Big Ten's elite freshmen on the football field in the fall, Hardy has been saddled with a variety of ailments ranging from an Achilles to a hamstring.

This is a player who played in 23 games a year ago and started three times, but the arrival of Ben Allen and the availability of Marco Killingsworth will make frontcourt minutes much more difficult to come by. If he was strictly a basketball player a redshirt season would seem to be a very viable option, but with a decision on whether to play just one sport looming, that seems like less of a possibility.

A second candidate is Errek Suhr. A valuable contributor in the early going this season, the 5-8, 151-pounder from Bloomington North H.S. will likely see his minutes diminish now that A.J. Ratliff appears ready to reclaim his spot in the Hoosiers' backcourt rotation.

If Suhr's playing time drops, it won't be for any reason other than there isn't enough minutes to go around. The one-time walk-on earned a scholarship and his early-season minutes with his hard-nosed play on the practice floor, along with a vastly improved perimeter jump shot. But with Ratliff, Marshall Strickland, Lewis Monroe, Robert Vaden and Earl Calloway certainties to play, Suhr could be the odd man out.

A third player who could see his role diminish is junior Rod Wilmont. A starter in four of the six games he's played in, Wilmont played only 12 minutes against Kentucky, including just one second-half minute thanks to the play of Ratliff. Like Ratliff, Wilmont is an athletic perimeter player who brings energy along with an ability to score from behind the arc. But as Ratliff continues to reclaim his role, Wilmont could be a player whose contributions are sporadic.

A fourth player who will demand some creativity from the coaching staff to get minutes is Ben Allen. The 6'11" Aussie has made huge strides in recent weeks, capped by a 21-point effort at Indiana State. He provides a unique dimension to the frontcourt, giving the Hoosiers a big man who is as deft from behind the arc as anyone on the IU roster.

That said, the majority of the minutes at the power forward and center positions will be going to Killingsworth and White, and Indiana has only occasionally gone with two big men on the floor during the season's first seven games, let alone three. The opportunity to line up with three big bodies like White, Killingsworth and Allen might seem tempting, but it prevents the Hoosiers from playing the up-tempo style that Davis prefers.

Perhaps it's a good problem to have, but there's no question the IU staff is about to have some difficult personnel decisions to make. For all of the weapons that IU now has at it's disposal, the one thing it doesn't have is enough minutes to go around.


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