BLOOMINGTON-There might not be anyone enjoying Indiana' recent run of success more than senior Marshall Strickland.
After all, this is a guy who arrived in Bloomington just months after the Hoosiers finished their march to the NCAA Championship game in 2002. A top-25 recruit nationally, the Maryland native boasted the sort of resume' that suggested he'd be leading his own expeditions through the tournament fields while leading his own personal assault on Indiana's record book.
Instead, Strickland's first three seasons have involved more struggles than success. Indiana went a combined 50-42 during that three-year span and won only one postseason game. Strickland, meanwhile averaged 9.1 points, 2.6 assists and shot 36.9 percent from the field during those three seasons - not exactly the sort of accomplishments Strickland or Indiana fans had envisioned.
But those disappointments have given way to a big win over Kentucky, a near-miss against No. 1 Duke, a 7-2 record, and a lofty national ranking in his final season in Bloomington.
"This is a lot more enjoyable," said Strickland. "We have really good guys on the team and really good players also, and that's a great combination to have."
Of course, three months ago Strickland might have been the last person you would have thought would be relishing the season more than anyone. After all, the 6-2, 195-pounder was going to be switching from the point guard position that he'd started at for the last two years to shooting guard, a difficult move to swallow for most in their final seasons.
But Strickland has both accepted and excelled in his new role, ranking third on the team in scoring (12.9) and second in both minutes 33.0/game and 3-point shooting (55.6 percent). His marksmanship from behind the 3-point arc ranks him seventh in the Big Ten in the category.
"I've always been a scorer, just a scoring point guard," said Strickland. "That's what I was in AAU and high school, and now I'm just getting the shoot the ball more."
He's been aided in that effort by a presence of Marco Killingsworth and now D.J. White on the interior, a pair of big men who often command double teams and create wide open opportunities for Indiana's shooters on the perimeter. No one has taken advantage of those opportunities more than Strickland.
"I've been really comfortable out on the court," said Strickland. "I've been playing my game. I have some great players around me, so I can really settle in and try to add to the team."
Strickland's contributions, meanwhile, haven't been limited to the offensive end. He's also been one of the team's best perimeter defenders.
"I've been really pleased with him (defensively)," said IU Assistant Head Coach Donnie Marsh. "Strick has always been a really good position defender, and now he's taking that part of his game to another level."
Marsh pointed to a sequence in the Charlotte game when the 49ers were in transition and Strickland was able to coax the Charlotte player into thinking he was going to go up and challenge the shot, and instead settled back and drew a charge during a critical stretch of a game that Indiana eventually won, 71-54.
"He kind of laid on the floor afterwards and pointed over to the bench, because he knew that's what I was looking for," said Marsh, who oversees Indiana's defense.
Strickland, meanwhile, is looking for he sort of success that he was so sure he'd enjoy when he first signed his Indiana letter of intent four years ago. It hasn't come yet, but it appears that his last go-around in an IU uniform produce the sort of magic he's been waiting for.
"This year we're getting it together slowly, and I think once our defense catches up to our offense we'll be a tough team to stop," said Strickland.
Strickland Accepts, Excels In New Role
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