At Armon Bassett's first individual workout, he got it, all right.
IU Coach Kelvin Sampson didn't like what he was seeing from the Terre Haute, Ind., native during that first 30-minute fall workout, particularly on the defensive end of the floor.
"In October, Armon just wasn't very good," says Sampson. "Conditioning, in the weight room, and the intensity of our workouts, it wasn't clicking with him. Armon just wanted to play ball."
Sampson wanted the 6-1, 176-pounder to play ball, too. But to earn that opportunity, he was going to have to get a whole lot better with his effort and his understanding of the game on the defensive end. It didn't take Sampson long to recognize that, or to point it out in a not-so-delicate-fashion to the freshman guard.
"I got it (about my defense) my first college workout ever," Bassett admits.
He might have gotten it from Sampson then, but he's getting it now. Sampson singled out Bassett for his defensive improvement, suggesting he's improved more since mid-October to now than any player he's ever coached.
Bassett become an even better on-the-ball defender thanks to turning up his effort, and he's made strides in his off-the-ball work as well.
"You get to college and you have to turn up your intensity," Bassett said. "I think I've learned that."
With the improvement on defense has come a more prominent role on this year's team. Bassett is averaging 22.8 minutes, 7.9 points and 2.9 assists per game, and he's started five of the team's 11 games. That included a team-best 16 points in IU's 54-51 loss at Duke, Bassett's first road game of his college career.
Bassett isn't ready to single out the Duke game, though, as his "arrival" as a big part of this year's team.
"(I turned the corner) a little bit (against Duke), but then I went right back around the block against Kentucky," said Bassett.
Against the Wildcats Bassett went scoreless, going 0-of-4 from the field and missing all three of his 3-point attempts in a five-point IU loss. He was far from the only Hoosier to struggle in that contest, as the team combined to miss 50 of 72 shots, including 21 of its 25 3-point attempts at Rupp Arena.
That might have been a setback for Bassett, but it was brief. His play in recent weeks has also become more consistent, including three straight double-digit efforts. He's 12-of-17 from the field in his last two games, including a career-best 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting in an 86-57 win over IUPUI Friday.
"I thought I could play a big role on this team, but I didn't know if it was going to happen (this year)," Bassett said. "That's why I probably was trying to hold back the first couple of games. I didn't know if I could be one of the go-to guys offensively, have to create so much.
"I'm in that role now, and I'm embracing it."
His teammates are embracing him as well. He's split time at the guard spots, and the Hoosier veterans are expecting good things to happen when he's on the floor.
"When I'm on the court with Armon, I feel like something good is going to happen," A.J. Ratliff said. "He's a playmaker - that's what he does. He can hit a big three, get to the goal. He's not playing like a freshman."
Bassett Got It Then, Is Getting It Now
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