Bloomington, Ind. – Kelvin Sampson's second Hoosier team will likely have a very different approach to point production than his first.
This year's Indiana squad, which recently wrapped up a 21-11 season with a second-round NCAA tourney loss to UCLA, relied a great deal on its ability to score from behind the 3-point arc. The Hoosiers finished with 252 3-pointers – a total that ranked second to Ohio State's 262 in the Big Ten – and also shot a conference-best 38.1 percent from deep.
"If we didn't shoot 3s, we'd be in trouble," Sampson said. "This team couldn't shoot enough 3s. It's how we won."
But Indiana reliance on the 3-point shot wasn't a result of Sampson's affinity for long-range bombs. Instead, it was dictated by an IU roster that featured players who were better shooters than penetrators. That will change to a large degree next year thanks to a recruiting class that features a handful of players are much more adept attacking the basket.
"Jordan Crawford can get to the rim, Jamarcus Ellis can get to the rim, Eric Gordon can get to the rim, Brandon McGee can get to the rim," Sampson said. "Every coach has an idea how he'd like his team to play. The thing about college is you can recruit kids to your style."
If that's the case, then it goes to reason Sampson's preference is to attack teams off the dribble and in transition as opposed to raining 3-point shots on them. That's a strength of the incoming recruits, and it was an obvious weakness on this year's squad.
The best of the bunch might just be Ellis, the 6-5, 195-pound Chipola (Fla.) Junior College All-American who averaged 15.6 points, 8.7 rebounds and 6.3 assists this season. Through 28 games Ellis had made only 12 3-pointers, instead doing much of his offensive work off the dribble.
"Jamarcus Ellis is a good player – people just haven't seen him," Sampson said. "Jamarcus isn't a 3-point shooter. That doesn't mean he can't make one but his game is attacking you off the dribble."
Crawford, meanwhile, is a capable 3-point shooter but versatile enough to do his work off the bounce as well.
"Jordan Crawford is an okay 3-point shooter," Sampson said. "But his game is attacking the rim and creating. He's an outstanding passer."
Those characteristics are a big reason why Ellis and Crawford could find the ball in their hands a lot next season. Both are versatile enough to play a couple of positions on the floor, but they'll be two of the three players on the IU roster with experience playing the point along with sophomore-to-be Armon Bassett.
With the new additions, Sampson figures to put those skills to good use with an offensive approach that will be very different than this season's.
"Not only (will be rely less on the 3-point shot), but less on half court (as well)," Sampson said. "Being able to score in transition has a lot to do with being able to get the ball to the rim.
"I didn't come in here trying to take a square peg and put it in a round hole. You assess your players' strengths and then play to their strengths…The way we'll play next year is to the strength of the kids we're bringing in."
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