Bloomington, Ind. – After figuring out a way to survive the last several weeks with a shortage of guards, IU might soon have an overabundance of perimeter players.
Barring any last-minute issues, IU Coach Kelvin Sampson said he expects to have both A.J. Ratliff and Armon Bassett back for Saturday's match-up against Chicago State.
Bassett will be back from a three-game suspension for a violation of an unspecified team rule. Ratliff, meanwhile, missed the first semester due to academic ineligibility and was then sidelined for the Coppin State game due to an ankle injury suffered in practice last week. But Sampson said Ratliff's ankle is much better and he anticipates he'll be ready Saturday.
"He's a lot better than he was," Sampson said. "If we had a game tonight, he'd play."
If Ratliff is in fact able to go, Indiana will have its full complement of guards for the first time this season. Ratliff has missed all 11 games, while Jordan Crawford (three-game suspension) and Eric Gordon (missed 1 ½ games due to a back injury) have also been sidelined in recent weeks.
Those absences have left the team occasionally incredibly short-handed in the backcourt. The situation was most dire during a 70-51 win over Kentucky, when Jordan Crawford and Jamarcus Ellis were the only available guards and both played the entire game until Ellis fouled out with five minutes remaining and Crawford finally exited with one minute left on the clock.
Sampson had to figure out a way to survive with less, and now he'll need to figure out how to work with more. Eric Gordon figures to continue to log 30-plus minutes per game, and Ellis leads the team with 350 minutes played. Bassett was averaging more than 30 minutes/game before his suspension, and Crawford has averaged 32.3 minutes and 16.0 points in the last three games. Ratliff, meanwhile, is a senior who averaged 22.0 minutes and 9.3 points a year ago while shooting a team-best 40.7 percent from 3-point range.
It's a good problem to have, but Sampson will have to figure out exactly how to divvy up the minutes amongst a group of guards that are all capable to play 25-plus minutes/game.
"It will be interesting to see how we play five guards," Sampson said. "We'll have to wait and see."
While Sampson said he anticipates having all of his guards back, IU will still be short-handed up front. Sampson said he doesn't expect freshman Eli Holman to be able to play due to a left wrist injury.
"If it was his right (wrist) I think he could play," Sampson said of his left-handed freshman center. "But the left, I don't think so. He can't bend his wrist.
"Right now he couldn't shoot a free throw. He couldn't follow through. Same with the jump hook. When it's your shooting hand, there's a tendency to let it heal and see how it progresses."
Ratliff, Bassett Both Expected Back
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