Bloomington – No one is going to throw anything at Malik Story this season that he hasn't seen before.
The 6'5", 220-pound freshman from Los Angeles is readying himself for a season that will likely be largely spent in the paint. With an IU roster that features only three scholarship players taller than 6'5", Story knows he'll be called on to defend big men on a regular basis.
But he's done it before. Who's the biggest he's had to match up against?
"Greg Oden – I had to guard him," Story said.
Of course, the match-up against the former Indianapolis star and No.1 NBA Draft pick came on the AAU circuit, and it didn't involve hand-to-hand combat for a full 40 minutes. But Story said he did learn some tricks of the trade growing up playing against his father, Kenny, around the basket. Kenny stands 6'8" and would make every effort to back his son down in plenty of one-on-one encounters.
"Having to guard my dad in the post, I'd use my feet and my quickness to my advantage," Story said. "I'm also a pretty strong guy."
Story will have to use everything he's learned from those experiences this season to help stop opposing big men from having their way with the Hoosiers. IU Coach Tom Crean has indicated that both Story and fellow freshman Nick Williams will spend plenty of time playing at the ‘4' this year, putting both at a size disadvantage almost every time they step on the floor.
Story says his approach on that end of the floor will depend on what Crean wants him to do, but he does have some tools that he believes will help when he goes up against bigger players.
"If he's stronger than me, I'll probably try to front him because I can deny the pass that way," Story said.
However Story and Williams and IU's other interior players go about trying to match-up defensively, they know they'll be at a disadvantage as far as size throughout the upcoming campaign. While that will create some challenges on the defensive end, they believe it will help them on the other end of the floor.
"We have to guard them, but they have to guard us too, so it's a mismatch both ways," Story said. "We can shoot the ball, and they'll probably try to pound it inside. It's almost like it's going to be back and forth mismatches, so we'll have to see who can use them the most."
Indiana also figures to try to push the pace as well in an effort to keep teams from slowing things down and turning games into a halfcourt, grind-it-out contests as well. That's a style that Story has played all his life, and one a lot of players believe will be foreign to most teams in the Big Ten.
Story isn't necessarily one of those, though, since he admits that his knowledge about the Big Ten is limited. Growing up on the West Coast he's followed the Pac-10 schools and is just now learning about Big Ten basketball.
"I've never really seen the Big Ten play, so I wouldn't know (if IU's style will be something different for conference teams)," Story said.
One would think that lack of familiarity would have made Story think twice about making the move from the West Coast to the Midwest, but he said it was Crean's personality and style that quickly made him realize IU was right for him.
"At first it was hesitant about playing in the Big Ten, but I came here and I saw tape with coach and saw he played up-tempo, and that's why I came," Story said. "He has enthusiasm, and he's a genuine guy, good to talk to, and a great coach."
Story Thinks Hoosiers Will Measure Up
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