BLOOMINGTON – There’s been high anticipation about the arrival of Indiana freshman point guard Khristian Lander since the five-star recruit from Evansville reclassified to enroll at IU for the Class of 2020.
Through summer and individual workouts, the 6-foot-2, 185-pound Lander has worked on bulking up physically and gaining chemistry with his new teammates.
“Each and every day I’m getting stronger, and I’m getting the hang of the offense,” Lander said. “I feel like I’m a fast learner, so I feel like I’m going to get the hang of stuff. As long as I keep getting stronger, I’ll be good.”
To handle playing point guard in the rough-and-tumble Big Ten, Lander is spending a fair share of time with men’s basketball strength coach Clif Marshall.
“(Khristian) coming in was huge for us, especially getting another guard,” IU sophomore forward Trayce Jackson-Davis said. “He’s a really explosive guard, he’s got a really high IQ, especially for how young he is and obviously the sky is the limit for him. He’s going to keep getting better every day, especially in the weight room with Clif, just learning the new offense, learning how the college game is, and when the game slows down for him, he’s going to be a really, really good player.”
Jackson-Davis and Lander, the two five-star talents on IU’s roster, are developing an on-court rapport with one another as well.
“With our new offense, there’s a lot of ball screening, but especially with him at the point, I can come up and set high ball screens, and wing ball screens and stuff of that nature, and he can come off and make plays,” Jackson-Davis said. “He’s done really well for a freshman already to be able to make plays off the dribble.”
IU coach Archie Miller, who rarely played three-guard lineups last season, hasn’t ruled out the possibility of playing Lander with returning starting guards Al Durham and Rob Phinisee on the court at the same time. Lander said he’s developing chemistry playing together with Phinisee in a two point guard lineup.
“Both of us can play on ball and off ball, so I feel like we can play off each other very well,” Lander said.
Jackson-Davis earned preseason third-team, All-American honors from Blue Ribbon Magazine after a freshman season in which the 6-9, 245-pound forward led the Hoosiers in scoring (13.5 ppg), rebounding (8.4 rpg) and blocked shots (59).
When deciding to bypass the NBA draft and come back to IU last April, Jackson-Davis said Miller challenged him to play at an All-American level this season.
“He’s put really high expectations on me and given me a lot of confidence to produce,” Jackson-Davis said. “I mean, it’s an honor to get those, but at the same time, I’m just here to win basketball games. The accolades will come with all that.”
Jackson-Davis said he’s worked on two key aspects of his game, finishing with his right hand and expanding his shooting range, which he thinks will result in more offensive production this season.
“For me, it’s just really about getting my confidence up,” Jackson-Davis said. “My coaches never told me not to shoot the ball or shift in my confidence. I’ve been gaining that in the offseason, so just to be able to keep getting higher reps and just keep expanding and expanding and expanding. So that’s really what I’ve been working on, so hopefully by the time the season comes around I’m ready to take those shots.”
No official decision has been made yet, but due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, IU is facing the real possibility of having no or limited fans at 17,000-seat Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall this season.
For incoming IU freshman guard Anthony Leal, a Bloomington native who grew up going to games at Assembly Hall, the dream of playing his first game in a Hoosier uniform may be different than what he envisioned with a sellout crowd in the stands.
“I wouldn’t have imagined it, but at the same time, it’s still the same opportunity,” Leal said. “We’re still playing and working for the same goal, so I’m going to embrace it just as equally as I would have.”
GALLOWAY ON MEND
Indiana freshman swingman Trey Galloway said his shooting hand is fully healed. Hand and wrist injuries impacted Galloway’s shooting during his senior high school season at Culver Academies.
“I’m healthy now,” Galloway said. “I’ve been healthy for the whole summer and the spring. I was battling it my senior year, but I feel a whole lot better and I’ve been trying to improve my shot, work on it the whole summer.”
At 6-4 and 210 pounds, Galloway has shown an ability to play and guard multiple positions in his high school career, from point guard to shooting guard to small forward.
“I think the one through three is the main positions I focused on in my whole career,” Galloway said. “But wherever the coaches want me, wherever they feel I need to be, that’s where I’ll go. If that’s the 1-2-3, guarding different positions, I’m going to do my best to try to defend either-or.”