Dayton, Ohio —
He’s the one of Indiana’s three seniors who hasn’t been a major on-court contributor this season.
While Christian Watford and Jordan Hulls have been starters for all but one of the Hoosiers’ games this season, Derek Elston’s final year in the cream and crimson has been full of ups and down.
Elston missed the first 10 games of the season while recovering from knee surgery. He didn’t play in the Big Ten Tournament last week and played just 16 games total all season, for a total of 109 minutes.
And while he didn’t play a lot of minutes in IU’s 83-62 win over James Madison on Friday in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, he still was glad to get on the floor.
“I feel great,” he said after playing eight minutes on Friday, his most court action since playing nine minutes against Iowa on March 2.
“(At the) Big Ten Tournament, I had my knee worked on a little bit. Coach (Tom Crean) didn’t feel like I was ready to go 100 percent; he was probably right.
“So a couple weeks here in practice, I’ve just been getting better and better gradually, slowly progressing, and went I got out today I felt great. No worries at all.”
Elston showed he’s still got some lift in his legs, jumping to block a shot by James Madison’s Andre Nation.
“Something like that’s going to build my confidence, and I was ready to go for the rest of the day.”
Elston hasn’t played more than 11 minutes in any game this season, and as the games get tougher, his minutes will likely decrease. Will Sheehey and Remy Abell and Jeremy Hollowell are IU’s top reserves now.
But Elston realizes the bench’s confidence as a whole will be critical as the games go on.
“To have the guys on the bench get in there and get a little more minutes and build their confidence, Hanner (Mosquera-Perea) came in there and played great the last couple of minutes. … All that is just confidence-builders, and the next time we get out there to play, use that confidence and just take off with it.”