TERRE HAUTE —
Options. Every team wants them. Not every team has them.
Take Indiana State’s men’s basketball team for example. It thought it had options in its frontcourt going into the 2012-13 season, but Mike Samuels’ broken foot suffered during the preseason trip to the Bahamas changed the equation for the Sycamores.
The injury situation forced ISU to mix-and-match with Justin Gant, Jake Kitchell and R.J. Mahurin, with players such as Gant and Mahurin often playing out of their natural positions.
Mahurin transferred and Samuels is still trying to recover from a second foot surgery during the offseason, but the Sycamores feel much better about their frontcourt options entering this season. Redshirt freshman T.J. Bell and junior college transfer Demetrius Moore are the reason.
Teej and Meech, their nicknames on the practice floor, give the Sycamores decent size — Bell is 6-foot-8 and Moore is 6-foot-7 — but moreover, they both give ISU a dose of athleticism it hasn’t had in some time.
“Since we’ve been here, we’ve known we needed to improve our depth and athleticism. This is as deep as we’ve been and as athletic as we’ve been. We need to consistently stay that way,” ISU coach Greg Lansing said.
They’re different players. Bell has an impressive vertical leap and works hard for easy layups, second-chance opportunities in the paint or a dunk. Moore uses his quickness to pivot around defenders, put the ball on the floor, and get to the basket. He’s also a solid passer.
Bell’s development has been a year in the making. When he arrived from Charleston, Ill. last season, he was extremely raw. It took the introverted Bell some time to get used to the level of conditioning Lansing demands, much less improve upon his skills.
“I told T.J. [on Tuesday] that he’s come farther than any kind in a year that I’ve been around. That being said, he had farther to go than anyone and he still has a long ways to go. He’s improved tremendously,” Lansing said.
Bell’s teammates noticed that he had to use his redshirt season to improve in many areas. But Bell began to come around in last year’s late season practices and his veteran teammates have seen a dramatic change in the course of a year.
ISU guard Jake Odum said Bell’s change from one year to the next is considerable.
“He wasn’t mature and his body hadn’t caught up with where he needed to be to play at the college level. This past year, he really developed, and you can say he became a man,” Odum said. “He’s more mature, he grew into his body and trimmed that baby fat. He’s going to be one of future guys to deal with in the Valley.”
Bell, who worked hard on his conditioning in the offseason, said he’s more comfortable and that comfort level helps a lot.
“Last year helped me a lot. In terms of lifting, getting the hang of things and getting the offense. This year, I know the spots I need to be. I hadn’t seen the plays last year and it comes to me better now. The pace is something I’ve become used to too,” Bell said.
Like most junior college players, Moore is raw entering his first season of Division I basketball, but even more so, considering he sat out a year after playing at Northwest Florida.
Also like most JUCO players, Moore has been relying on his raw talent first as he works on familiarizing himself with his teammates and Lansing’s offense and defense.
“ I feel good. I’ve come here and bonded and I’ve tried to get better. I ran the motion in high school. I didn’t do it at my JUCO, but I’m getting used to it,” Moore said.
The adjustment period is not to be dismissed. Moore’s frontcourt teammate — center Jake Kitchell — noted that ISU’s veterans are trying to get Moore caught up because they know the talent he has to give.
“We’ve been here for at least a year. We know what he wants done and how he wants it done. Demetrius just came from a whole different school. Learning what the coach wants is a hard thing to do, but he’s working at it,” Kitchell said.
Moore’s 6-7, 230-pound frame is one the Sycamores haven’t had in quite some time. Long, athletic and muscular, Lansing compared him physically to former Sycamore Djibril Kante. Players with that kind of build can be hard to come by for Missouri Valley Conference schools.
“It’s hard recruiting at this level to get guys like T.J. and Demetrius. We had to work hard to develop T.J. and we took Demetrius after he sat out a year. It’s so competitive to get interior guys,” Lansing noted.
But if it all works out, ISU will have those interior options teams covet. ISU’s four primary bigs — Bell, Moore, Kitchell and Justin Gant — all do things a little bit differently. If Bell and Moore realize their potential, they will mesh in well with Kitchell, who is a traditional post player, and Gant, who could revert back to the face-up game he’s more adept at than the 5-spot he often played a year ago.
“It’s going to be nice to interchange those guys and have Kitch at the 5-spot. It’ll be nice to have a few more wrinkles,” Odum said.
Bell, Moore give ISU frontcourt choices this season
TERRE HAUTE —
Options. Every team wants them. Not every team has them.
- Indiana State University
ISU win streak at 12
Ryan Keaffaber recorded his sixth save in seven opportunities Monday as Indiana State won its 12th straight college baseball game, holding off a rally by visiting Western Illinois for a 7-4 victory on Bob Warn Field at Sycamore Stadium.
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Sycamores rejuvenated heading into MVC Tournament quarterfinals
Indiana State point guard Jake Odum is sick-and-tired of being sick and tired.
He’s tired of hearing about the team’s three-game losing streak. He’s tired of the Sycamores playing below par. He’s tired of the team not fulfilling its potential.
He plans to do something about it this weekend. Second-seeded ISU begins its Missouri Valley Conference Tournament trek at 7:05 p.m. tonight against either No. 10 Loyola.
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Odum, Smith, Arop recognized by MVC
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Teammate Khristian Smith also received a major individual honor. Smith, a sophomore, earned the MVC’s Sixth Man Award. Senior Manny Arop also was named as an All-MVC honorable-mention selection.
ISU’s Odum earns first-team All-MVC honors
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Senior Day Success
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The storybook was ready to be opened at Hulman Center on Saturday.
Down two with 4.5 seconds to go, Indiana State rebounded a free throw miss by Northern Iowa’s Seth Tuttle. ISU senior point guard Odum timed his dash perfectly up the floor. He released his shot from just behind the 3-point line at just the right second. The shot was true and online.
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Indiana State broke away from a tight ballgame with four runs in the fifth inning and went on to post their eighth-straight victory of the 2014 campaign with a 10-3 triumph over New Orleans Saturday.
David Stagg (3-0) was the winning pitcher for the Sycamores as he went seven innings. He allowed two runs, scattered nine hits and struck out eight.
ISU men’s track leading in MVC indoor championships
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Seeking their second straight championship, the Sycamore men have 64 points to 37 for Illinois State. Indiana State’s women are just two points behind Southern Illinois, 50-48.
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Aside from Teri Moren sticking with her pink Chuck Taylor shoes on the sideline for superstitious reasons, Indiana State’s three-game winning streak can be explained by strong play in nearly every aspect of the game.
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- ISU win streak at 12