TERRE HAUTE —
Not even two weeks into their college experience, Indiana State freshmen men’s basketball players Alex Etherington and Demetrius Moore stood sentinel as 115 kids ran around them collecting basketballs and getting autographs at the Greg Lansing Basketball Camp on Thursday.
By rule, the ISU newbies couldn’t participate, but they could observe. What they wanted to see was how their veteran teammates interacted in their role as community ambassadors.
“I want to watch [the ISU players] and watch how hard they work. When you watch them, you realize how hard it is,” Etherington said.
Quite well, actually. There were plenty of smiles to go around. Some ISU players — notably Jake Kitchell and Justin Gant — sported hockey-style playoff beards that seemed to go over well with the kids.
Etherington and Moore are trying to catch on to what life will be like as Sycamores. So far, they’ve enjoyed what they’ve experienced.
“I feel pretty comfortable with everything. I’m getting into the swing of things after having come from Florida. I can’t coach here [at camp], but I learned a lot by watching everyone else and watching them communicate with kids,” Moore said.
Etherington, a 6-foot-6 small forward, and Moore, a 6-8 forward, share a common bonding experience, but they approach it from different backgrounds.
Etherington, a Cicero native, was a standout at Hamilton Heights High School and participated in some of the games on the Indiana summer All-Star circuit. Moore, a Paxton, Fla. native, is back to school after he sat out a year due to aborted commitments at Louisiana Tech and Troy.
Still, the adjustments for both are much the same. Both are getting used to the pace of the limited open-gym sessions the players are permitted to have. Both are getting used to the routine of balancing basketball activities against their summer classes.
“It’s 10 times harder than high school. Classes are different. It’s a lot harder than I expected, but I’m enjoying it,” Etherington said.
ISU coach Greg Lansing knows it isn’t easy for the new guys.
“It’s hard for new guys, even if they’re hard-working kids. They get here and find out how hard we work and how hard our guys work. Our program is to the point where it’s just going to continue. Our veterans show them how hard to work and what kind of energy they need to do it with,” Lansing said.
All of the current players participated in camp save Manny Arop — who is with the Canadian Development National Team’s training camp in Oregon in preparation for July’s World University Games at Kazan, Russia — and Brenton Scott, who is still taking part in post-high school All-Star activities.
The current players were joined as camp coaches by former Sycamores Djibril Kante and Harry Marshall.
n APR improvement — The NCAA’s Academic Progress Rating is not something that fans of any school automatically recognize as important, but given that a program’s postseason fate is tied to good performance for the annual score, coaches know it’s a big deal.
So Lansing was pleased that ISU increased its 2011-12 APR score. The Sycamores had a score of 957 — a 28-point improvement from their 2010-11 score, the biggest leap of any Missouri Valley Conference school.
“It starts with the assistant coaches, they do the majority of the academic stuff. We have more rules academically than we do with other things. It’s huge. It’s important to Dr. Bradley [ISU President] and Mr. [Ron] Prettyman [ISU Director of Athletics] and it’s important to us,” said Lansing, who noted that all but one of the eligible players in his tenure have graduated.
ISU’s APR was 929 for the 2010-11 season. In 2014-15, the NCAA could levy postseason bans to programs that are below the 930 APR threshold. So improvement was vital.
Lansing said academic performance was emphasized under his watch regardless of NCAA edicts.
“When we look into the eyes of mom’s and dad’s and we tell we’re going to take care of them and educate them. When we pledge to them that it’s important to us, we’re going to follow through on that,” Lansing said.