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Archie Miller’s First Senior Class: A Class to be Remembered

When Archie Miller arrived at Indiana, he didn’t know what he would be getting from this roster.

With a roster of individuals sold on the ideals of a different era, it wouldn’t have been surprising if Miller’s approach had fallen to the wayside. Instead, Miller found himself a group of seniors that were set to define the future of his program.

“Your seniors can go a lot of different ways when there’s change, especially when there’s a lot of ups and downs in a season,” Miller said.

What Miller got from this unique and dynamic group of seniors was quite simply and unprecedented amount of “Buy-in.” It’s a sentiment that Miller has harped upon all season long, and yet, it’s a sentiment that we truly won’t grow to appreciate until years after this initial season.

The reason behind statement is the understanding that this senior class defied the odds and came together to establish a precedent for success moving forward. This class let Archie be Archie and allowed the newest man on campus to begin shaping his program and his system.

Without a doubt, that development took time.

When the Hoosiers left Assembly Hall on November 10, it seemed impossible. After giving up 90 points to Indiana State, it seemed impossible to ever expect this team to leave its old tendencies and adapt to the defensive mindset of the pack line defense.  Now, behind the lead of its seniors, Indiana Basketball has established a spring board to prosperity.

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The best example of this vital “Buy-in” comes from senior Collin Hartman. Hartman uniquely returned to Indiana as a redshirt senior after memorably going through senior night festivities at the end of last season. He seemingly ended his career and established his future by proposing to his girlfriend in front of a sold-out Assembly Hall crowd.

With everything pointing towards his future away from campus, Hartman returned to have potentially the worst statistical season of his career. Even with that it mind, it has also been his most important.

“He’s a leader,” Miller said. “I think he’s probably — deep down inside, he’d say to himself, I’m a shell of probably what I was at one point in my career, and the injuries certainly played a big role, not in his inconsistency but his inability to really get in rhythm…He’s given us another guy that really has been about the right things all the time…He’s been a guy that just has not had that opportunity to really get in great rhythm…But I’m glad he came back. He’s been awesome to be around. He’s been awesome for our staff to have a guy that’s a little bit older, a little bit more mature help our young guys. So he’s been good.”

It’s a frustrating sentiment to express, but for Archie Miller, it has always been about more than Hartman’s performances on the court. What has made Hartman so crucial has been his mentality. It’s a mentality fueled by growing up Indiana, playing basketball in a state that lives basketball. It’s a mentality that every Hoosier basketball player has to embody in order to succeed.

“I think that what I’ll cherish most is obviously the relationships, but also being from Indiana, wearing Indiana across your chest, it brings a lot of pride, and it humbles me to see how much it impacts people’s lives, how ingrained people are into basketball,” Hartman said. “It’s their culture, it’s their lifestyle, and I think having the impact that we do and the influence that we do and being able to represent not just the University, not just the program, but you’re representing people’s lifestyle, and it’s humbling and it’s an experience that not a lot of people get to feel.”

What’s remarkable about Hartman’s thought process is his ability to push beyond the health related adversity and still work to make the individuals around him better.

“It actually started a lot with my faith, my religion and just staying focused and focusing on what matters and controlling what you can control,” Hartman said. “I surround myself with a lot of good guys, all these guys here at the table and the program and good people outside the program. So it’s just — you have to be the kind of guy that’s going to uplift everybody around you, even if you’re not feeling the best or you’re not in the best state of mind. Just kind of stay focused on that.”

All of it has come together to embody who Collin Hartman is and what he means to Indiana Basketball. Over seven years ago, Hartman committed to Tom Crean and the direction he planned to take the program. Now almost miraculously, Hartman finds himself at the forefront of Archie Miller’s ideas for greatness.

“It’s been a long, long time ago since I’ve been around the program,” Hartman said. “Obviously I committed sophomore year, so that was a long time ago. But I just want to say for the record, Josh Newkirk is older than me. I’ve always got to throw that out there. But yeah, it’s been a long time. It’s been a great road. I don’t know if there’s very many people that have been a part of the program longer than I have, from my commitment to graduation. I’d like to maybe claim that. I don’t know if that’s a thing, but I’m going to claim it.”

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With all that Hartman has represented for this program, he isn’t the only one that has pushed beyond their past to establish this work ethic based precedent. As Hartman defines what it means to be a vocal leaders, his counterpart Robert Johnson has been the perfect soft spoken compliment.

“Probably can’t put it into words, just how much he has given to our staff,” Miller said of Johnson. “It hasn’t been just like one day or one week. It’s been literally the first second we arrived on campus until today, he has been all in, and he’s worked extremely hard not only individually on his own game, but he’s really just done an amazing job of giving everything he has to our process. Regardless of how this season finishes up, he individually from a statistical standpoint, I don’t know if guys will look at it, but what he’s meant to the program in terms of giving us an opportunity to build, to compete, to be able to get better all season long…He’ll go down as one of the guys — hopefully as we build season upon season that you look back on and say he gave us a chance.”

Johnson’s quiet demeanor defined his career. From the moment he got on campus, he had expectations and criticisms that have been almost completly unwarranted. As Indiana fans have seen him face a new role every season, individuals have expected him to become this scoring phenom. With that expectation went without was an understanding for how underappreciated Johnson’s biggest asset actually was. Johnson, quiet in the face of it all, has simply worked hard and become one of the best perimeter defenders in the conference.

“I think I just want to be remembered as a guy who despite whatever circumstances that I came across, I tried to do my best to give the team everything I had and to help the team win in any way I could,” Johnson said.

Johnson, subdued and hard working in nature, fits Archie Miller’s coaching style like a glove. It also adds the unique dynamic that is this senior class. Hartman is a seven year Hoosier, Johnson is a four year silent assassin and they’re far from the most unique in this class.

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Josh Newkirk, went from scoring 16 points for Pittsburgh at Assembly Hall to giving a senior speech in the same location three years later.

“Coming from Pittsburgh to here, I never would have imagined that,” Newkirk said. “It’s been a long journey. To finally be here, after five years, I don’t know, it’s surreal.”

Senior Freddie McSwain Jr. throws down the dunk early in the first half. (Mark Timko/HN)

Then there is Freddie McSwain Jr., a raw talent who played football until 11th grade and transferred to Indiana from Neosho County Community College. As clear as raw abilities were, it was his unprecedented work ethic that has allowed him to blossom into a clear role under Miller.

“Oh, he’s come a long way,” Miller said. “I think Freddie is a guy that’s always had pride in himself as a player and wants more opportunities. With injuries, he’s got his opportunities, and I think when we’ve sort of evolved here over the last I would say seven, eight games, when we’ve needed energy, when we’ve needed rebounding, when we’ve needed a guy to come in here and give that to us, he did it.”

It has been his development as one of the top-10 offensive rebounders in the nation according to KenPom that has shown everyone at this program that if you put your mind to it, you can continue to develop even in your final year.

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And then their is the greatest enigma in college basketball. Tim Priller.

“My four years have been great,” Priller said. “The fan thing is pretty cool and all that, but I really just want to be remembered as a great guy with a great attitude that tried to help my team in any way possible and just do whatever I can to help us win games.”

Priller is an individual who has played 71 career minutes of must watch basketball and ignited a fan base during all of it.

“It doesn’t bother me, but every time it happens, these guys, they want to look at me and smirk at me and stuff, and I try not to laugh,” Priller said.

It all comes together to create a group that should never be forgotten. It can be remembered for its oddities, but it also has to be remembered for its precedent.  It will never be called the most talented group, but the precedent for success that they have established will payoff in the long-run for Indiana and Archie Miller in a way that no one could have expected.

This senior class could have easily given up from the onset. Set in their ways and sold on different ideals, they didn’t have to “Buy-in.”

They didn’t have to “Buy-in,” but the fact that they did should cement them in the history books.

“Something for me that I’ll cherish is the impact that we’ve had on other people’s lives,” Johnson said. “And I think being here is a special place. You get to inspire a lot of people that you don’t come across every day, and for me, I think that’s been special.”

 

Eddie Cotton

I am a junior from Long Island, New York. I’m currently studying Marketing in the Kelley School of Business along with Journalism in The Media School at Indiana University. I’m currently the Co-Sports Director of WIUX (Indiana University’s Student Radio Station) and I am a broadcaster for BTN Student U. I am an individual that tends to thrive with bringing personality to sports coverage. I want to tell stories and help others tell their own. I want to provide a unique perspective. Most importantly, I want to entertain. The Hoosier Network is the ideal place to do that. Follow me on twitter @EdwardKoton15 Email me at ekoton@umail.iu.edu. Please, pretty please, venmo me at @EdwardKoton

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