Zach McRoberts has been the definition of a “glue player” in his time at Indiana.
He’s gone from not playing basketball, to walk-on bench player, defensive specialist and ultimately a starter. Last season, his minutes doubled, and he saw increases in almost every statistical category. His points, rebounds, steals and shooting are all on an upward trajectory.
Now as a senior, what will his role be on this talented Indiana team?
The easy answer to what McRoberts’ role will be is a team captain. He and Juwan Morgan are the two captains for the 2018 Hoosiers, representing the Hoosiers at Big Ten Media Day.
McRoberts’ career has been all over the place. He started as a high-school star with the Carmel Greyhounds then played at Vermont his freshman year, before transferring to IU and sitting out a year in 2015-16. However, after missing basketball, he walked on to the team in 2016. Playing time wasn’t immediate, but his hard work took him from seeing very few minutes, to starting.
Through all his hard work and all the ups and downs, McRoberts’ teammates noticed and voted him team captain this season.
“Really appreciate my teammates voting for me, having that respect for me to put me in that position,” McRoberts said, “That’s something I really enjoy.”
"I think he's admired for what he does and the guy never complains."
— The Hoosier Network (@TheHoosierNet) October 11, 2018
What does this mean for his role with the team? Archie Miller hopes it means leading Indiana to wherever he and Juwan want to lead them. Miller said that “sometimes the most successful guys embrace that last run” in their senior seasons, and he’s hoping McRoberts will follow suit.
Miller will turn to McRoberts for help throughout the season, making leadership one of his most important roles on a fairly young Hoosier team.
“If a game isn’t going well, how are you going to talk to your teammates during down time, during huddles, during halftime? If we’re not having a good practice, what are you going to say to get the team back in order?” Miller said. “Those are the challenges for those guys, and they know it.”
Hardest Working Player in the Country
When McRoberts ran onto the floor during Hoosier Hysteria, the PA announcer referred to him as the “hardest working player in the country.” McRoberts says he likes the name.
“I’ll take it. That’s a high honor and that’s nice to hear,” McRoberts said.
McRoberts finished the season second in steals in Big Ten games and fifth overall in the conference. He also set a Crossroads Classic record with seven offensive rebounds in the win over Notre Dame and ended the season averaging 1.3 steals per game and 1.25 offensive rebounds per game.
Outside of being captain, his effort plays on defense and aggressiveness on the glass could be his biggest role on this team. Miller knows he is going to give it everything he has each time he steps on the floor.
Zach McRoberts has gone from a walk-on after taking a year off basketball to now a senior captain this season.@ZainPyarali sat down with the hardest-working man in college basketball as he reflects on his time at Indiana and what is still to come. #iubb pic.twitter.com/bdUd1YgKu4
— The Hoosier Network (@TheHoosierNet) October 11, 2018
“You know when he’s done with a workout, a practice or a game, there isn’t anybody in the locker room… that looks at him and says that guy did everything he possibly could for us today,” Miller said.
That type of attitude is an everyday thing for McRoberts. He knows his role, and in the past, he has filled it well with exceptional effort plays and a mindset of being the hardest worker on the floor.
“Just going in everyday with a mindset that you’re going to try and outwork everybody, then just try to earn your role every day,” McRoberts said. “I know nothing’s ever given to you, so you just got to go in there, work hard and hopefully reap the rewards.”
Three-point shooting is possibly the most important role for McRoberts this season, because it will be new. This is the biggest unknown for those of us outside of practice who haven’t seen him since last season.
In the 2017-18 season, he was hesitant to shoot threes, even when left wide open. McRoberts shot 39.4 percent from beyond the arc, but only attempted 33 shots. Miller said he’s a much more confident open catch-and-shoot guy this season. He doesn’t want him to shoot all the time, but he wants him to be confident when he finds himself open.
“My hope for him is to be that guy they have a hard to leaving,” Miller said. “Make the open one. You don’t have to make 10 of them but make the open ones and be aggressive with your shot. He’s done that in practice right now, he’s shooting a good percentage.”
"Just wanted to improve that aspect of my game and I've been working at it."
— The Hoosier Network (@TheHoosierNet) September 26, 2018
His role on this team can certainly include being a three-point sharp shooter. McRoberts knew that, spending much of his offseason developing a confident shot.
“I’ve definitely been working on that,” McRoberts said. “Everyday just working on my shot, being more comfortable out there.”
There isn’t just one role that McRoberts will fill this season. He’s a glue guy, and he can be utilized in many different ways this season. We know what he brings with his leadership and his work ethic, but if he can add a consistent, confident three-point shot to his arsenal, he will be someone on the top of opponent’s scouting reports.
His impact on this team won’t be able to be measured, but his role as a hard-working senior captain will be important with a young Indiana squad.