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Indiana Basketball 2019-20 Preview: Guards

The guards on the 2019-2020 Indiana basketball roster present a variety of talent that will be crucial for Hoosier success.

Excluding walk-ons, the roster features four guards, all of whom should receive considerable playing time. The Hoosier guards include a player from each class:

  • Devonte Green, No. 11, Sr.
  • Al Durham, No. 1, Jr.
  • Rob Phinisee, No. 10, So.
  • Armaan Franklin, No. 2, Fr.

The strength of the backcourt for Indiana is that the group comes in with plenty of experience, except for Franklin of course. Phinisee spurred himself into the role of starting point guard as a true freshman a year ago, Durham made 30 starts in 34 games played as an off-ball guard and Green, while only starting nine times last season, averaged above 25 minutes played per game.

Along with the returning experience, each guard brings a different skillset to the table and can contribute in a number of ways. Choosing which ball handlers will be in the starting backcourt could be a difficult task for Indiana head coach Archie Miller. Last year, Miller often used a three-guard set in the starting lineup with Phinisee, Durham and former Hoosier Romeo Langford. A starting lineup with Phinisee, Durham and Green this time around is a likely possibility.

Let’s take a closer look at what makes each of the guards different and how they can make an impact for Indiana.

Devonte Green

As a senior and one of the two team captains, it is finally Green’s time to shine. Despite not being a regular starter a season ago, Green was a crucial piece to the rotation and showed glimpses of his full potential down the stretch.

Devonte Green dribbles into the lane against Ohio State during last year’s Big Ten Tournament in Chicago. Green finished with 26 points. (Kurt Spitler/HN)

Indiana may not have a definitive star entering the year, but Green is capable of being the go-to guy for the Hoosiers. Green’s strengths lie on the offensive end of the court. As a junior, he averaged 9.4 points per game, good for third on the team in scoring. Green boasted a 40.2% field goal percentage and chipped in three assists per game as well.

Green’s 3-point shooting prowess is what separates him from the rest of the roster as the undisputed best long-range shooter on the team. A season ago, the captain converted on 41% of his 3-point attempts, the best percentage on the team by far. The closest teammate to that was Durham at 34.8%. Green’s 3-point field goal percentage ranked eighth in the Big Ten as well.

Three-point shooting was a massive struggle for Indiana a season ago, and it could potentially be a problem area for the Hoosiers once again. As a team last season, Indiana only converted on 31.4% of its 3-point shots. Green is the top guy to fill that void, and it demonstrates his value to the team.

Green found his rhythm at the end of last season and in the NIT. He was playing the best basketball of his career at that point and heightened the expectations for his senior campaign in the process.

In a five-game stretch to end the year that included the last regular season game against Rutgers, the Big Ten Tournament game against Ohio State and the three NIT contests, Green averaged 16.8 points per game while shooting 48.6% from long range.

More of that is what Indiana needs out of Green in his final go-around. This is the senior’s last chance to make the tournament in his career.

Al Durham

Entering his third season, Durham has done a little bit of everything for Indiana. He contributes on defense, scoring the ball from long range and in transition, but more than anything Durham is a hustler.

Durham’s vocal presence on the court and his leadership may not show up on the stat sheet but it earned him the honor of being a team captain as a junior. Durham’s effort has allowed him plenty of playing time from the beginning of his career to now, but like his freshman to his sophomore year, big improvement is expected.

As a sophomore, Durham emerged as a routine starter where he showed growth in about every statistical category from his first year. Last season, Durham averaged 8.3 points per game, the fourth most on the team, and hit 40.3% of his shots. He also led the team in free-throw percentage with a 74% mark and had the second highest 3-point percentage on the team.

Durham didn’t move the ball as efficiently as he scored it though, only averaging 1.6 assists per game. This figure should increase with the potential of Durham having to handle more ball-handling responsibilities when Phinisee and Green are on the bench.

The potential of Durham playing as a point guard or an off-ball guard provides a lot of flexibility to Miller in his lineups and will ultimately give more depth to the backcourt unit, even if there are only four scholarship guards.

Like Green, Durham will be heavily relied upon for picking up the slack of IU’s struggles in 3-point shooting. If he can make an improvement like he did from his freshman to sophomore year from deep, that could be crucial. Durham improved from being a 28.6% 3-point shooter to 34.8% as a sophomore. With that kind of improvement Durham has the chance to be a lethal offensive weapon for Indiana while also easing Green’s burden from beyond the arc.

Rob Phinisee

Rob Phinisee runs the offense for Indiana in its win over Marquette last year. (Josh Eastern/HN)

The most obvious way Phinisee stands out among the group is the fact that he is a true, pass-first point guard, a role that isn’t natural for the other three. Additionally, Phinisee excelled as the team’s floor general as a freshman last year.

Phinisee earned his esteemed reputation through his ability to run Indiana’s offense, primarily as a distributor. He led the team with 94 assists and averaged just under three of them per contest. The sophomore also took good care of the ball, his assist-to-turnover ratio stood out at a 2.29 mark in his 18-19 campaign.

A focus on moving the ball doesn’t take away from his ability to score it either. Phinisee should provide a decent scoring chunk this season after averaging 6.8 points per game while shooting at about 36% from the field as a freshman. He eclipsed double-digits point totals in eight games as well.

Arguably the best aspect to his game though, is his on-ball defense. At only 6-foot-1, Phinisee may be undersized but his effort and toughness compensate for the shorter stature. Phinisee averaged a steal per game and had a season-high five steals against Chicago State.

The floor general held his own against some stiff competition last year. In a home win against Marquette, Phinisee guarded Markus Howard who was the fifth-leading scorer in the country, averaging 25 points per game and shooting 42% from long range. Howard’s efficiency was disrupted as he was held to 18 points on the night and went 1-for-5 from the 3-point line.

Phinisee also came up clutch when guarding Michigan State’s All-American point guard Cassius Winston. On the final possession of a 63-62 home win, Phinisee defended Winston into a tough shot and miss in the final seconds to secure a crucial win over the No. 6-ranked Spartans. 

Armaan Franklin

Franklin comes into the rotation as the great unknown of the group. Based off his combination of skill, versatility and athleticism displayed in his prep career, it is safe to assume he should see substantial playing time off the bench.

When on the court, Franklin will serve as a shooting guard. The freshman enters the collegiate ranks with an excellent reputation for being a two-way player, his defensive discipline should bode well in Miller’s packline defense and allow him to see the floor early.

Another advantage for Franklin compared to the other guards would be his physical attributes. At 6-foot-4, Franklin is even in height with Durham to be the tallest of the backcourt options. Moreover, Franklin might be the most athletic of the group, which should ease his transition as a high school player to the college game.

Offensively, Franklin’s strength is scoring the ball when close to the rim both as a driver and through close-range jumpers. His 3-point shot is developing, but not a definitive strength of his yet. In his senior year at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis, Franklin averaged 23.8 points and 2.2 assists per game.

In his one college game thus far, Franklin has already shown he can make an impact. In IU’s 72-69 loss to Marquette in a secret scrimmage in Indianapolis, Franklin led the Hoosiers in scoring with 14 points and hit two of his five 3-point shot attempts. The freshman also contributed three assists, two rebounds and a steal as well.

It should be noted that neither Phinisee nor Green played in the scrimmage.

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