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Unfazed freshman Armaan Franklin leads Hoosiers in collegiate debut

Being the only freshman of a backcourt that returned its three lead guards from a year ago, Armaan Franklin wasn’t expected to have as much of a role as he did in his first collegiate game, let alone be the starting point guard.

But that’s exactly what happened as the freshman from Indianapolis stole the show in an 84-54 exhibition win over Gannon Tuesday night.

Freshman Armaan Franklin scored 12 points in his first action as a Hoosier. (Kurt Spitler/HN)

Franklin was forced to be inserted as a starter while playing an unnatural position to him with team captains Devonte Green and Al Durham out with injury. To add to the pressure, regular starting point guard Rob Phinisee was limited off the bench and rusty after dealing with a lower abdominal injury throughout October.

The difficult circumstances didn’t bother Franklin though. The freshman was excellent in his first collegiate game with 12 points while shooting 50% from the field. He varied his scoring, hitting one 3-point attempt, a midrange jumper and some looks around the rim. Along with the scoring, Franklin had eight rebounds and four assists in a team-high 34 minutes played.

“I think Armaan’s the one guy that even surprises me a little bit,” Indiana head coach Archie Miller said of his freshman guard. “He’s been very, very good in our two live-action games. And he’s played out of position tonight for 30 minutes and he hasn’t learned one play at playing point guard, but he started the game at point guard tonight due to what we have kind of endured here in the last 48-some hours.”

Beyond the statsheet, Franklin’s impact was quite visible too. He served as the team’s energizer, being very active on both offense and defense. He consistently pushed the ball and often got Indiana going in transition while playing out of his natural position at point guard.

Franklin’s effort showed and it impressed his teammates, including junior forward Justin Smith.

“For his first time I would say he did a pretty good job,” Smith said. “It’s not easy playing point but he was steady, he got us into our offense, he got us into our sets, and he can definitely build from it going forward.”

Franklin had about a week to prepare playing point guard rather than being off-the-ball after Durham got injured in the Marquette scrimmage last week. Following Durham’s departure, Franklin stepped up then too as he led the team with 14 points in the scrimmage.

Franklin was still a freshman, and naturally made some errors Tuesday. He rushed a few passes and possessions and recorded a team-high four turnovers. The learning that will come from the mistakes and experience gained for the freshman is invaluable, though. This only puts his development ahead of schedule.

As the less heralded of the two freshmen, comparatively to teammate Trayce Jackson-Davis — who was a 2019 McDonald’s All-American and Indiana Mr. Basketball — Franklin proved himself against Gannon.

With the health of Green and Durham being uncertain, Franklin’s importance in learning the point guard position on the fly only increases. It is also unclear how much help he will be able to get from Phinisee. The sophomore guard logged 14 minutes against Gannon and was seen exercising on a bike in the tunnel during the second half.

Despite the strong performance at the one-guard spot, Miller would prefer to see Franklin in his natural position as a shooting guard.

“I think in general, Armaan’s going to be best suited playing with a guy with the ball kind of running our team,” Miller said. “You have three guys that have experience doing it. You keep it simpler for him.”

The regular season looms as the Hoosiers open with Western Illinois in a week. It is very possible that the adverse situation continues, and Franklin will be playing a lot more point guard in the near future even if that’s not what Miller would like.

Regardless of how long Franklin has to keep playing out of position and where he would like to play, his coach has confidence in him moving forward.

“He’s smart, he’s intelligent enough to know how to figure it out,” Miller said.

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