The 2020-2021 Indiana men’s basketball team was expected to be good, but Khristian Lander’s decision to officially reclassify on Monday has heightened those expectations.
Lander, a five-star point guard of Evansville F.J. Reitz High School, had played his entire high school career as a prospect in the 2021 graduating class, but after his commitment to Indiana on Feb. 25, he made it clear that he wanted to move into the 2020 class.
I’m coming Hoosier Nation ⚪️🔴!! pic.twitter.com/EyautlMh1A
— Khristian Lander (@khristianlander) May 18, 2020
“He is a tremendous addition to our program not just as a basketball player, but a great person, and terrific student,” Indiana head coach Archie Miller said.
The decision to reclassify required him to finish a few extra classes in order to graduate high school in three years and sign his National Letter of Intent.
Lander was the top-rated point guard in the 2021 class, but now in 2020 his ranking has dipped a bit. He is still a five-star prospect but is now considered the No. 17 overall player and the No. 4 point guard in the class (247Sports Composite).
Lander’s switch to 2020 also bumps Indiana’s recruiting class ranking up to No. 13 in the country and No. 2 in the Big Ten (247Sports Composite). He will be joining fellow 2020 Indiana signees Jordan Geronimo, Anthony Leal and Trey Galloway.
An improved outlook for next season
Many considered Indiana to be a latter-end top 25 ranked team going into the offseason without accounting for Lander, but with his addition, this should raise general expectation.
Lander adds a level of dynamic playmaking and elite talent at the point guard position that Indiana has lacked in recent seasons. The incoming point guard’s outstanding ability should add another level to Indiana’s potential as a team and help the depth of their rotation dramatically.
“He (Lander) has great feel for the point guard position,” Miller said. “His competitive drive has pushed him to elevate his game rapidly.”
Depth has been discussed about Indiana’s roster the past two seasons, but the concept rarely showed to be true with Indiana’s teams the past few seasons due to injuries and lack of development among other reasons.
This year, though, the depth should absolutely be there with Lander’s reclassification adding to the talent pool. Indiana now has 12 scholarship players and all 12 can legitimately contribute and help on the court. Eight of those players were in last year’s rotation with the other four being the incoming freshmen.
Additionally, all five usual starters from a year ago are back. Minutes are going to be very difficult to divide up amongst the team.
Speaking on Lander’s individual impact, he should be able to make a splash from the get-go as he can contribute in a number of ways as a tremendous scorer and passer who can rebound and defend well too. In his junior season, Lander averaged 21 points per game, along with more than five assists and rebounds per night as well.
Entering college with a good build for a point guard, at 6-foot-2 along with his elite athleticism and speed, that should help make up for losing a year of development and growth in what would be his senior season.
How he fits into the backcourt
Within the rotation, Lander’s role is up in the air. He should definitely see the court early and often, but it is to be determined how he will be used. With three returning guards on the roster and three new ones coming in the freshman class, there are a variety of ways the backcourt’s rotation could shape up.
Even with his high ranking, it is possible Lander doesn’t start, at least not at first. But he could be an immediate presence off the bench as the backup point guard to a veteran in rising junior Rob Phinisee. It makes sense to have Phinisee and rising senior Al Durham start in the backcourt, as both of them have two years of prior starting experience.
Phinisee and Lander are the only two traditional point guards compared to the rest of the backcourt, which increases both of their importance within the rotation. The other four guards on the team all have the ability to handle the ball, but besides Phinisee and Lander, they are all more traditional shooting guards.
Often last season, Indiana struggled with point guard play. Phinisee was the only real distributor and consistent court general, and he was inconsistent at times too. Additionally, he battled injury for much of the year.
It’ll be a luxury for Miller and Phinisee to have an additional point guard presence in Lander to help provide some much-needed depth.
Neither Lander nor Phinisee are limited to being solely pure point guards and can play off the ball too. It is likely that there will be some lineups with both of them on the court together.
Simply stated, Lander elevates Indiana to another level. The need to win with the talent of this roster should be emphasized.
“(Lander) cares a great deal about his teammates and winning,” Miller said. “It speaks volumes about him wanting this opportunity now and bypassing all of the HS accolades and opportunities he has in front of him to enjoy like most want so often.”