Indiana Basketball Player Analysis: What does Jordan Geronimo need to make the year 3 leap?
The forward is primed to see a larger role in his junior season.
Many consider Jordan Geronimo a candidate to be the most improved returner for Indiana this season. The junior has a 7-foot wingspan and is the bounciest player the Hoosiers have.
Last season, Geronimo averaged 4.4 points per game and 3.6 rebounds per game on 56.5% true shooting. Let’s dig into his game.
WHAT GERONIMO DOES WELL
Weakside rim protection
Geronimo’s length is best displayed when he’s on the defensive side of the ball. Despite being only 6-foot-6, he’s able to shield the basket off at a high level.
Geronimo finished the season with a 6.6% block rate, which was second on the team behind Trayce Jackson-Davis. His disruptiveness inside often had value when both Jackson-Davis and Race Thompson were out of the game.
While Geronimo wasn’t necessarily dissuading ball handlers to go inside, he found a way to make surprising stops once both players went airborne. Geronimo isn’t a true rim protector like a center would be, but his ability to defend the paint trumps most forwards in college basketball.
Individual rebounding can often be an overvalued stat, but getting on the offensive glass and creating extra shots will always hold value. Geronimo continually displayed that value for the Hoosiers. He led IU with an 11.8% offensive rebound rate.
Instead of outmuscling opponents for offensive rebounds, Geronimo outleaps them. He uses an array of two-footed jumps to go up and grab boards.
These boards and putbacks come in handy, especially when a team is in a scoring drought. Geronimo has athleticism that can’t be taught and he uses it to get second chance opportunities for the Hoosiers.
Right now, rebounding is Geronimo’s strongest offensive trait. Without this rebounding, Geronimo’s offensive arsenal would be extremely limited. Crashing the glass like Geronimo is a very unique trait, but he’s made it work thus far in his college career.
Geronimo is probably the most switchable defender on Indiana’s roster. We already talked about his effective defending of the basket, but he can also be trusted to stop smaller wings on the perimeter.
Here Geronimo is last season against E.J. Liddell, who was voted First-team All-Big Ten and Third-team All-American.
Geronimo’s defense isn’t perfect by any means, but ball handlers that go at him one-on-one don’t find much success. He combines his wingspan with sturdy footwork and a strong core to cut off drivers.
Although he’s mainly been a power forward in his first two years in Bloomington, Geronimo has alluded to playing small forward multiple times this offseason. His ability to stay in front of ball handlers should translate pretty smoothly to the lighter of the forward positions.
WHAT GERONIMO CAN IMPROVE
Becoming a threat from the perimeter
Geronimo was just 9-for-29 (31%) on 3-pointers this past season. The lack of outside scoring was a problem for the entire IU roster last year and Geronimo played a part in those struggles. The Hoosiers combined a low 3-point attempt rate with mediocre shooting (33.3% on 3s), which capped how effective the team’s offense could be.
Last season, Geronimo struggled to get anything going from deep. He missed several wide-open attempts.
Geronimo's release is a bit slow and it looks like he exerts too much energy by dipping at the beginning of his jump shot. With a lot of Geronimo’s minutes expected to be at small forward, he’s likely been working on the mechanics and overall consistency in his shot.
Indiana will need to see Geronimo and others grow from the perimeter to improve the team’s spacing. Geronimo’s subpar shooting doesn’t just hurt his individual game, but it hinders what the other four players on the court can do offensively. Opposing teams often paid no attention to Geronimo and helped off him on drives and post ups.
Look at how congested it was inside the arc when Geronimo was spaced on the perimeter in these two screen grabs.
Geronimo being a non-threat outside hurts Indiana’s 3-point shooting while also handicapping what the team’s players can do in 2-point territory.
Notice how this improvement area didn’t just say “shooting.” This is not just about shooting. There are multiple micro-skills that Geronimo can work on to become an outside threat this season.
Not only was Geronimo a shoddy shooter, but he also struggled to create off the bounce from outside. With the rise of 3s in basketball today, closeouts have become more dramatic. This makes exploiting hard closeouts critical for offensive players.
Even when defenses were scrambling and they closed out on Geronimo last year, he wasn’t able to attack off-balance defenders as a secondary creator.
Jackson-Davis and Thompson will remain top-notch interior forces for Indiana. Xavier Johnson, Trey Galloway and Jalen Hood-Schifino project as high rim-pressure threats off the bounce for IU. There are going to be tilted defenses for off-ball players like Geronimo to work with, and they must drain shots and/or effectively attack closeouts. This will especially be important for Geronimo if he’s sharing the court with two other bigs.
Nobody is expecting Geronimo to be a maestro on the court, but he continually made head-scratching plays and turnovers last season. Geronimo had the second-highest turnover rate (21.3%) of any returning Hoosier.
There were too many instances when Geronimo caught the ball and looked overwhelmed with what to do with it.
The easiest remedy for these turnovers is probably just getting more reps and watching more film. Geronimo acknowledged this with the media in July when he said, “Film is the main way to just get better…Film can be as helpful as practice sometimes.”
If Geronimo is recognizing the mistakes he’s seeing in film and applying that to full-speed scrimmages, he should be able to understand defenses at a higher level. Geronimo only averaged 12.6 minutes per game last year, and these mistakes probably kept Geronimo from getting more playing time. Sometimes it’s about just making the simple pass. Playing a calmer offensive game would do wonders for Geronimo in year three.
Improving defensive positioning
Geronimo was very eager to help on drives, which is a good trait for a player to have. Issues ensue when he gets in position to help despite help not being needed.
Overhelping was one of the few weaknesses in Indiana’s team defense all year. There were many games where this desire for helping yielded wide-open jumpers for the other team.
Watch these two first-half plays in IU’s Jan. 2 loss to Penn State. In both plays, Geronimo is guarding a Nittany Lion that is one pass away from the ball handler. He pinches down toward the elbow and gives up open 3s on the wing.
Penn State made 11 3s in that game thanks in large part to plays like that from Geronimo and others. Indiana helped one pass away far too often last year and Geronimo may have been the guiltiest Hoosier in that aspect.
Geronimo even overhelped when he was the last line of defense. He often showed his cards too early as a backline defender and ball handlers were able to make easy kickouts as a result.
These decisions to help have to be more calculated than they have been for Geronimo. He needs to exert the patience to either not react until the on-ball defender gets beat or wait until the ball handler is deep into the lane. There were times when Geronimo made it too easy for ball handlers to make the right play.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM GERONIMO IN 2022-23
Geronimo will continue to be a high-energy, high-effort player for the Hoosiers this season. You can expect his freakish athleticism to have a large impact around the basket on both ends of the court. He has to get better at something offensively to see more significant action this season, especially if he will be playing the small forward position.
Geronimo has always been a promising player, but now it’s time to put it together. Ultimately, Geronimo’s junior season will determine how fans and media view his Indiana career.