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Five important questions still to be answered for Indiana basketball



Indiana basketball head coach Mike Woodson (R) and assistant coach Yasir Rosemond (L) in the second half against the Kent State Golden Flashes at MVP Arena. Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Indiana basketball is heading into the next phase of the season next week. The transfer window closes May 11, meaning nobody else can enter the transfer portal. That means the pool of players in the portal come that date, is the group of players to pick from if a team still needs to add to its roster.

For the Hoosiers, they have been extremely involved in the portal this offseason — adding three transfers. But, there are still some needs to their roster heading into the summer.

In a month, Indiana’s two-man 2023 recruiting class of Gabe Cupps and Jakai Newton will join the team in Bloomington.

There are still two scholarships available for the Indiana basketball program.

With that, here are five important questions still to be answered moving into the summer.

Where does Indiana go for shooting?

There’s no question that this is the biggest storyline and question mark about the Indiana basketball roster right now. The Hoosiers go into the close of the transfer window with no added depth to its backcourt. And, as of right now, have seen its shooting regress from last season with no addition.

Indiana shot 36.8 percent from three this season but ranked 353rd nationally in attempted 3s per game (15.5) and 334th in made 3s per game (5.7). Those numbers translated into the fourth best percentage in the Big Ten, but the least amount of made 3s on the season.

The Hoosiers missed on some of their key transfer targets on the perimeter and are now a bit behind the eight-ball.

There are still options, however. Indiana is going to be involved with Penn transfer Jordan Dingle. He’s averaged 2.5 made 3s per game for his career and an average of 66 made 3s a year.

On the wing, there is the option of 2023 five-star forward Mackenzie Mgbako. Mgbako is a shooting forward who has made 76 3s in the past two seasons for Roselle Catholic (NJ).

Outside of those two, Xavier Johnson returns as a 38 percent shooter in his Indiana career — on just 2.7 attempts per game, however.

Indiana needs shooting desperately and someone who can come in and be a high volume shooter.

What development does Malik Reneau make?

With the departure of Trayce Jackson-Davis, Malik Reneau is looked at as the guy who can step in and replace some of the production. He averaged 16.5 points 10.0 rebounds and shot 53.3 percent for his per 40 minute numbers. The biggest thing for the rising sophomore, however, is foul trouble.

His per 40 minute average of fouls is 6.8 … so, not ideal. He had as many fouls (89) as made field goals as a freshman.

Reneau showed the ability to be a highly effective player however. He scored in double-figures in seven games last season.

Reneau needs to be able to produce at a high level if Indiana basketball is going to carry over the success of the last two seasons.

Which other rising sophomore steps into a larger role?

Kaleb Banks and CJ Gunn are two important players looking to find their way into a key rotational piece next season. Both players flashed some potential this year but never saw the consistent minutes.

The best thing about both is their high motor and aggressive mindset. That’s something you can’t really teach.

Now, it’s about slowing them down and getting them to produce consistently.

Gunn came in with the reputation as a good shooter and that shot will need to drop in 2023. He has the size at 6-foot-5 / 6-foot-6 to be the prototypical wing for Indiana. He’s athletic, has great length and can be a great defender as well. If he can get his shot to drop consistently, he will be a key player for the Hoosiers. I think regardless, Gunn’s role increases drastically heading into the 2023-24 season.

For Banks, his ability to hit shots could be the key to keeping him on the floor as well. At 6-foot-8, he has great size for a perimeter player and right now, that’s where he needs to be able to play. With Indiana loading up on some key front court players this offseason, it’s important for Banks to fill out on the wing. He can still see spot minutes as a ‘4’, but his role could increase more if he shows the ability as a perimeter player.

Both players need to step up this summer and progress in the right direction.

Will Kel’el Ware progress back to the projected lottery pick that he was coming into college?

Coming into his freshman year, Ware was a projected lottery pick. At Oregon, it was not only the wrong fit, but the motor and toughness was in question. With Mike Woodson, that won’t cut it.

At 7-feet, Ware is a highly skilled — yet still raw — offensive player. He’s best, however, in high pick and roll action. The ability to play off of Xavier Johnson in ball screens could be the key to unlocking his potential. Not only is Johnson terrific in ball screen action, he is terrific at finding the big man near the rim — something he and Jackson-Davis did magically when Johnson was healthy.

Ware also showed some ability to step out and keep the defense honest from the perimeter. He shot just 27.3 percent from three but attempted 10 more 3s and made three more than Race Thompson did last season. In his per 40 minute average, he attempted 1.5 more 3s a game than Thompson.

If Ware can keep his motor up, he can be an extremely huge addition to Indiana’s front court. He isn’t going to put up monster numbers, but he has the talent to be a double-digit scorer and someone who can rebound at a high rate, as well as defend the rim. He has all of the tools to do so.

How do the freshmen fit in?

Four-star guards Gabe Cupps and Jakai Newton arrive in Bloomington with the reputations as winners and tough kids. But, neither of them are truly expected to step into significant roles right away.

For Cupps, his ability to play spot minutes at the point guard position is critical in order to get Xavier Johnson some rest. But, if Indiana isn’t able to find another ball handler in the backcourt, Cupps’ importance to the team greatly rises. Right now, it’s Johnson and then Trey Galloway as ball handlers. While Galloway can provide minutes on the ball throughout each and every game, there needs to be another rotational ball handler. Cupps is the true competitor and his ability to be a true point guard is critical.

For Jakai Newton, getting and staying fully healthy is critical in the summer. After missing most of last summer and half of his senior season with a knee injury, getting back to full health — mentally as much as physically is step one. Newton — at 6-foot-4 — is built ready to play at the college level. His dynamic athleticism on both ends of the floor is so very intriguing. He needs to get better shooting from three, but the raw athletic ability is some of the best in the class when he’s on the floor.

The expectation is that these guys can be brought along much like Kaleb Banks and CJ Gunn this past season. But if the roster stays similar to what it is now, both players will be asked to provide more. The question is, where is that ceiling as well as the floor in terms of their minutes and production as freshmen.

SEE ALSO: Jordan Dingle makes the ‘ideal running mate’ for Indiana basketball next to Xavier Johnson 

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Alec Lasley is the owner of Hoosier Illustrated, a comprehensive site covering news, updates and recruiting for Indiana University athletics. Alec has covered Indiana for six years and is a credentialed media member. He has previously worked for both Rivals and 247Sports.