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‘Getting his shot wherever he wanted on the court’: How recent workouts with Calbert Cheaney have helped transform Malik Reneau’s game for Indiana basketball



Indiana basketball
Malik Reneau's workouts with Calbert Cheaney paid dividends on Thursday en route to a career performance for Indiana basketball. (Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports)

Indiana sophomore forward Malik Reneau is not know for his shooting stroke — in fact, before this season he was rarely seen outside of the paint. On Thursday, that was not the case, however, as Reneau showcased his developing perimeter game in Indiana’s 83-66 win over North Alabama.

Reneau came into Thursday’s game with just three made 3s on the season. He was 3-of-11. Then, he turned in a 4-of-4 game from three en route to a career-high 25 points.

He was 10-of-14 from the field.

“Well, it helps. I mean, he hadn’t taken a whole lot of them this year. The fact that he shot ’em all tonight in rhythm, that helps,” Indiana basketball head coach Mike Woodson said about Reneau’s shooting performance. “That’s with anybody that’s shooting the three ball.”

Reneau was not the only one to see the floodgates open from the perimeter. Indiana made 12 3s — a single-game high under Mike Woodson.

They finished 12-of-24 from three. The previous high this season was six made 3s.

Reneau’s four 3s were a team-high.

“Yeah, I mean, that brings a lot of planning that I can space the floor out, be able to knock one down or be able to shoot the ball and make a couple. Teams got to defend for that now,” Reneau said postgame. “It just brings so much confidence to myself coming in after this break, coming into the Big Ten play.”

Reneau had scored in double-figures in every game this season before Tuesday. He struggled with foul trouble, scoring just six points.

Thursday was Reneau’s first game with at least 20 points — his previous high being 18 points earlier this season against UConn, in 27 minutes before fouling out midway through the second half.

Reneau’s ability to stretch the floor had been evident at times this season — at least his willingness to attempt shots outside of the paint. He had attempted at least one three in seven games.

Last year, Reneau was just 2-of-8 on 3s.

The adjustment in his game? Working with Calbert Cheaney.

“Yeah, I mean, building confidence. I’ve been working out with Coach Cheaney a lot, just understanding how he played the game, how he was able to work around the court, be able to get his shot wherever he wanted on the court,” Reneau said. “Just getting reps up, man, being confident when you go out there, not being scared to shoot the ball. I think that was the main part for me.”

Reneau played behind All-American forward Trayce Jackson-Davis last season as well as veteran forward Race Thompson. He also played alongside fellow freshman and Big Ten Freshman of the Year Jalen Hood-Schfino.

This year, Reneau was expected to be a large part of the success of Indiana basketball. But, in order to do that he needed to make his game more rounded and turn into an all-around player. That started this summer with developing his body.

“The fact he’s got his body — his body is in much better shape than his freshman year and a lot of that had to do with the fact he stayed this summer and put the work in,” Woodsons said at Big Ten Media Day this fall. “I’m expecting big things out of him. He’s worked his butt off.”

That work in the summer — as well as working with Cheaney has elevated his game through 12 games this year. He’s averaging 14.8 points per game on 58.3 percent from the floor. He’s shooting 46.7 percent from three, now 7-of-15 overall. He’s also averaging 5.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. He’s had five games with at least three assists — something he did just three times last year.

There’s no questioning the improvement in Reneau’s game, and assertiveness. It will be needed once Big Ten play restarts as the calendar flips over to January.

SEE ALSO: Indiana basketball finally puts it all together in win over North Alabama

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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.