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‘I think we are getting into more of what coach Woodson wants’: Former IU basketball player Christian Watford discusses Hoosiers offseason



Former IU basketball player Christian Watford discusses the Hoosiers and their roster additions being perfect fits for Mike Woodson. (Robert Scheer/IndyStar-USA TODAY NETWORK)

The IU basketball program is going to look quite different in 2023-24. Following the loss of seven players — four starters — from last year, Indiana head coach Mike Woodson has done a total overhaul with his roster.

Headlined by the departures of Jalen Hood-Schifino and Trayce Jackson-Davis, Indiana now ushers in a new era of basketball in Bloomington.

Indiana was left with a total rebuild of its roster. The first aspect was what style of play Mike Woodson would want next year.

“Trayce Jackson-Davis is the first center that I’ve ever coached in my career where I had to utilize my center as a post-up player,” Woodson said last year. ” … it’s the first time in my coaching career that I’ve had to coach a young man starting out on the block and expanding his game. I don’t know where we’re going to be next season in terms of how our style of play will be. But we’ve got to get better. I do know that.”

After two years of building the roster that he wants through his first two recruiting classes and now another massive haul in the transfer portal, we’re getting closer to see a true Mike Woodson team.

On the ‘Ball From Assembly Hall’ Podcast, former IU basketball player Christian Watford thinks this will be the year that shows a true Mike Woodson team.

“How different this IU team is going to look. How different he culture is going to be. How different the style of play is going to be. I think we are getting into more of what coach Woodson wants. Which is an athletic team, a big long rangy athletic team,” Watford said.

Indiana not only returns Xavier Johnson in the backcourt, but also brings in two McDonald’s All-American’s. One is former five-star and Oregon transfer Kel’el Ware in the front court, while the other is 2023 five-star Mackenzie Mgbako.

“The talent level just wasn’t there coming off of last year … Now you look at what they’ve been able to put together, you have two five-stars with Mgbako and Kel’el Ware. You have the bench production now with Payton Sparks and Anthony Walker. You get a massive win getting Xavier Johnson back. Everything they have been able to do over the last 30-45 days has now set themselves up for — now expectations going into next year, of something where you don’t drop off as much as it could’ve been going into next year,” HoosierIllustrated owner Alec Lasley said earlier this offseason. “… It was massive in what you’re trying to build in what is a bridge year and a gap year from the Trayce Jackson-Davis era to the 2024 and 2025 classes.”

The Hoosiers have one scholarship still open for the 2023-24 season. That final spot likely needs to be from a shooter. Indiana shot 36.8 percent from three this past season but ranked 353rd nationally in attempted 3s per game (15.5) and 334th in made 3s per game (5.7).

“We are building right now. We aren’t going to have a team where you can just throw it into the paint and I think that’s good for Indiana basketball,” Watford added. “On paper, we don’t have the shooting we need, but as far as the athleticism, us being able to guard, us being able to play with force and still play in the paint, I think we still have those components.”

Below is the full episode.

SEE ALSO: IU basketball leaning on ‘untapped potential’ next year. But, there’s an excitement that comes with.

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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.