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Indiana Basketball: Five thoughts on transfer portal activity following portal deadline



Taking a look at some of the key reactions for the Indiana basketball program following the close of the transfer window. (Ben Lonergan/The Register-Guard-USA TODAY NETWORK)

The college basketball transfer portal closed earlier this month and gave programs around the country a better look at where they stand. For the Indiana basketball program, there was some good but also some questions that still remain.

Though the portal closed for underclassmen, it remains open for graduate transfers. So, there are still some names that can — and will — enter in the coming weeks.

Despite adding three pieces in the transfer portal, the Indiana basketball program still looks to address its lone available scholarship spot for next season.

After a busy few months, here are some thoughts on Indiana basketball and its activity in the portal after the deadline.

Hoosiers make a splash with NBA-level talent. Indiana needed to make a statement early in the transfer window and land a signature piece to its front court. And, that’s exactly what it did. It was a relatively quick recruitment for Oregon center Kel’el Ware but Indiana made the most of it. It was a quick visit to Bloomington and one that left the Indiana basketball staff with a ringing endorsement … a commitment shortly after the conclusion of his visit. Ware was a projected-lottery pick heading into the 2022 season. Despite an up-and-down freshman year, he comes to Bloomington with tremendous upside. He was a former five-star prospect and a McDonald’s All-American. Indiana needed NBA-level talent to start putting the pieces together after the departure of Trayce Jackson-Davis and Ware was a significant step in the right direction.

Depth issue addressed in the front court. Outside of Jackson-Davis, Race Thompson, Jordan Geronimo and Logan Duncomb all left the Indiana basketball program. That left a gapping hole in the front court and a hole that needed a significant upgrade. Not only did the addition of Ware make an impact, but so did landing Ball State forward Payton Sparks and then Miami forward Anthony Walker. Both players will step into reserve roles, but both bring necessary depth. All three players bring length and athleticism that can impact the game immediately. It’s unknown what role both Sparks and Walker will play, but they were necessary additions to Indiana.

 Still need to land shooting. There is one available scholarship remaining and the lack of shooting has still not been addressed. Indiana came into the offseason needing to land a shooter — or two — but hasn’t been able to do so. Xavier Johnson and Trey Galloway return as 37 percent and 46.2 percent shooters respectively, but neither made more than one three a game last year. The lack of knockdown shooters on the roster is a concern. CJ Gunn has the potential to be that guy this season, but he was just 2-of-24 from three as a freshman in limited minutes. There is no doubt there is still a need for this skillset and there is likely a grad transfer out there that the Hoosiers will target to address that need.

Tough break on a few key targets. Indiana was very active in the early weeks of the portal but failed to land a few key targets that it wanted. Notably Chris Ledlum, Nick Timberlake and Dalton Knecht. There were others but these were the three that Indiana had made some nice progress with but failed to land. The Ledlum miss was the toughest, mainly because it was down to Indiana and Tennessee and the Tennessee staff pulled out one final in-home visit to land his commitment. Timberlake never visited Indiana but the IU staff worked extremely hard in the early stages to land one of very few in-home visits. After that, despite a position of need, it was tough sledding for the Hoosiers. Knecht was someone who kept things quiet. But, Indiana had a few conversations with the talented wing and despite some talk about a potential visit, he committed to Tennessee after his visit. Minnesota transfer Jamison Battle was also a key wing that the Indiana basketball program was actively pursuing. He stayed in the conference and went to Ohio State.

Payton Sparks underrated pickup for Hoosiers. Much of the transfer talk is going to revolve around Kel’el Ware and that’s to be expected. But, Payton Sparks could be a steal from this cycle. Someone with two years of eligibility remaining, Sparks was very productive at Ball State. He averaged 13.4 points and 8.6 rebounds in 62 career games with the Cardinals. His motor and toughness sticks out and that’s something Indiana needs in the front court. His rebounding is also a skill that will drastically help Indiana. He ranked second in the MAC in offensive rebound rate (12.9) and fourth in the league in total rebound rate (17.3) last season. He’s 6-foot-9 and 240 pounds. Sparks has the right body and the skillset that can translate. While he likely won’t be a consistent double-digit scorer for Indiana this year, he’s going to be a very good piece who you’ll never have to ask to work harder.

SEE ALSO: ‘The program is only going up from here’: Jalen Hood-Schifino, Trayce Jackson-Davis excited about path of Indiana basketball

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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.