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Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016

Who are these guys?

Posted Friday, October 17, 2008, at 10:29 PM

Being a lifelong IU basketball fan hasn't been easy of late. Watching the crash and burn of Kelvin Sampson and the ouster of Mike Davis, the players with bad grades and dismissive attitudes hasn't been easy either. But I guess maybe this could be the penance for stealing Eric Gordon from Illinois a couple of years ago. But man is this some kind of ridiculous.

Have you seen the current roster of players?

I think I saw one of these guys working full-time at Office Max last week. To be honest, after looking at the bio's of these guys, it might have been him.

The ultimate demolition job that new coach Tom Crean has done and the subsequent rebuild has been well-chronicled, but the list of new players hasn't quite gotten as much light of day.

With tonight's "Midnight Madness" in Bloomington that will actually begin following the women's volleyball game, students and fans will finally begin to grasp the project that is in front of this program.

Never before have walk-on tryouts meant so much for the Hoosiers, or perhaps any other major Division I program.

No kidding. Crean has recently been talking about keeping as many as five walk-on players. And there will probably be one or two that will see significant minutes and not be just a warm practice body.

So for those IU fans out there that haven't gotten to check out the fresh new faces of IU hoops, I'll give you a peek at them.

First off we have Devan Dumes, a 6'2 guard that could be the Hoosiers best player this season.

Dumes played high school basketball in Indiana at Decatur Central before heading to Vincennes for two years where he played point guard.

Tijan Jobe is a 7'0 project for the Hoosiers that came from Olney Central Community College in Illinois after growing up in the country of Gambia. While Jobe has some impressive size and is built pretty solid at 255 pounds, he's about as raw offensively as you can get. But he'll provide some fouls and alter some shots when he's on the floor.

Verdell Jones III is a 6'5, 175 lb. guard from Champaign, Ill. and is a freshman. Jones was the Champaign News-Gazette Area Player of the Year and an All-State choice as a senior. Crean likes his wingspan, which should be a big factor in his defensive ability. He was a three-year starter at Champaign Central High School and averaged 17.6 ppg., 4.9 rpg. and 6.5 apg. And led his team to the Class 3A Semifinals. He shot 31 percent from 3-point range and 47 percent from the field. He also ranks sixth all-time in Illinois history with 602 career assists.

Daniel Moore is one of those aforementioned walk-ons, but had the experience of playing for Carmel during his high school career. So at least you know that he's been through the MIC wars. The 5'11, 167 lb. guard is pretty thin and needs to bulk up to play quality minutes in the rigorous Big Ten. Moore turned down a free ride to play for Boston University to play for the Hoosiers.

Tom Pritchard is a scholarship 6'9, 242 lb. forward from Lakewood St. Edward High School in Ohio. He's somewhat raw as he needs to work on his outside shot, but will be counted on along with Kyle Taber to provide post offense and defense.

One of the more intriguing prospects is scholarship freshman Matt Roth, the all-time leading 3-point shooter in the state of Illinois. The 6'3, 185 lb. guard is still rehabbing from a slight shoulder separation, but was lights out at the prep level, averaging more than 100 made 3-pointers per season for his career.

Malik Story is a southern California kid from Los Angeles and lists shooting the ball and being a good teammate as his strengths, but needs to work on defense. Might make it tough to play big minutes for Crean at this point because of that defense. But, at 6'5, 222 lb. he could be impressive if he's quick enough to play at the '2.'

Story led his Artesia High School team to two state championships and chose IU over USC, Oregon and Georgetown and played on an AAU national championship team with former UCLA star, Kevin Love and Arizona's Chase Budinger. His prep team went 66-3 over the final two years.

Kyle Taber is the lone senior on this year's team and at 6'8, 220 lb. he'll be counted on for his experience, leadership and size once he returns from knee surgery.

Another freshman guard is 6'4, 211 lb. Nick Williams, who is from Mobile, Al. the same area that produced DJ White. Williams sees his leadership skills as one of his strong suits and this team needs all the leadership it can get.

Williams had originally committed to Crean while at Marquette, but decided to follow to IU. The Hoosiers could be very glad he did after playing varsity basketball all four years and leading his team to three state titles and a 126-8 overall record. He was also tabbed as Alabama's High School Player of the Year and is ranked as the No. 9 shooting guard by ESPN.

He's got the toughness to play inside as he did early in his high school career and his 7-foot wingspan aids that ability. His natural position is at shooting guard, but he can score in a lot of ways. Williams likely is the Hoosiers most polished player outside of Dumes.

Kory Barnett and Brett Finkelmeier are two more walk-on players for the Hoosiers. Barnett is a 6'6 freshman, who is going to have to work on his ball handling for him to be a contributor this year. Barnett is from Rochester High School in Indiana.

Finkelmeier is a 6'1 sophomore from Carmel High School that saw limited minutes last year

Steven Gambles comes to Hoosierland via Lambuth junior college after playing at North Central. Gambles is a 6'4, 220 lb. forward. He averaged 3.7 ppg. and 2.5 rpg. in 11 games at Lambuth and 8.9 ppg. and 4.5 rpg. as a senior at North Central.

Broderick Lewis is a 6'6, 195 lb. forward that needs to add bulk though he is a solid rebounder out of Lafayette Jeff. He'll need to continue to work on extending his shooting range to contribute immediately.

Jeremiah Rivers is the son of NBA coach Doc Rivers, who just won an NBA Championship with the Celtics last spring. Rivers comes to the Hoosiers after transferring from Georgetown and has to sit out this season due to NCAA transfer rules. Rivers' guidance and experience playing for a high level program will be invaluable in practice for the freshmen.

This season is certainly going to be an odd one for the Hoosiers, who are picked last in the Big Ten by several publications. But I'll keep watching if for no other reason than the fact that this group will bust their butts for the opportunity to play for the rebuilding Hoosiers.

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