Hoosiers In The NBA: Williams and Vonleh Impress In Summer League

Welcome to offseason coverage of Hoosiers In The NBA! Today I will be recapping how former Hoosiers performed during Summer League play. Please try to spread the word by liking it on Facebook or retweeting this on Twitter if you enjoyed it. Of course this is completely optional but it is greatly appreciated. Otherwise I hope you enjoy and for more coverage follow me on twitter at @QTipsForSports or just look for the hashtag #HoosiersInTheNBA:


Though often overlooked, the NBA Summer League is a very fascinating part of the NBA season. It’s a unique setting that helps introduce new names to NBA fans and offers teams a chance to develop its unproven players in an exhibition-game format.

The NBA Summer League caters to two different groups of players. For rookies and some inexperienced second/third-year players, the Summer League is a place to grow your skills and make the transition to playing meaningful minutes during the course of the NBA season. We’ll call this “Group A”, and this group is allowed to be themselves and make mistakes as long as they learn from them.

However for the other group (which we’ll call “Group B”) the margin for error is nowhere near as big. This group consists of players not currently on an NBA roster, either because they played in the NBA Development League (D-League) last year or they just went undrafted. For these players this is basically a tryout for the team they are playing for and if they don’t give the coaches a reason to invest time and training into them, they’ll get pushed aside in favor of those already signed immediately.

Indiana University saw four former players (one in Group A and three in Group B) participate in NBA Summer League this year so for this edition of Hoosiers In The NBA I’m going to take a look at each player’s overall performance and decide whether or not they succeeded in meeting their necessary goals.


Noah Vonleh, Portland Trail Blazers

Summer League Stats: 12.0ppg, 8.8rpg, 1.2apg, 0.75spg, 0.75bpg, 2.8tpg, 3.3fpg, 46.3% FG, 23.1% 3FG, 70.0% FT, 31.5mpg (4 games)

Even though he fits into Group A, Noah Vonleh had quite a bit of pressure heading into the NBA Summer League. After very minimal improvement over the course of last season, Vonleh had to show some substantial progress and dominate in Las Vegas.

While the final stats won’t blow anyone away, Vonleh actually did show some improvement and was able to dominate for short stretches of specific games. He scored double-digit points in all four games he played and recorded three double-doubles. His shooting percentages weren’t that special but it was great to see him be more assertive as he attempted 10.3 field goal attempts per game after attempting just 3.6 per game last season in the NBA. Lastly, he demonstrated his dominant rebounding ability by ranking seventh overall in rebounds per game. Overall, it was great Summer League for Vonleh and Portland Trail Blazer fans can feel optimistic about the big man’s future again.


Troy Williams, Phoenix Suns

Summer League Stats: 12.3ppg, 4.3rpg, 0.3apg, 1.67spg, 1.5tpg, 2.7fpg, 54.3% FG, 26.3% 3FG, 79.2% FT, 22.2mpg (6 games)

Being a part of Group B means that you have to keep the coach’s attention at all time or you’ll lose it to one of the players who already has a guaranteed a spot on the roster. The fact that Troy Williams was able to keep his coaches invested in him after an unspectacular start to Summer League play is nothing short of incredible.

Williams endured a tough first three games (4.3 points per game) but was able to shine during the Phoenix Suns’ tournament run, averaging 20.3 points per game over his last three games. He was able to shift roles as he went from a role player willing to do anything during the first half of Summer League play to a great slasher and scorer over the second half of Summer League play.

A roster spot on the Phoenix Suns didn’t seem very likely at the beginning of July, but now Williams has a really good shot to make the team and if he doesn’t there should be a few NBA teams that took notice and will give Williams a shot.


Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell, Brooklyn Nets

Summer League Stats: 8.8ppg, 1.5rpg, 1.8apg, 0.75spg, 0.25bpg, 2.3tpg, 0.8fpg, 43.8% FG, 18.2% 3FG, 71.4% FT, 17.0mpg (4 games)

If Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell was in Group A, this would have been considered a passable Summer League performance, but the problem is that he belongs to Group B.

Don’t get me wrong, Ferrell was good during his time on the floor but he needed to be great. He did surprising well on two-point shots but was abysmal on three-point shots (what he’ll need to rely on if he plays in the NBA). Also his assist numbers were much too low, even when you take into account the number of minutes he played and how many of those minutes he was actually the main ball handler.

There is still a good chance he could end up on an NBA D-League team this season, but the idea of Ferrell being on an NBA roster next season seems to be miniscule.


Verdell Jones, NBA D-League Select Team

Summer League Stats: 5.2ppg, 0.8rpg, 1.0apg, 0.75spg, 1.5tpg, 1.0fpg, 53.8% FG, 50.0% 3FG, 85.7% FT, 11.2mpg (4 games)

With all the excitement surrounding Williams and Ferrell in their quest to make an NBA roster, another former Hoosier was almost completely overshadowed.

As a member of the NBA D-League Select Team, Verdell Jones had a great start to Summer League after a 12-point, three-rebound, three-assist performance in just 19 minutes. Unfortunately that would be the highest point of his experience as he proceeded to only play a total of 27 minutes over his other three appearances and totaled a combined nine points. While it was nice to see him get this opportunity, don’t expect to hear anything regarding him playing for an NBA team.

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Hoosiers In The NBA: Gordon’s Fit In Houston And All Other Free Agent Deals That Affect Former Hoosiers

Welcome to offseason coverage of Hoosiers In The NBA! Today I will be recapping how the first weekend of free agency affected almost every former Hoosier, including how well Eric Gordon will fit on the Houston Rockets. Please try to spread the word by liking it on Facebook or retweeting this on Twitter if you enjoyed it. Of course this is completely optional but it is greatly appreciated. Otherwise I hope you enjoy and for more coverage follow me on twitter at @QTipsForSports or just look for the hashtag #HoosiersInTheNBA:


The first weekend of free agency is in the books and already a lot of important moves were made. Even though only one former Hoosier moved teams this weekend, almost all of them were affected by their teams either signing or not signing certain free agents. So for this edition of Hoosiers In The NBA, I will look at every former Hoosier and discuss how they were affected by the last 96 hours.


How Gordon Fits In Houston

Initially I thought Eric Gordon’s poor overall shooting percentage (41.8%) and two finger injuries (37 games missed) last year would limit him to only getting a one-year deal in free agency for around $5 to 8 million, but it seems I underestimated the salary cap increase.

Instead, Gordon has signed a four-year contract with the Houston Rockets worth $53 million.  That deal is almost identical to his last contract (four years, $58 million back in 2012) despite the fact Gordon has missed 116 games since he signed his last deal.

However, when Gordon has been healthy he has proven to be one of the best three-point shooters in the NBA, shooting 39.5% (411 of 1040) from long-range during the past four seasons. That’s why Gordon was a no-brainer for Houston, especially now that Mike D’Antoni is the head coach.

Famed coach of the mid-2000s Phoenix Suns “Seven Seconds Or Less” Offense, D’Antoni looks to replicate that in Houston with James Harden as the focal point. Here is a link to an explanation of how D’Antoni’s fast break offense operates, but basically Gordon would be an ideal corner shooter for Harden to drive-and-kick to. The Rockets also signed Ryan Anderson to fill the role of stretch-four.

If Gordon can stay healthy, he could play a vital role in helping the Rockets get back to the playoffs. If he doesn’t start, I could see him play the role of sixth man, where he can relieve Harden for stretches and play with him during crunch time.


Oladipo’s Success In OKC Now A Mystery

Unfortunately the idea of seeing Victor Oladipo play on a title-contender was short-lived after Kevin Durant decided to sign with the Golden State Warriors. Now his new team is one big decision away from potentially being in the same position his old team was in during his whole career.

The Oklahoma City Thunder need to try and get Russell Westbrook to sign a contract extension or else they may have to trade him so they don’t lose him for nothing like they did with Durant. If Westbrook stays, the Thunder should still make the playoffs and Oladipo could become the second-best player on the team. If Westbrook is traded, Oladipo will be in the same situation he was in during his three seasons with Orlando. This will definitely be a something that will require monitoring over the coming days and weeks.


Charlotte Chooses To Build Around Zeller

Last season Cody Zeller proved that not only could he be a good NBA center, but also proved that he was the exact type of center the Charlotte Hornets needed to run their offense effectively.

Those beliefs were backed up this past weekend when the Hornets let Al Jefferson leave for the Indiana Pacers. For most of his time in Charlotte, Jefferson was the starting center and the best offensive player on the Hornets. Yet when the offense started to click with Zeller filling in for an injured Jefferson, there looked like there might be a changing of the guard but nothing was for sure. With Jefferson now out of the picture, Zeller is now the unquestionable choice at center.

For anyone wondering, the signing of Roy Hibbert will not affect Zeller at all. Hibbert was signed only for depth purposes as Zeller was the only center on the Hornets’ roster.


Vonleh Still In Portland’s Plans For Now

Technically the Portland Trail Blazers haven’t made a free agent move that directly affects Noah Vonleh. Yet the fact they haven’t made such a move does affect Vonleh when you consider the circumstances.

After making a surprising run to the playoffs, it wouldn’t have been surprising to see the Trail Blazers try to sign a veteran power forward to help sustain the team’s success. They tried and failed with Pau Gasol, but other than that the Trail Blazers haven’t been looking for someone who would prevent Vonleh from competing for the starting power forward position next season. There’s still a chance that kind of player could still get signed in the days to come, but for now it looks like that, despite a shaky season, Portland still believes in Vonleh.


Ferrell’s Path To Make The Nets’ NBA Roster Just Got Harder

One look at the Phoenix Suns’ roster and you can tell Troy Williams will have an uphill battle to make the team’s NBA roster with players like P.J. Tucker, Brandon Knight, and Devin Booker headlining a loaded logjam at wing.

Yet there was hope for Yogi Ferrell when he signed with the Brooklyn Nets for summer league. With the team’s giant hole at the point guard position, it became plausible that Ferrell could end up being the Nets’ backup point guard.

Now all of that looks unlikely after the signing of Jeremy Lin and the probable signing of Tyler Johnson (unless the Miami Heat match Brooklyn’s offer sheet). There’s still a chance Ferrell could make the NBA roster as a third point guard (Johnson is technically a combo guard so it’s possible) but the chances have greatly diminished since the beginning of free agency.

Potential IU Championship Run Could Include The Ultimate Cathartic Scenario

IMPORTANT NOTE: The following article is drowning in hypotheticals and should be seen not as a prediction of what will happen but as a fun observation that makes for a great story. This is basically a big “What-If” that will likely only be relevant this week before the games start. So please stick around and enjoy if “movie scripts/storybook endings” interest you.


When the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament rolls around, the fans of the remaining 16 teams are allowed to start dreaming  about the possibility of a the national championship. Of course, it’s strictly “dream-only” at the moment as these teams have only completed a third of this three-week marathon. Nevertheless they can still dream, and you can bet Hoosier Nation is daydreaming like crazy.

Despite having a tough matchup with the  top-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels, Hoosier fans are on cloud nine after a cathartic second round win over the Kentucky Wildcats. It was cathartic not only because it was the first time the rivals had played in four years, but also because that last matchup ended with Kentucky beating Indiana in the Sweet 16 en route to an eighth national championship.

The Hoosiers hope the same happens for them this postseason but standing in their way is a talented North Carolina team that will be tough to beat. More likely than not, Indiana’s unexpectedly successful season will strike midnight when the clocks in Philadelphia also strike midnight on Friday, but this Indiana team has beaten the odds so many times this season that you can never count them out.

So let’s play the “What-If” game. I’m pretty sure Hoosier Nation would find any possible scenario that ends with a sixth  national championship banner being hung in Assembly Hall to be cathartic (especially after going 29 years since the last one), but the level of how cathartic it can get is so insane that one would think this was a cliché Disney sports movie. IU could potentially win the championship by defeating the three teams that in recent college basketball history have made life difficult for Hoosier Nation. So let’s have fun and take a look at what would be the ultimate “Hoosier Catharsis”:


While there hasn’t been much recent history between Indiana and North Carolina, the two titans of college basketball have met twice before in the NCAA Tournament.

The first one came in 1981, when the Hoosiers defeated the Tar Heels 63-50 in the National Championship game. The Hoosiers were led by Isiah Thomas, a guard who wore #11 and scored a game-high 23 points.

The second time came in the 1984 Sweet 16 as the underdog Hoosiers beat the top-seeded Tar Heels 72-68 in what would be Michael Jordan’s last college game. Guarding MJ was Dan Dakich, a guard who wore #11 and held the AP player of the year to just 13 points on 6 of 14 shooting.

I don’t think I need to remind anyone that this year’s Hoosiers also has a difference-maker in Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell,  a guard who wears #11.


But it’s the regional championship round (or Elite Eight) where things start to get interesting. The opponent of the UNC-IU winner will either be the Notre Dame Fighting Irish or the Wisconsin Badgers. Both teams faced Indiana during the season and both would work as compelling rematches.

Indiana’s 15-point comeback win over the Fighting Irish during the Crossroads Classic turned into a pivotal crossroad for the Hoosiers as ever since that comeback IU has transformed from a terrible defense to one that just allowed 0.94 points per possession to a Kentucky team that ranked second in the country in points per possession. Adding that new defensive intensity with the pre-existing offensive brilliance created a combination that was able to turn around the season and win the Big Ten regular season championship outright.

While it would be cool for Indiana to face the team that provided the game responsible for the turn around, there are two problems with it. The first problem is that this potential matchup could turn into a “revenge game” for Notre Dame; after all it was the Irish that blew a 15-point lead in that game. The second reason is that there’s a better potential matchup that could await the Hoosiers.

No Big Ten team has bullied the Hoosiers as badly and as long as the Wisconsin Badgers. While a couple of recent victories for Indiana at Assembly Hall has relieved some of the psychological hold the Badgers had over IU, there is still the fact that the Hoosiers haven’t beat Wisconsin outside of Assembly Hall since the 2006 Big Ten Tournament but even that game was in Indianapolis. That last time the Hoosiers beat the Badgers outside of the state of Indiana was the 2001 Big Ten Tournament in Chicago.

While this potential game wouldn’t be played in Wisconsin (where IU hasn’t won since 1998), it would still be a huge accomplishment for this Indiana team to reach the Final Four by beating the one team that has been a thorn in its side for so long.


If Indiana was able to make it this far it would be its first Final Four in 14 years (2002). One of the major reasons it took so long to return to the Final Four was because the best Hoosier team during that stretch lost in the Sweet 16 three years ago to the Syracuse Orange. Wouldn’t you know it that not only is Syracuse still alive in this year’s NCAA Tournament, but if both Syracuse and Indiana kept winning they would face each other in this season’s Final Four.

Unfortunately this is the least likely of the things that are needed to go right in this hypothetical. The Orange were a bubble team that was not only graciously granted a 10-seed, but lucked out when 15-seed Middle Tennessee State upset a Michigan State team that would have easily ended Syracuse’s season. Seeing Syracuse beat Gonzaga and then either Virginia or Iowa State seems fairly unrealistic given what we know at the moment.

However, if they did reach Houston it would probably be the single most cathartic win in this championship run scenario. There’s only one other game against one other team that would make a better “revenge game.”


That game would be against Duke.

If the Notre Dame game was the crossroad moment the Hoosiers turned things around, then the Duke game was the moment that forced IU into that crossroad.

How bad was the 94-74 loss on December 2nd? The 1.53 points per possession that Indiana allowed to Duke on that night  are the most allowed by an NCAA basketball team in the last three seasons. I’m not just talking about the “power-five” conferences: none of the 351 teams in the NCAA allowed more points per possession in a game than Indiana did to Duke on that early December night.

Three and a half months later, that same Indiana defense allowed Kentucky to only score 0.94 points per possession. Don’t brush off Indiana’s defensive improvement as hyperbole. This drastic transformation is real and I bet Hoosier fans would love another chance at Duke with their improved defense.

A loss to Duke during the middle of the season was rock bottom. A championship win over that same Duke team would be the ultimate “revenge game.” That is the true definition of catharsis.

The Top 5 Subplots Heading Into Indiana Vs Kentucky

We all know the main plot of Saturday’s second round NCAA Tournament matchup between Indiana and Kentucky: two longtime college basketball rivals who not only share a border but also share a history of winning championships, who haven’t played each other since the 2011-2012 season when Indiana upset Kentucky on Christian Watford’s buzzer-beater in the regular season and the Wildcats outlasted the Hoosiers 102-90 in the Sweet 16. Four years later, the NCAA Selection Committee intervened by placing both as the four and five seed of the same region. Now two teams have been thrusted into an old rivalry that no player on either team has ever experienced and on the line is a trip to Philadelphia to play on the second weekend of the tournament.

Honestly, that’s enough of a reason to get anyone to watch this game, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The amount of subplots underlying the main plot is staggering and cover not only the game but the aftereffects of the game. Here are what I consider the top five subplots (in no particular order) of Saturday’s Indiana-Kentucky matchup.

1) Ferrell vs Ulis: Even if the main plot didn’t exist, this matchup between two of the five best point guards in all of college basketball would be enough to hype this game. Both Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell and Tyler Ulis are the textbook definition of a “floor general” as both are responsible for scoring as well as helping their teammates score (Ferrell averages 17.1 points and 5.7 assists per game while Ulis averages 17.0 points and 7.1 assists). Both also average around 35 minutes a game so it’s entirely possible neither one leaves the floor unless they get in foul trouble. It will also be interesting to see if they guard each other.

2) Will Players Treat This Like A Rivalry Game?: No doubt both teams will play very hard because this is the NCAA Tournament, but will it go any farther than that? Remember that not a single player on either roster has played against each other so unless any of them were fans of the school before attending, they don’t really know what they are getting into. If one team goes up big, will they coast the rest of the way (how a team may play against someone they have nothing against in the NCAA Tournament), or will they step on the opponent’s throat and try to humiliate them (how one rival would play against another rival in the NCAA Tournament)? Neither team will likely get that big of a lead, but the way the teams treat each other will still be a great indicator of whether or not they see it as a rivalry game.

3) IU’s Turnover Problem Vs UK’s Defensive Rebounding Problem: Both teams are really good at a lot of different things, but both also have one weakness that ranks in the bottom 100 of all NCAA teams. For Indiana it’s turnovers as the Hoosiers turn it over on 16.6% of their possessions (254th in the NCAA). For Kentucky it’s defensive rebounding as the Wildcats allow opponents to grab 30.2% of their misses (274th in the NCAA). At first glace it looks like the Hoosiers can take advantage of the Wildcats’ weaknesses easier, as IU ranks as the 13th best offensive rebounding team (grabbing 36.5% of its misses). Yet while Kentucky doesn’t force a lot of turnovers, it does have a top 10 shooting defense (allowing an effective field goal percentage of just 44.3%) that can make those inevitable turnovers even more devastating. Whichever team does more to exploit the other’s weakness should win.

4) The Outcome May Determine If This Becomes An Annual Rivalry Again: A lot of media members have talked about this possibly sparking a renewal of the yearly rivalry game between the two programs. While some may brush it off as wishful thinking, I do think this game will hold weight in any possible decision. Unfortunately, I think it will require a specific outcome to get the ball rolling on a possible series revival. The Wildcats’ non-conference scheduling approach has been to find teams that can challenge them so they can test their freshmen and make them battle-tested for the SEC and hopefully a long NCAA run. If Kentucky were to handedly beat Indiana on Saturday, would they really bother with trying to get the series with Indiana going again? As weird as it may sound, getting the yearly series back may require an Indiana win or an overtime classic to get talks going again. That scenario also makes sense for IU, as even though the Hoosiers did beat the Wildcats in their last regular season meeting the wins in the series have been few and far between for a long time. When two potential rivals don’t play in the same conference it takes a little extra to keep that rivalry going and competitiveness is the big thing that can get this one going again.

5) Does Loss = Failed Season?: This game feels like an Elite Eight or Final Four matchup because both teams are that good, but the reality is that one of them will see their season end before the Sweet 16. Despite both teams exceeding expectations and winning their conferences, the fans of Saturday’s loser will feel like this season was a failure because they were bounced in the first weekend. But should they? You’d think an exception would be made for the talent level of the opponent, but I doubt either fanbase would accept that as an excuse. An Indiana loss would mean Tom Crean has still not led an Indiana team past the Sweet 16, and a Kentucky loss would mean John Calipari would miss the Sweet 16 for the first time (during years Kentucky made the NCAA Tournament) and would come a year after they fell short of an undefeated season with 10 McDonald’s All-Americans. It’s unfair on a lot of levels, but one team will treat this season as failure after the final buzzer sounds on Saturday night.

Indiana Shows Off Its Depth In Blowout Win Over The Panthers

Indiana’s offensive versatility was on full display as the Hoosiers beat the Eastern Illinois Panthers 88-49 to start off the school’s 116th basketball season with a win.

Six different Hoosiers, including two bench players, scored double-digit points as both the inside game and the outside game were clicking.

“We had a lot of guys play well,” said Indiana Head Coach Tom Crean after the game. “I saw very little let-up and we played a lot of different lineups, especially in the second half, and I was proud of our effort and really proud of their energy, proud of the way they have responded this week to getting better.”

James Blackmon Jr. led the Hoosiers with 17 points as he started the game hot hitting five of his seven first half shots. Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell, the team’s leading scorer the past two seasons, only scored 13 points on 12 shots but made up for it by grabbing seven rebounds and dishing out six assists. Troy Williams also added 12 points, eight rebounds, and two steals.

Freshman center Thomas Bryant showed that he was as good as advertised, falling one rebound short of a double-double (he had 11 points and nine rebounds). Bryant also made all four of his field goal attempts.

However, maybe the most impressive performance came from the Hoosiers’ second unit. The Indiana bench accounted for 35 points, including 12 from Robert Johnson and 11 from Max Bielfeldt. In addition to the points, Johnson added three assists while Bielfeldt added eight rebounds.

“I’m just pretty much keeping the same mind-set as I had when I was starting,” said Johnson, who started all but one game last year. “Just trying to come in the game and do whatever needs to be done to impact the game.”

Indiana (1-0) dominated in the post, outscoring the Panthers 42-20 in the paint as well as outrebounding them 51-17. Of those 51 rebounds, 21 of them came on the offensive end and led to 26 second chance points.

“It’s very disheartening for your team when you have guys trying to block out and get guys off the boards and you don’t get it done,” said Eastern Illinois Head Coach Jay Spoonhour. “It seemed like they scored on every second-chance opportunity.”

Eastern Illinois (0-1) was led in scoring by A.J. Riley, who had 13 points along with a team-high five rebounds. Trae Anderson also added 12 points for the Panthers.

The Hoosiers will get to relax the rest of the weekend as they will face their next test on Monday when the Austin Peay Governers come to Assembly Hall.

Stats From The Boxscore:

  • Ferrell extended his streak of consecutive games with a made three-pointer to 66 games. It is the longest such streak currently in the NCAA.
  • The five starters for the Hoosiers had exactly twice as many rebounds as the entire Panthers team (34-17).
  • The Hoosiers’ two big men (Bryant and Bielfeldt) made all seven of their field goal attempts and went 8 of 10 from the free throw line.
  • Bielfeldt tied a career-high with two steals.
  • Indiana actually had one more turnover than the Panthers (16-15), but the Hoosiers still scored more points off turnovers, scoring 25 to Eastern Illinois’ 18.
  • The Panthers hit four three-pointers over the course of the game, while the Hoosiers hit at least four three-pointers in each half.
  • O.G. Anunoby also had a great first game, scoring six points. He also led the Hoosiers in blocks (2) and tied for the most steals (2).
  • Nick Zeisloft didn’t score but he did have a perfect assist-to-turnover ratio. Ziesloft had three assists and zero turnovers in 18 minutes of play. He was one of three Hoosiers without a turnover in the the game and the only one who played more than five minutes.
  • Indiana held Eastern Illinois to 49 points, which marks the fewest points the Hoosiers have allowed in a season opener since 1988. That year Indiana held Illinois State to just 48 points.