How Will Derek Elston’s Injury Impact The Hoosiers?Posted by Deepak Jayanti on October 25th, 2012
Every prediction about the upcoming college basketball season ought to be made with a disclaimer: “assuming they are healthy.” This disclaimer definitely applies to the Indiana Hoosiers this year. Just a few days after being ranked as the best team in the country by the coaches, Tom Crean’s squad already has experienced its first major obstacle of the season. Forward Derek Elston will be sidelined with a knee injury for 6-8 weeks according to several sources. No team is immune to injuries and Elston’s absence for possibly the first 10-12 games will certainly impact the Hoosiers.
Even though Elston only played 12.3 MPG last season, he was expected to provide an important role off the bench for Crean’s group this year. Averaging 2.4 RPG is definitely not all-conference worthy but he brings several intangibles to the team with his size (6’9, 216 lbs) and experience (senior). Elston, Christian Watford and Jordan Hulls have been around Bloomington for a few seasons now, and their experience will help younger guys like Yogi Ferrell get up to pace very quickly amidst the intense media spotlight on the Hoosiers. Elston is another key body in the paint and would have taken the bulk of the defensive load to help keep All-America candidate Cody Zeller out of potential foul trouble. Senior forwards who have been around the Big Ten for four seasons know a thing or two about defending the paint and he will be definitely be missed during the non-conference season. Elston’s injury obviously means some shuffling within the Indiana rotation but that could also have a positive impact on the younger players in the long run.
The Hoosiers have great depth at the wing and guard positions. Will Sheehey and a healthy Maurice Creek would have been starters on any other Big Ten team but they will have to come off the bench for Indiana. Crean has depth on the frontline as well but the forwards are very inexperienced. Hanner Mosquera-Perea is probably the second best freshman after Ferrell and is expected to help Zeller in the frontcourt, but he too is coming off an injury this summer and has not been completely involved during practice. During his recovery, another freshman will probably be called upon to carry the load and pick up some of the extra minutes available. Freshman center Peter Jurkin will have an opportunity to prove his worth and plug himself into the rotation. Jurkin is a 7’0″, 230-lb. center who has the potential to be a very effective defensive player due to his wingspan. Jurkin is not the quickest guy on the floor but can get up and down the floor effectively which fits in well with the Hoosiers’ current offensive scheme.
Jeremy Hollowell is another 6’7 forward from the freshman class who may be asked to step up but he prefers to play out on the wing and is not a true big man committed to defending the paint. Jurkin and Perea (assuming he recovers) can pick up some valuable minutes over the first two months and it should boost their confidence before the Big Ten season. Sure, there might be a few hiccups along the way for them, especially if Zeller picks up early fouls during some of the key early games. But Crean would rather have them go through those growing pains during the first 15 games so they’ll be ready for the later rigors of the Big Ten season.
Depth is a luxury that needs to be utilized efficiently and Crean will be nifty with his rotation in lieu of Elston’s injury. There will certainly be other issues that come up throughout the season, but Hoosier fans trust their head coach — after all, he’s successfully put IU in a position to compete for national titles again!