Evaluating Big Ten’s Sophomore Class of 2013-14: Yogi FerrellPosted by Deepak Jayanti on August 16th, 2013
Deepak is a columnist for the Big Ten microsite of RTC. Follow him on Twitter for more about B1G hoops at @dee_b1g.
With less than three months left until the college season tips off, we at the RTC Big Ten Microsite are here to get you excited about the stars who are returning next season and ready to take on the responsibility of leading their teams to conference glory. Over the next few weeks, we plan to evaluate a number of key Big Ten sophomores who will have an impact on their team’s performance throughout the entire season. Today, we focus on Indiana point guard Yogi Ferrell.
A point guard who is rated among the top 30 players in his class by various recruiting services should expect to play a significant role in his team’s offense as a freshman. But Yogi Ferrell had a different set of rules for his first season in Bloomington because Tom Crean’s team already had All-Americans such as Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo as well as other talented upperclassmen like Christian Watford and Jordan Hulls on board to carry the load. Nonetheless, Ferrell made the most of his rookie campaign by cracking the starting rotation and averaging 7.6 PPG while playing a strong 28.1 MPG. Deferring to his teammates to score in a high-powered offense may not have been easy for the freshman point guard, but his patience will pay off next season when he will be responsible for running Crean’s offense and will by necessity become one of the primary scoring options for the Hoosiers. He will have the opportunity to shine as a sophomore but let’s evaluate the parts of his game that will need to improve in order for him to make the leap next season.
What did we learn from him last year?
Last season proved that Ferrell is a great fit for an offensive scheme designed to push the ball up the court and create opportunities for the wings to either drive to the basket or pull up for shots from beyond the arc. He displayed tremendous speed in transition, leading to plentiful open looks for sharpshooters such as Hulls and Watford. Without such a speedy point guard pushing the ball upcourt, Crean’s offense wouldn’t have led the Big Ten in tempo at 65.7 possessions per game. The freshman averaged 4.6 APG with an assist to turnover ratio of 2:1, not at all shabby for a player navigating a conference that boasts numerous elite defenses. After 30+ games in his career, we now know that he is great in transition, but we haven’t seen as much from him in the half-court. Considering the talent on last year’s roster, there were no plays called for him but in key spots his jumper looked decent even though it wasn’t very consistent (30% from beyond the arc). Despite his middling shooting percentage, he showed a quick release and was not hesitant to pull the trigger if there was an open look from outside. In summary, Ferrell has proven that he has the fundamental skills to succeed in Crean’s offense, but he will need to be more judicious with his shot selection going forward.
What can we expect from his game next year?
More shot attempts and more minutes will definitely increase his scoring average into the double figures, but Ferrell needs to be efficient on the offensive end. The roster turnover can be viewed as something of a gift for Ferrell to show his leadership, but at the same time it could also backfire if the players around him do not have a polished offensive game. Will Sheehey will provide some stability on the wing, but he is limited to a open looks from beyond the arc and isn’t known for his ability to create off the dribble. Incoming freshman Noah Vonleh will help Ferrell carry some of the offensive burden, but he needs to show that he can hit a mid-range jumper consistently or he won’t be effective with pick-and-roll action in the half-court. As a result, there may not be much structure to the offense during the first 15 games of the season while Vonleh and sophomore Jeremy Hollowell become comfortable playing heavy minutes against tough competition.
Ferrell won’t be asked to do anything differently this year — he will remain responsible for pushing the ball up the court, dishing to his wings in transition and hoping that they rely on their quickness to get to the basket for easy buckets. Without a true post threat inside, though, he will be forced to handle the ball for more possessions as a scoring threat and will need to pull up for shots off the dribble. If Ferrell can develop a semi-decent floater in the paint, he can use his quickness off screens to collapse the defense, finishing or drawing fouls to get to the free throw line. He is built physically to take hits in the paint if he goes this route, but Big Ten defenses will make him earn his points from deep before allowing him to penetrate into the paint – just ask NPOY Trey Burke about the second half of last season. Expect several hand-off plays where Vonleh or Hollowell will retreat to the perimeter to receive a quick pass from Ferrell, but quickly dump it off to him on the side for a quick pull-up jumper.
What is the best case scenario for his sophomore season?
If Ferrell can rack up a handful of easy assists by dishing to Vonleh, Sheehey or Hollowell on fast break opportunities, it could help him become more efficient with his shot selection in the half-court because he won’t need to look to score. Transition opportunities won’t come easily, though, and they will largely depend on his specific ability to get a couple of steals every game — therefore, defensive focus will be important. Overall, if the young Hoosiers turn out to lack offensive discipline, then Ferrell will be forced to take on a greater scoring role which is not the recipe for another Big Ten title. Nonetheless, it says here that he will have a better sophomore season than his freshman campaign, and the fortunes of the Hoosiers will largely rest on his shoulders throughout the season.
See the other sophomore profiles in this series: Nik Stauskas.