BLOOMINGTON - Jordan Hulls is slight of build, boyish of face, set for an Indiana basketball adventure rich in possibilities and challenges.
He is the current Indiana Mr. Basketball, which won't matter to college opponents. What does matter is he is a point guard, which means he must run the on-court show. That is a veteran's responsibility, but these still-rebuilding Hoosiers don't have the luxury of letting this 6-foot, 170-pound freshman grow into the position.
That's fine with Hulls, who looks to Greg Paulus - the former Duke guard (and now Syracuse quarterback) - as an example of what he wants to accomplish this first season.
“It will be a challenge, but that will be good for me,” Hulls said. “Look at Greg Paulus. He was a freshman when he started at Duke. It matured him a lot faster than maybe he wanted to, but it made his game a lot better.”
Veterans Verdell Jones and Jeremiah Rivers can handle the point, but that is not their strength. Another veteran, Daniel Moore, isn't the full-time answer. So the role could fall to Hulls if he plays with savvy and toughness and awareness.
“I want to come in and do that,” he said. “It will be a huge opportunity for me.”
Opportunity means handling coach Tom Crean's demands. Crean will push Hulls, in part because that is what good coaches do, in part because IU wants to win now and youth isn't an excuse for making mistakes. Is Hulls ready for the intensity?
“I think I can be ready for that. I don't know what will happen, but I think I'll be able to handle it. I have to be mentally strong about it and take in whatever I can.”
Mental strength was one of Hulls' main attributes while leading Bloomington South to a 26-0 record and the Indiana 4A state championship last season, beating Snider in the title game.
He didn't have gaudy senior-season statistics (15.8 points, 5.2 assists, 2.6 steals), but that was because South's balanced lineup didn't require it. It was his leadership and ability to play big in big games that attracted college coaches.
“I love to compete and win,” he said. “Losing is my least favorite thing to do. Winning is what drives me. Getting to the ultimate level (the NBA) is what drives me.”
Hulls won't dominate with strength or quickness, but he shoots well and makes good decisions, priority No. 1 for point guards. Crean has praised Hulls' long-distance shooting range, understanding of the game and ability to make others better. But mostly, Crean said, it is Hulls' maturity “that will help him succeed at this level.”
Crean is pushing Hulls to be a strong vocal leader, a tough role for a freshman.
“That will be difficult because I don't know how the older guys will react to me if I were to yell,” Hulls said, “but that's what Coach Crean wants me to do if it's the right thing.”
Hulls is part of IU's top-10 rated freshman class that has boosted hopes of restoring the program's glory days after last season's 6-25 disaster. That means continued strong recruiting and, to boost those efforts, Crean has hired Drew Adams, a former assistant coach for the Indiana Elite AAU 15- and 16-year-old teams that included some of the nation's top high school players.
Indianapolis North Central heralded guard D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera from the Class of 2012 was on the 15-year-old team. The older squad included guards Austin Etherington (who has committed to the Hoosiers) and Muncie's Jeremiah Davis, being recruited by some of the nation's top teams.
Adams, who also spent the last two years as a student assistant at Tennessee, was hired for the newly created position of coordinator of basketball systems.
The position will involve film breakdown and editing, camps, and general assistant to the coaching staff.