Christian Watford and Tom Crean are on the same page. This is good. Neither is satisfied with Watford's double-double season average of 15.5 points and 10.5 rebounds. This is better.
“I feel like I could do so much better,” Watford said. “I don't feel like I'm scratching the surface. I don't think Coach Crean does, either.”
Watford is correct. Crean even used the same not “scratching the surface” line when describing this 6-8 freshman forward.
“He's so talented and he's not even close to consistent yet,” Crean said.
“I'm not here to pat him on the back. We're here to drive him because that's a special young man. He can get really, really good.”
Watford was very good in his college debut against Howard with 14 points and 11 rebounds. He was better against USC Upstate with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
This isn't totally unexpected. He arrived in Bloomington as the highest-rated freshman in a top-15 class and immediately showed he was ready for impact.
Of course, that impact came against low-major teams. The competition level will jump with this week's Puerto Rico Tipoff, starting with Thursday's opener against Mississippi.
The Hoosiers (2-0) need Watford at his best, and it starts with effort.
“He's not understanding how to play through fatigue at a high level,” Crean said. “He's got another motor he can get to - another gear inside of that motor. He responds to challenges. That's what he has to continue to do.
“He's a very smart player. He picks things up fast. He'll figure it out pretty quick.”
Watford's 3.5 high school GPA indicates how well he figures.
“I've got a lot of work to do and I plan on doing it,” he said. “It's just hard work and dedication. It's listening to Coach Crean and applying what he tells me to do. I'll be fine.”
Watford is part of an impressive freshman trio. Watford, Derek Elston and Maurice Creek have a combined average of 41.0 points while shooting 68.1 percent from the field. They are 9-for-13 from three-point range.
Elston and Watford basically play the same forward position. While Watford has started the first two games, Elston (12.0 points, 5.5 rebounds) is pushing for more playing time.
“When you've got Derek Elston, who has got to be on the court right now, too, that's going to make practice fun,” Crean said.
Will that translate into game fun against Mississippi and a powerful Puerto Rico Tipoff field that includes No. 22 Georgia Tech, No. 21 Dayton and No. 5 Villanova? That's the Hoosier plan.
“We want to win,” Watford said. “We don't plan on going there and losing.”
Mississippi is 2-0 after whipping Arkansas-Little Rock 92-64 and Alabama State 90-53.
The Rebels are led by guard Terrico White, last year's SEC Freshman of the Year. He averages 17.5 points.
The other four starters average in double figures, too. DeAundre Cranston is at 13.5 points and 3.5 rebounds. Eniel Polynice is at 13.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists. Murphy Holloway is at 12.0 points and 9.5 rebounds. Chris Warren averages 10.5 points.
“Man on man, there's no way we're as physical and strong as Ole Miss,” Crean said. “We can probably say that about the other teams. It's going to be a good test to see where we stand. If we don't match up and play with that will and that fire, we'll get embarrassed.”