BLOOMINGTON -- Do not mess with Will Sheehey in a fitness contest. Indiana officials have the numbers. He has the confidence and endurance.
“I'm a bad dude when it comes to that stuff,” Indiana's junior forward says with the kind of intensity usually reserved for pro wrestling stare downs.
“There's nobody in the country who can run as far and as long as I can,” he adds.
That's bold talk until you consider Sheehey has destroyed IU's fitness-test record. During the annual VO2 test, you get on a treadmill and basically sprint as hard as you can for as long as you can. The fitter you are, the longer and faster you can go.
According to coach Tom Crean, former guard Jim Thomas (at IU 1979-83) held the all-time mark of 13 minutes. Current guard Jordan Hulls set the modern standard of 12:56.
Sheehey busted a 14:06 and, according to Crean, could have gone 30 seconds to a minute longer. Sheehey doesn't disagree.
“If I wanted to pass out, I could have gone another minute.”
“I saw Jordan had the record. I said to myself, that's not going to happen. Once I saw that, it's over.”
To quote Muhammad Ali, it ain't braggin' if you back it up.
Sheehey is a 6-7, 200-pound small forward who rivals teammate Victor Oladipo as the Hoosiers' most athletic player. Last year he hit the season's second-biggest shot after Christian Waford's Kentucky beating three-pointer –- a jumper in the NCAA tourney that propelled the Hoosiers past VCU into the Sweet 16. He plays with passion and fire, and if that can come across as if there's a chip on his shoulders, well, maybe there is.
He wasn't highly regarded coming out of high school in Florida. The same was true of Oladipo coming out of Maryland. Neither was considered a top-100 prospect -– Sheehey was at No. 141 by Rivals.com, a national Internet recruiting service. Some recruiting analysts wondered what Crean and his staff were thinking when they signed them.
Nobody wonders anymore.
“I put in the work in high school,” Sheehey says. “Some coaches didn't see it. Coach Crean did, thankfully. It was the same with Vic. It's definitely motivating when the media says, who is this guy? Why is he even playing here? There are guys in the state who are better.
“Yeah, it was a challenge. We've overcome it.”
Last year, despite missing time with an ankle injury, Sheehey averaged 8.6 points and 3.1 rebounds while shooting 50.5 percent from the field, 38.3 percent from three-point range.
He followed that up last summer with a strong performance in the adidas Nations event. He averaged 11.3 points and 4.5 rebounds while competing against some of the nation's top college players, including Ohio State's Deshaun Thomas, a former Bishop Luers standout and Indiana Mr. Basketball.
“It was a tremendous honor for adidas to pick me to go out there,” he says. “It was a fantastic experience. I thought I played well. I learned a lot of things I couldn't have learned anywhere else.”
That's among the reasons why Crean says Sheehey and All-America forward Cody Zeller are IU's most improved players. Another is a strong work ethic that serves him well now, just as it does Oladipo.
Where does that work ethic come from?
“Being a 6-5 in high school, it was not easy getting it done,” Sheehey says with a smile.
“Victor is a fantastic athlete and person. We lived together when we came here. We had to get each other in the gym all the time. He pushed me. I pushed him. It's carried over until now.”
Sheehey will wear No. 0 instead of last year's No. 10. He's driven in part because of family tradition -– his father, Mike, played for Syracuse and St. Bonaventure; his uncle, Tom, was a strong player at Virginia who was drafted by the Boston Celtics and played professionally in Spain.
As far as his keys for improvement, Sheehey says, “It's doing the things I don't do well.”
“It's obvious. Everyone knows everybody's strengths and weaknesses.”
For Sheehey, it's staying on the ball more on defense, and extending his shooting range. That improvement will be on display during Saturday night's annual Hoosier Hysteria event at Assembly Hall.
It's the public debut of the nation's No. 1 team, according to USA Today's coaches preseason poll. More than 20 elite recruits, ranging from the classes of 2013 to 2016, will attend. ESPN "SportsCenter" co-host Sage Steele will emcee the event, which will be streamlined on the Internet via the All-Access connection at www.IUhoosiers.com. There's a fee to watch online -- $9.95 a month or $79.55 a year.
The event itself, however, is free.