Learning curve is straightening for Indiana basketball coach Archie Miller and the Hoosier players

Indiana University men's basketball coach Archie Miller (center) speaks with people after meeting with the media at a University function Wednesday at Huber's Winery, Orchard and Vineyards near Borden. A record crowd attended the event. (By Tom Davis of News-Sentinel.com)
Indiana forward Juwan Morgan (13) shoots against Rutgers center Shaquille Doorson (2) during the first half of a game this past season in the Big Ten Tournament in New York. (By The Associated Press)
Indiana University men's basketball signee and 2018 Indiana Mr. Basketball Romeo Langford sits and watches during the warm-ups for the recent Hoosiers' Reunion All-Star Classic at the historic Knightstown Gym. Langford was an "honorary" player but did not participate in the event. (By Tom Davis of News-Sentinel.com)

BORDEN – Indiana men’s basketball coach Archie Miller seemed as relaxed as the tightly-strung leader of the state’s most prominent sports team could have recently as he met with a record-sized crowd of supporters at Huber’s Winery, Orchard, and Vineyards in the rolling hills of southern Indiana.

There are a number of reasons for that, as the past season had some high points, his best player (senior-to-be forward Juwan Morgan) had decided less than 24 hours earlier to return to Bloomington for one more season, and the best recruit that he was pursuing (2018 Indiana Mr. Basketball Romeo Langford of New Albany High School) had chosen to play for the Hoosiers over Vanderbilt and Kansas earlier in the spring.

However, a big reason for Miller’s comfort level also was the fact that he is now 14 months into the job and he has learned how to navigate the landscape better, as has his returning student-athletes.

“As a staff, we are really excited to take it into phase two,” Miller said of his program. “Our returning guys had a good spring and their knowledge of how to do things is really going to help accelerate our young guys when they get here this summer.”

The NCAA has altered the off-season rules to allow coaches to work with their players – in a basketball setting (as opposed to strength and conditioning, for example) – from two to four hours each week and Miller said that he is “looking forward to the additional time that the NCAA has granted us on the court.”

“We’re going to try and take advantage of more time on the floor with them as much as possible,” Miller continued. “This is a team that relatively is going to have an influx of talent and new people and our returning guys are going to have to mesh.”

The 2018-19 Hoosier roster currently has 18 players on it but five are walk-ons and only seven have ever actually played a game for the program.

“This is an opportunity to really blend this summer,” Miller said.

Having Morgan return not only will have a positive impact next season but having him around this summer to help with the education process of the young Hoosiers will be an incredible asset, as well.

“Talking to Juwan,” Miller explained, “his motivation to get the freshmen here and get rolling is something that is exciting for our staff because last year at this time it was all new.”

Morgan, as well as fifth-year wing Zach McRoberts, sophomores Justin Smith and Al Durham, and junior Devonte Green will each be able to help the new faces assimilate into the Hoosier program and handle Miller’s expectations of how to operate on every facet of their existence be they academics, socially, or athletically.

“Year one is really hard,” Miller said. “You are teaching your staff, you are teaching your players, everyone kind of in the same lot. In year two, you don’t teach your staff and you don’t teach the guys that are back.

“That is a big chunk of the pressure that is off in terms of trying to integrate (into the program). It is still difficult to bring in such a young group with five freshmen.”

One new player that may have a more seamless transition is graduate student transfer Evan Fitzner, who transferred after spending four seasons at St. Mary’s.

“An older guy like Evan,” Miller said, “his experience is great but he is going to learn new. Having five freshmen come into the fold and having to depend on some of these guys early, that is going to be a unique thing.

“That is why you need your older guys to be rock solid in what you are doing every day. I feel like our returners have really set themselves up to be a group that people can look at and say ‘This is how we do it.'”

In addition to Langford and Fitzner, Indiana is also bringing in freshmen Rob Phinisee, Damezi Anderson, Jake Forrester, and Jerome Hunter.

For more on college basketball, follow Tom Davis on Twitter at Tom101010, Facebook at Thomas Davis, and Instagram at tomdavis101010.

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