Lost in the euphoria of the Indiana basketball recruits is the continued growth of Hoosier sophomore Al Durham

Indiana guard Aljami Durham (1) goes up for a shot against Seton Hall center Angel Delgado (31) during the first half of a game last season in Newark, N.J. (By The Associated Press)
Indiana guard Aljami Durham (1) shoots in front of Minnesota forward Michael Hurt (42) during the second half of a game last season in Bloomington. (By The Associated Press)
Indiana University men's basketball coach Archie Miller yells to his team during the first half of a game last season against Seton Hall in Newark, N.J. (By The Associated Press)

The buzz around Bloomington this off-season has been centered on Indiana University freshman guard Romeo Langford and what exactly he will bring to the Hoosiers this coming season. There is validity in that curiosity, as the 2018 Indiana Mr. Basketball appears to be the real deal and should have a significant impact on the emerging Hoosiers.

However, what hasn’t gotten a lot of publicity is the development that second-year guard Al Durham should have.

Following an up-and-down freshman season, the 6-foot-4 athlete should find a level of consistency – as well as performance – in his second season.

“Freshmen go through ups and downs, good starts, and bad games,” Indiana coach Archie Miller said during this past season. “That’s what a freshman season is.”

Durham endured the extremes of that uncertainty, however.

He roared out of the gates to a really strong start to his college career but couldn’t sustain that level of play.

In his first 10 games, Durham played at least 19 minutes in each and was shooting over 45 percent from the field.

“Al continues to be stellar just in terms of us trusting him with his IQ and how he plays,” Miller said early on. “You’re not going to find a guy early in his career that’s this steady.”

In the Hoosiers’ final 21 games, Durham totaled that much playing time just six more times, however.

Miller used Durham at both the point and off-guard positions at times last season but that should be narrowed to more of the latter moving forward with the continued growth of junior guard Devonte Green, as well as incoming freshman Robert Phinisee.

“He’s much more of an efficient player straight line (and) doesn’t need to have the ball on his hands a ton to be effective,” Miller continued on Durham. “If you just went by plus-minus… by far the biggest gap of a guy being on the floor in terms of positive is Al. That’s really rare for a freshman to have that type of impact and one of the reasons is he doesn’t turn the ball over.”

In Indiana’s first nine games, Durham played 233 total minutes but only threw the ball away five times. That efficiency came to a screeching halt in a road loss at Louisville, though.

Durham committed five turnovers in 24 minutes in that game, but to his credit he never had such a poor performance again.

For the year, Durham dished out 39 assists to just 25 turnovers, however, those numbers digressed to 14 and 15 within Big Ten Conference play.

“He takes care of the ball,” Miller continued. “He makes the right read. He’s an efficient scorer. He’s not even shooting the ball as well as he can. I think if he can get his legs under him, I think being able to stretch the floor from three is going to help him. He’s off to a really good start, he’s very coachable, (and) he has a great attitude.”

That shooting prediction never came to fruition, though Durham had some solid games late in the season.

From early December to late January, Durham had to fight through a horrific offensive stretch of play.

In a 16-game stretch, he made just 13 of 47 shots (27.6 percent), including an anemic 2 of 21 (9.5 percent) from beyond the arc. However, that trend was halted with a really solid 5 of 6 shooting night (he also hit both 3-pointers) in a mid-February win over Illinois.

Durham added to that with another strong game later in the month against Ohio State.

In that double-overtime loss in Bloomington, Durham hit 3 of 4 shots (including a 3-pointer) in just 11 minutes of action.

“Nothing’s changed,” Durham said late in the year. “I’ve just been working with the coaches and my teammates. My teammates and coaches have always had confidence in me, so nothing has really changed it’s just been following them.”

That level-headedness resonated with Miller, who praised Durham and the other freshmen for nice play late in the season.

“It shows that the team is continuing to do the right things,” Miller said, “coachability, working towards getting better individually, caring about everything that we do. You don’t have performances like that from guys off the bench if they’re not completely locked in.

“We have a locked-in team, which is good this time of year.”

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

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