Tipoff: Indiana vs. Georgia, 5:30 p.m. tonight
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BLOOMINGTON –- Is it time to give Indiana freshman Jeremy Hollowell basketball absolution?
It's up to him.
Hollowell is a cool guy in a fire sport, and that will not work in coach Tom Crean's full-throttle approach. The talent, however, is unmistakable.
“Jeremy will peak if his emotional level doesn't continue to rise like it needs to,” Crean says, “but we knew that when we recruited him. He knew we knew that when we recruited him. He knows we're going to keep pulling it out of him until it's there.”
There are worse basketball sins than to be laid back, to lack Victor Oladipo outward passion and intensity. Hollowell has the gift of height (6-8) and size (217 pounds) and an ability to score, rebound and defend. He is, in many ways, a younger version of senior Christian Watford. After point guard Yogi Ferrell, he's likely the best freshman in a Hoosier class loaded with them.
And yet …
“He's got to continue to bring that emotional level to the game,” Crean says, “or he will get neutralized.”
Hollowell's college debut produced 12 points, two rebounds, a block and a steal in 17 minutes against Bryant. He followed that up with 14 points and two rebounds in 19 minutes against North Dakota State, while cutting his turnovers from three to zero. He added four points and six rebounds in 15 minutes against Sam Houston State.
For the season Hollowell is fourth on the team in scoring (10.0) and rebounding (3.3). He shoots 45 percent from the field, which is good. He shoots 12.5 percent on three-pointers, which is not so good. He has four turnovers and no assists, which needs work.
“It's always tough going from high school to college,” forward Cody Zeller says. “Jeremy worked hard over the summer and that's carried over to the season.
“He's very skilled. He can go inside and outside. You want to play with guys like that. It makes it a lot easier for everyone. He should be big for us this year.”
Hollowell was a dominating starter in high school (Indianapolis Lawrence Central) and travel ball. Now he's a reserve on the nation's No. 1 team. He ranks seventh in minutes per game (17.0).
“On this team, with all the talent we have, you have to find your role,” he says. “I don't have a problem with it. I try to maximize my minutes, play to my strengths and provide energy. Go hard and be physical.”
His next chance comes tonight in Legends Classic semifinal action against Georgia (1-2). Can Hollowell continue the progress? With Crean as his coach, he has no choice. You either work and develop, or you sit.
“We can do a lot of things with him,” Crean says. “He's very, very smart. He can stuff that stat sheet. He's always been able to do that, but he's got to impact winning on both sides of the floor.”
IU (3-0) has crushed its first three opponents by an average victory margin of 41 points. It forces 17.7 turnovers a game and holds teams to 34.5 percent shooting, 22.7 percent from three-point range.
But that was at Assembly Hall. The Hoosiers will try to duplicate that dominance at Brooklyn's Barclays Center against a struggling Georgia team coming off last week's losses to Youngstown State and Southern Mississippi. That followed last season's 15-17 record.
The Bulldogs are led by guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (20.3 points, 6.0 rebounds).
“We've started a little slower than we anticipated,” coach Mark Fox says. “We have a young team with nine freshmen and sophomores. We have not been as complete as we want to be. We've had some bright moments and made some mistakes that need corrections. We need to play well to compete with Indiana.”
In tonight's other game, No. 13 UCLA (3-0) will play Georgetown (2-0). UCLA will have heralded freshman point guard Shabazz Muhammad, who missed the first three games because of eligibility issues involving benefits during unofficial recruiting trips to Duke and North Carolina.
Winners and losers will play Tuesday night. Former coach Bob Knight will be a game analyst with ESPNU.
As for Hollowell, he won't start, but he will contribute.
“I'm getting a feel for the game, getting more comfortable,” he says. “I have to stay within myself, come off the bench and provide a spark.”
For that, no absolution is required.