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LOUISVILLE – Max Hoetzel had a point to prove. He's a 6-8 forward who is coming for Indiana for one top reason:
Consider it mission accomplished -- at least for one all-star game, anyway, courtesy of Friday night's Kentucky Derby Festival Basketball Classic.
Yes, this California native, set to arrive in Bloomington at the end of June, also will be asked to rebound, defend, limit turnovers and all the other duties the Hoosiers will need to bounce back from this season's 17-15, no-postseason disaster.
But Hoetzel was recruited first and foremost to shoot. Poor shooting -- Indiana ranked No. 174 nationally in three-point shooting, at 34.4 percent -- was among the reasons for its swift fall from No. 1 team to Big Ten also-ran.
Hoetzel is determined to deliver, and used Friday night's game at Freedom Hall to showcase that. He dominated the three-point shooting contest with a quickly release smooth jumper that produced a winning 20 points. Fellow IU signee Robert Johnson was second with 15 points.
“That's what I do,” Hoetzel said. “Any time there's a three-point contest, I expect to win it.”
Hoetzel and Johnson reached Friday's three-point finals by their performances in Thursday's three-point shootout at Floyd Central High School in Indiana as part of the Night of Future Stars competition.
Hoetzel led all participants then with 15 points. Johnson and Quentin Snider (who is heading to Louisville) had 13 to tie for third. Florida signee Brandone Francis was second with 14.
Hoetzel started for the Green team Friday night. He ran the court well while totaling 10 points on 3-for-3 shooting, including 2-for-2 from three-point range. He added three rebounds, one assist and one turnover in 20 minutes in a 128-104 loss to a White team that featured Louisville and Florida recruits.
Johnson had 10 points on 4-for-13 shooting (2-for-6 from three-point range). He added five rebounds, two assists and two turnovers. He was the event's "fan favorite award" based on texts from the 5,518 fans in attendance.
Hoetzel said his game has evolved beyond just shooting.
“I can put ball on the floor, pull up and get to the basket. I also play some defense. I have to take a lot of pride in playing defense. Playing for Coach (Tom) Crean, you've got to play defense. I'll get down and dirty next year.”
Hoetzel said he projects as a small forward, with the possibility of developing into a “stretch 4 (power forward).”
Hoetzel is listed at 205 pounds, but says he figures to add weight under strength coach Je'Ney Jackson.
“Coach Crean wants me to put on more weight, get a little stronger, get faster. Pretty much everything. You can always get better.”
As far as Jackson's rigorous program, Hoetzel said, “It's about work. A lot of work. He doesn't mess around. I'm excited to get over there and get started with him.
“He gave me the six-week routine. I'm doing that already so I'll have an advantage when I get there. I'm in the gym every morning at 6 and then later in the day, too. All this work will pay off.”
Crean has told Hoetzel his game combines the best traits of Will Sheehey, who just wrapped up his four-year Hoosier career, and former Marquette standout Steve Novak.
Hoetzel said he figures he'll get his playing opportunity because of the way he shoots and scores, but will only keep it, “On how I can defend. I have to do all the little things so I can be an all-around player.”
Hoetzel isn't the most heralded member in this top-15 recruiting class that features shooting guards James Blackmon (ranked No. 23 in the Class of 2014 by Rivals.com) and Johnson (No. 42). Hoetzel, who spent this season at Massachusetts' Wilbraham and Monson Academy, is not ranked, but said the Derby Festival experience has helped.
“I've gotten a lot better. Playing at the elite level with these high school players, has helped me play at a more intense level. I've been able to step my game up.”
He said he'll continue striving to do that.
“I'll stay in the gym, stay focused academically and finish out the year strong.”
IU added a 7-foot center Friday night in Jeremiah April out of Arizona, but the key to this class is Blackmon, who projects as the nation's top incoming freshman shooter. He scored 2,387 points in high school while at Bishop Luers and Marion. He participated in Friday's Jordan Brand Classic in Brooklyn, N.Y., and scored 23 points on 10-for-13 shooting. He added four assists and three rebounds.
Hoetzel called Crean's latest recruiting class “probably the best shooting class in the country. You can't get better than that.”