BLOOMINGTON –- Austin Etherington is Indiana's new bigger, younger Matt Roth. At least, that is the plan. He is the guy to hit open three-pointers, the guy so in tune to his role and his ability to get lost in the game (so that defenses forget he's out there) that coach Tom Crean has to play him.
“Shooting will be a lot of it,” he said. “I have to do a lot more of that so I can stay on the floor.”
This is Etherington's dilemma. He is a 6-6, 206-pound sophomore from Hamilton Heights High School just outside of Indianapolis. He does not excel at ball handling or rebounding or defending. He is not an inside-outside scoring threat.
But Etherington can shoot. In practice he has been told, both subtly and not so subtly, that if he wants to play, he has to hit open shots, although in this more defensive-minded season, he can't slack on guarding people.
“Shooting is expected out of me, and so is playing defense,” he said. “Do the other things to stay on the court.”
Etherington's other things included spending lots of off-season time working on his shooting, both on two-pointers and three-pointers. That puts him on par with his teammates.
“Almost all of us shoot every day,” he said. “I take probably 150 shots a day. Go into Cook Hall, get my shots up and leave. A lot of time I worked out with Jordan (Hulls) and Will (Sheehey), so we all did the same thing.”
Last year as a freshman, Etherington played in 16 games, started none. He played just 10 minutes in five Big Ten games, and made just 2-of-8 three-point attempts overall. He averaged 1.3 points and 0.9 rebounds in 4.8 minutes.
Getting more playing time on a deep team regarded as a national title contender won't be easy.
“The big thing for me is confidence,” he said. “I've got to be confident out there. Play my game and know what I can and cannot do. Last year I didn't really know much. This year I know more of what's expected out of me.”
As far as his defense, he said that, “It's getting better. No one is pleased with his defense. That's the key for everyone –- go out and prove we can play defense.”
Also, you might have noticed last Saturday night, Jonny Marlin upset favored Jordan Hulls to reach the finals of the Hoosier Hysteria long-shot competition, where he lost to Cody Zeller.
Who's Jonny Marlin?
Teammate Victor Oladipo playfully referred to Marlin as “Jonny Cash” during Hoosier Hysteria. He's a 5-10 sophomore guard redshirting this season after transferring from IPFW. He gave up a scholarship at a low-major program to walk-on at a program with national title aspirations.
Last year as a freshman, the former Center Grove High School standout started 28 of 30 games. He averaged 4.3 points and 3.5 assists while shooting 35.6 percent from three-point range and 87.5 percent from the free throw line. His best game came against Nebraska Omaha when he had a career-high 13 points and a career-high 10 assists.
What did Marlin's long-shot perform mean to his IU prospects?
“Well he was open,” Crean said. “That's a little different. He hasn't been as open in practice.
“He's learning. He's learning the pace of this. He's learning the speed and the length are hard to handle. You have to make sure you're bringing your best every day.
“He's done a very good job with that. He's trying to get better. He's an excellent shooter. The next step will be adding strength where he can get his shot against pressure. He has to get even better in the pick and roll, and making teammates better. It's been great to have him.”
Crean, along with Hulls, Zeller and Christian Watford, will participate in Thursday's Big Ten Basketball Media Day in Chicago. Coaches and select players from the other 11 conference schools also will attend.
IU also will host its annual Haunted Hall of Hoops scrimmage on Sunday afternoon at Assembly Hall.