|During its undefeated trip to the Bahamas, Indiana State also took a team snorkeling excursion. (Indiana State Athletics)|
After leading Indiana State to an NCAA tournament berth during his first year with Sycamores, point guard Jake Odum had high expectations placed on him for his sophomore campaign.
However, Odum battled plantar fasciitis throughout the season, and the Sycamores stumbled to a eighth-place finish in the Missouri Valley. With Odum fully healthy, coach Greg Lansing is optimistic about his potential this season.
“He's a pass-first point guard. Old-school, so competitive,” Lansing said. “He wants nothing more than to help his team win. I love point guards, and Jake ranks up there.”
There isn't as much hype surrounding the 6-foot-4 Terre Haute native this season, despite averaging 10.8 points, 5.9 rebounds and 4.8 assists a year ago. After looking 100 percent during the Sycamores' trip to the Bahamas, it might be time to keep an eye on Odum again.
Lansing certainly has no problem crediting Odum with bringing some publicity to the program.
“I used to go around Indiana and people wouldn't know anything about us,” he said. “Now they know. We go out recruiting, people know who Jake Odum is.”
What Lansing learned: “A great thing happened over there. When you land over there, your cell phone doesn't work. So our guys couldn't bury their heads in their phone. They were together the whole entire trip without being on their phones. It was really good to get to know each other better, in a beautiful place. I have a tremendous, tremendous group of kids. I don't know how good we'll be, but we've got a great group of kids.”
Who stood out: "Jake Odum is healthy; he's back to his old self. He looked like a million dollars – his athleticism is back. He just couldn't move last year. Manny Arop, the transfer from Gonzaga. He got cut in his head the last game, but he led us in scoring. The ball is going to be in Odum's hands a lot. Manny can post, and can really shoot it.”
Biggest concern: “Inexperience and defensively. Who's going to be our stoppers, our guys that will try to take guys out of the game? We might have a guy or two like that, but we need more than that.”
- Only two of the top seven players from last year's team are back, including leading scorer Dwayne Lathan. There are still several spots up for grabs in the starting lineup. “We have guys fighting for it,” Lansing said. “It makes for great practices, and we improve that way. We're going to have good depth. We need to find guys to fill roles.”
- Former Cincinnati commit Khristian Smith is the most highly touted of the freshmen. He's a powerful 6-foot-6 wing who sat out last season as a partial qualifier. “He has ability, he has talent,” Lansing said. “This was great for him, getting his confidence back.”
- Lansing was also impressed with redshirt freshmen Devonte Brown and Brandon Burnett. Both are guards who will be counted upon to contribute early. “They know how we work,” Lansing said. “They know our pace and how hard we go at it. They know what our plan is. They need to lead these newcomers.”
- Jake Kitchell, a 6-foot-10 sophomore big man, was singled out by Lansing as possibly the most improved player on the team. He played fewer than seven minutes per game last season. “He's just fighting everyday,” Lansing said. “He's an unbelievable team guy.”
- Like several other teams, Indiana State stayed at the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas. The notable activity they did as a team was snorkeling. Four hours of snorkeling. “It turned out to be the trip of a lifetime,” Lansing said.