Much-needed stability might not keep Jaguars out of last place
In a strange way, a year full of uncertainty looks like it actually provided some stability for IUPUI. After it initially looked like a search was underway for Byron Rimm’s replacement, the athletic department opted to keep him for another year. Focus then shifted to a number of talented upperclassmen who seemed likely to have bigger opportunities available to them, but most opted to stay put.
Of the team’s four 2020 starters with eligibility remaining, three opted to stay with the team. Jalen Minnett, Marcus Burk and Elyjah Goss will all exhaust their eligibility at IUPUI. Better yet for the Jaguars, the three returning starters were the team’s three leading scorers and included every player to be honored with a Horizon League Postseason award. Losing pass-first point guard Grant Weatherford creates a pretty significant question mark for the team, but with so many players that would seem appealing to stronger teams on the roster it’s far from the worst-case scenario.
Bobby Harvey – Harvey was the second-leading scorer for 21-11 Wabash Valley College last year. The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 11.9 points per game while knocking down 36 percent of his 3-pointers for the year.
Azariah Seay – Byron Rimm went back to his Texas roots to secure a commitment from Blinn College guard Azariah Seay. Seay was third in scoring for Blinn with 13.5 points per game. Like Harvey, the 6-foot-4 guard will be vying for minutes on the wing this season.
Bakari LaStrap – LaStrap averaged 16 points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds for The Woodlands Christian Academy on his way to being named the All-Greater Houston Private School Player of the Year by the Houston Chronicle. With only one true point guard on the roster, LaStrap may be a player that could contend for early minutes despite a logjam at guard.
Dimitri Georgiadis – The Romanian big man joins IUPUI after a season at State Fair Community College, where he averaged 3.9 points and 5.6 rebounds while making seven starts. Georgiadis stood out as a member of the Romanian U-18 National Team in 2017, averaging 15.1 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. He played one season at The Citadel out of high school, averaging 1.5 points per game in six contests.
Dimitar Pandev – Bigs with shooting touch were clearly a priority for Byron Rimm this offseason. Pandev knocked down 33% of his three-pointers this season at Clarendon College, where he averaged 3.5 points and 4.0 rebounds per game. He’s another player with international experience prior to his time with the Jaguars. He averaged 2.6 points and 2.2 rebounds for the North Macedonia U20 team in 2018.
Mike DePersia – If Byron Rimm opts to keep Minnett and Burk off-ball, DePersia is the natural fit to fill in for Grant Weatherford. The pure point guard has good vision and an aggressive style that fits well with what could be even more of a perimeter oriented IUPUI attack this year. If the team decides to let returning star Jalen Minnett act as the primary ballhandler, expect newcomers Bobby Harvey and Azariah Seay to battle for the third backcourt spot.
Jaylen Minnett – After winning the Horizon League Sixth Man of the Year in 2019, Minnett stepped up into a featured role as a junior. Minnett averaged 16.6 points, 3.1 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game in 2020. Despite the lack of team success for IUPUI, Minnett’s production was enough to be a HoriZone Roundtable Third Team All-League pick.
Marcus Burk – Burk averaged an efficient 21.3 points per game on his way to a Second Team All-League selection for the Jaguars last season. Burk’s return was definitely the most surprising of the potential departures. With Minnett as the team’s only other consistent offensive option, the fact that Burk was able maintain such efficiency speaks volumes about his talent.
Isaiah Williams – Prior to a season-ending injury, the 6-foot-8 forward averaged 8.0 points and 4.4 rebounds per game in 18 games last year. Williams took a little while to get into a groove, but scored in double figures in six of his final twelve games before injury after failing to hit 10 points in his first six games. If fully recovered, he should start and be a valuable asset for the Jaguars this year.
Elyjah Goss – Goss made the Horizon League All-Defensive Team as a junior while leading the league in rebounds with 11.5 per game. Retaining the double-double machine for his fifth and final year of eligibility was a fortunate turn of events for IUPUI, which lacks front court depth even with him on the roster.
IUPUI’s fortunes improved dramatically when three of the four players who would’ve been attractive on the transfer market opted to stay. Still, the Jaguars were a distant last-place finisher in 2020, so even significant improvement may not keep the Jaguars from finishing at the bottom of the league standings.
Prediction: 12th Place