Could stability bring success for the Jaguars in 2024?
For the first time since 2021, IUPUI had some semblance of stability in the offseason. Talented NCAA newcomers Jlynn Counter, Vincent Brady, and D.J. Jackson stuck around to play for coach Matt Crenshaw and the team’s losses to the transfer portal all seemed to want more minutes. On the other end of the portal, the Jaguars added multiple players that have proven they should have no trouble earning some minutes for what was one of the nation’s worst teams each of the last two years.
Climbing out from that hole would be a significant feat, but one that seems much more possible for a team whose top seven players from last year featured four freshmen and a sophomore. Add in that the most proven Division I talent played in just four games, and there’s reason for at least a little bit of optimism in Indianapolis.
Bryce Monroe – This may be wishful thinking for IUPUI, as Monroe joined the Jaguars after missing much of the 2022 season at San Diego and wound up playing in just four games during an injury-riddled season in 2023. In the few games he did play, Monroe stood out. He averaged 15.0 points and 4.7 assists in his three games against Division I competition. The 2021 Southland Freshman of the Year showed the potential to be the best player on a team that already featured an All-League performer
Jlynn Counter – With Monroe out of the lineup for the Jaguars, Counter took over as the team’s primary ballhandler and found himself on the All-Horizon League Third Team while playing out of position. Monroe’s return would allow Counter to play off-ball while also keeping a significant amount of defensive attention focused on the lead guard spot, both of which could allow him to be an even more dangerous threat in 2024.
Vincent Brady II – A season ago, Vincent Brady II was one of the most impressive freshmen in the Horizon League. He finished second on the team in scoring and rebounding, averaging 10.9 points and 3.9 rebounds per game in his first season of college. That jumped to an impressive 12.4 points per game in Horizon League play as he settled into playing at the Division I level. If Brady can make a jump with a season under his belt, the Jaguars will have a very impressive trio leading the way.
DJ Jackson – Jackson was another very interesting freshman for IUPUI. He earned Horizon League All-Freshman honors despite missing 11 games, averaging 9.6 points and 3.9 rebounds per game on the season. After returning from the injury, Jackson went through similar growing pains as Brady. By the end of the season, his 20+ point performances helped lead IUPUI to a win over Robert Morris and a close loss to Oakland. Jackson was streakier than Brady at the end of the year, but the stronger offensive outputs could help the Jaguars achieve much more success this year.
Abdou Samb – Samb transferred to IUPUI from Rhode Island, where he averaged 3.6 points and 2.7 rebounds per game as a freshman while starting 17 of the 31 games he played in. Between the step down in competition from the Atlantic 10 to the Horizon League and the jump in production that’s common as freshman become sophomores, Samb could easily prove to be a solid replacement for graduated senior big man Chris Osten.
Kidtrell Blocker – A transfer from Buffalo, Blocker grew from getting garbage minutes as a freshman to a consistent rotation player as a sophomore. He averaged 4.1 points and 2.2 rebounds per game for the Bulls in 2023. One area that could earn him minutes in a hurry is his shooting. The 6-foot-5 wing took almost half of his shots from 3-point range and hit 34.4 percent of them. Even if that shooting doesn’t scale up moving from the MAC to the Horizon League, it would have made Blocker one of the top shooting threats on a team that collectively shot 29.7 percent from long range.
John Egbuta – If Matt Crenshaw opts for a lineup that doesn’t feature four perimeter players, Egbuta seems like the most likely to be elevated to starter status. The senior forward averaged 6.2 points and 3.2 rebounds per game in his first season of NCAA basketball a year ago and seemed to be hitting his stride in January before a quiet end of the season.
Armon Jarrard – Another of the freshman wings who showed promise for the Jaguars, Jarrard averaged 5.3 points per game in 2023. The highlight of Jarrard’s freshman campaign was easily his efficient 22-poiont outing that had Cleveland State faithful sweating until the late stages of a 78-72 IUPUI loss.
Daylan Hamilton – IUPUI’s fifth leading scorer on a per-game basis, Hamilton played a pretty significant role before his season ended due to injury in January. Hamilton averaged 6.4 points per game, but did so while shooting 38.7 percent from the field. Add in the development of the returning players, promising newcomers and the injury setback and he might not return to the same role he had halfway through last year.
Amhad Jarrard – Armon’s twin brother showed plenty of potential in his own right for IUPUI last season. Although his 4.5 points per game didn’t quite match his brother’s, he started four more games and played more minutes per game while adding 1.9 assists and 1.3 rebounds per contest. With his all-around production being a bit better and IUPUI looking like it’ll have several scoring options ahead of either brother, Ahmad Jarrard could once again wind up playing more minutes as Matt Crenshaw looks for more of a glue guy in the lineup.
Bryce Monroe is seemingly ready to play this season, the four freshmen in the rotation now have some college experience under their belts, and the team added transfers that have been able to make it onto the court for much better teams than the one IUPUI put on the floor last year. It’s easy to see why our staff is much more optimistic about IUPUI than it has been in the last couple seasons. If Monroe can manage to play all — or even most — of league play, the Jaguars could have one of the better backcourts in the league.
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Preview Week Recap Part 1 | Preview Week Recap Part 2