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IU freshman keeps focus on improving

Vonleh

Indiana freshman forward Noah Vonleh, despite all the praise and accolades he received in his high school career, still has the tunnel vision that got him to this point.

“I just want to be great,” he said. “I just want to keep getting better and take my game to new levels.”

That’s why the 6-foot-10 forward put on more than 20 pounds when he got to Bloomington and now, at 240 pounds, is challenging point guard Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell in sprints.

That’s why the former McDonald’s All-American out of Haverhill, Mass., is in Cook Hall at all hours of the day – more, his teammates said, than any other Hoosier seems to be.

That’s why Vonleh, who at 18 is the team’s youngest player, might be the best player on this roster once the Hoosiers’ season starts.

“I think it’s going to be a little adjustment, just adjusting to the speed of the game, playing against different defenses and seeing what’s thrown at us,” he said. “But I think I should be ready to go.”

Being a five-star recruit and one of the best players in the 2013 class wasn’t enough for Vonleh. Neither is being a future NBA prospect.

“Of course everyone’s heard about his exploits as far as how much weight he’s gained, how hard he works,” IU assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Kenny Johnson said during the team’s media day in October.

Vonleh is a combo forward who can dribble like a guard and is developing his three-point shot and perimeter game.

He was considered by scouting services to be one of the best rebounders in the 2013 class, and although he missed some preseason workouts because of an ankle injury, he’s expected to make an immediate impact for the Hoosiers.

“Noah’s a little bit different than anyone we had at that point in time as far as being a young guy,” associate head coach Tim Buckley said. “He can set up shop down there on the block, he can get out on the floor and he can handle the ball and he can shoot the ball. His versatility, and also his explosiveness and power, isn’t necessarily freshman-like.”

Little about the New Hampton (N.H.) School graduate is. Senior forward Will Sheehey, the reigning Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year, who is also known for his competitive streak and work ethic, recognizes those traits in the youngest Hoosier.

“He’s like what you’d want a basketball player to look like if you were to create a player on your NBA game or whatever video game,” Sheehey said. “His motor is different. The kid plays hard. He’s patient. He doesn’t care about shots, touches, scoring, you know, and that’s what you want. A lot of guys that are as highly recruited as him would come in and think the complete opposite, and so it’s nice that he plays that hard.”

smorrison@jg.net

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