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  • Associated Press Indiana guard Josh Newkirk drives to the basket during a January game. Newkirk, a senior, will run the Hoosiers' offense this season.

Monday, October 09, 2017 1:00 am

IU coach has confidence in Newkirk

CHRIS GOFF | The Journal Gazette

BLOOMINGTON – For Josh Newkirk, adjusting to a new coaching staff is a familiar task.

He first committed to Pittsburgh and played two seasons under coach Jamie Dixon, then transferred to Indiana and spent 2016-17 playing for Tom Crean. After the Hoosiers fired Crean in March and made Archie Miller their new coach, the 6-foot-1, 195-pound Newkirk started the cycle all over again.

“Just have open communication,” Newkirk said. “I think that's the biggest part, being on the same page with whoever the new staff is. Being up front, that's mainly it.”

Miller has left no doubt about how he views Newkirk.

“Josh has clearly established himself as a clear-cut point guard,” Miller said. “I think everybody else on our team can play a couple spots. Josh is a point guard.”

Miller, a point guard in his playing days at North Carolina State, understands every detail of the position. Miller started 42 games as an offensive orchestrator and knows what he wants from the point guards he coaches.

“That position for us is essential in running the show,” Miller said. “You've got to be able to push the ball, and you've got to have great tempo, but you also have to be able to play smart when you're playing fast and be able to control it and play with low turnovers.”

Turnovers were an issue in Newkirk's first year in Bloomington. The Hoosiers had 517 in 34 games, and their average of 15.2 giveaways was the worst in the Big Ten.

Newkirk contributed to the unsightly numbers, with 76 turnovers, so that is an area high on his list of goals for personal improvement.

“I (want to be) more of a vocal leader, putting guys in the right position to succeed, and taking care of the ball,” Newkirk said. “We had a lot of turnovers last year, so making the right decisions, making the right plays (is important).”

Newkirk's return to the court last fall marked his first action since he underwent microfracture surgery on his left knee in 2015. That procedure is done only if knee cartilage is badly damaged, and some players have not recovered fully.

After a slow start, Newkirk found his groove in February and March, averaging 12.6 points per game over the last 12 games. He shot 47 percent from the field in that span, including 45 percent from 3-point range.

“Josh finished the season last year really strong,” Miller said.

Newkirk averaged 9.1 points per game and shot 38 percent on 3s. Starting all but two games, the North Carolina native led Indiana in assist rate.

The next step for Newkirk is try to make his senior season his best. The Nov. 10 season opener is a month away, but he's already on the same page with Miller.

“He's real interactive with us on the court,” Newkirk said. “That means a lot.”