The Indiana Hoosiers have enjoyed a resurgence of sorts in the last couple of years. After struggling through a recruiting violation by their coach at the time, Kelvin Sampson and being put on a three year probation in 2008, they started returning to their position as a power school with the addition of Tom Crean as head coach.
A lot of Crean’s success was related to two of Indiana’s best players in a long time, Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo. After losing both players to the draft, the Hoosiers will have to adapt and change their game plan accordingly. Thankfully for Indiana, there comes consolation in the fact that the Hoosiers have one of the top forwards from the 2013 recruiting class coming in to help fill the void left by Oladipo and Zeller.
Noah Vonleh is a 6”9 forward from Havervill, Massachusetts. He played his high school basketball at New Hampton School, a prep school located in New Hampshire. Vonleh was heavily recruited by virtually all the major NCAA schools like Kansas, North Carolina and UCLA. Ultimately he decided on Indiana both for their basketball pedigree and their education.
Here are some highlights of Vonleh doing his thing in high school.
Vonleh is a stretch forward, he has a great jump shot that makes him dangerous from any area on the basketball court. With his shooting ability, Vonleh can step out beyond the three point line and make his defender uncomfortable because most forwards do not like venturing that far out on the perimeter. On top of that, Vonleh has great handles which makes him that much harder to guard out on the perimeter. Especially for bigger forwards who are not used to having to defend on the ball like a guard would.
Physically, Vonleh has pretty good height and an extremely impressive wingspan. He measures out at 6”9 but his wingspan is 7”3 which allows him to finish at the rim with greater ease and on defense, it helps him alter shots at the rim. Vonleh is also gifted with huge and soft hands that allow him to easily secure passes and loose balls. A lot of big men have what they call “stone hands” and struggle to catch passes thrown at a high velocity. This is not an issue for Vonleh as he will catch any ball thrown in his general vicinity.
Defensively, his long arms allow him to gamble on passes without putting himself badly out of position. In the post, it will allow him to stop lob passes to opposing big men because he can reach over the top and bat them out of the air. It also allows for the opportunity to front his defender and not leave his team too open to easy dunk opportunities.
Another area where Vonleh’s length becomes important is with his rebounding. He has a large torso and shorter legs which leaves him a low center of gravity. This is excellent when it comes to boxing out his defender because it allows Vonleh to ground himself and become immovable. Gifted with length, Vonleh is also thickly built and he already has great bulk. Battling down low for rebounds in the NCAA should not be an issue for Vonleh.
Off the court, Vonleh is an extremely intelligent and coachable player. He is always looking to improve and wants to be the best player he can be. He adapts well to coaching changes and has really improved every year in high school. It should be no different when arrives at Indiana. Vonleh’s basketball IQ is also very high and he seems to pick up on plays and strategies very quickly.
A great player already, Vonleh has the potential to be a real game changer. The only thing holding him back is himself. He sometimes appears to fade into the background when he should assert himself more. Vonleh is one of the best players in the nation but it looks like he doesn’t realize it himself. He will have to become more comfortable with the idea that he is a star player because that is how he will be used at Indiana.
Though he has been gifted with a great wingspan, he is not a great fit at either the power forward or small forward position. There is a possibility of him becoming a “tweener”, the type of player like a Michael Beasley that does not have a specific position and struggles at adapting to that fact. The difference between Vonleh and Beasley is that Vonleh appears to want to put in the work to avoid having his career falter the way it has for Beasley.
If he is going to be logging heavy minutes at the power forward position for Indiana, as it is expected he will, Vonleh will need to develop some post moves. As it stands, Vonleh is not strong in the post nor is he comfortable. Most of his offense comes from jump shots, drives at the rim or in transition. For the Hoosiers to have a strong half court offense, Vonleh will need to be able to get himself down low and create shots with his post moves.
Defensively, it would be nice to see him start blocking more shots by using his long arms in traffic. Vonleh is a smart player who knows to avoid foul trouble but he could afford to risk a few fouls here and there to get some more shot blocking opportunities. Vonleh will also have to focus some more on defending in the post as he will face a lot more capable big men in the Big 10 than he has during his high school career.
What to Expect at Indiana:
The minute Vonleh arrives at Indiana, he will be one of its most important players. With Zeller’s departure, the Hoosiers have lost their number one offensive option and Vonleh will be expected to pick up a lot of that slack.
In the post, he might have some struggles because he needs to develop down low but on the perimeter and on the drive, Vonleh should be dangerous from day one. His great athleticism should also make him one of the better fast break finishers in the nation. A lot of the half court offense should run through him which means that Vonleh will get a lot of touches and chances to get more comfortable in the post.
As a rebounder, he should be one of the NCAA’s best from the get go. His motor allows him to grab loose balls both offensively and defensively and his strength makes him tough to fully box out. Vonleh is a great combination of effort and skill and that is one the biggest things a coach could ask for.
Vonleh is probably not NBA ready, he would benefit from a few years in the NCAA and at Indiana. Since he chose the Hoosiers partly because he liked their educational choices, it would not be a surprise to see him sticking around for a few years. Given the chance to develop his offense a little bit and get some experience at the NCAA level, it wouldn’t be farfetched to see Vonleh eventually become a threat to be a first overall pick in the NBA draft.