As the No. 7 recruit in the class of 2013, Noah Vonleh is the highest-rated prospect signed in Tom Crean's tenure at Indiana. With that status will come a burden of proof even exceeding that faced by iconic Hoosier recruit Cody Zeller.
IU's roster will be highly inexperienced during the 2013-14 season, and the best players will be allowed to make their own opportunities. Vonleh should be one of the Hoosiers' leaders, but he'll need to hit the ground running to fulfill his immense potential.
Here are some predictions on what to expect from the Big Ten's only McDonald's All-American.
Getting the Point(s)
Almost 75 percent of Indiana's scoring has left the program, and Vonleh should be the big dog who gets to feed first. His ability to score off the dribble and pull up for mid-range jumpers should mitigate the substantial size disadvantage he will face against Big Ten post players such as Michigan State's Adreian Payne or Michigan's Mitch McGary.
Vonleh could also be well served if Crean decides to use the less offensively versatile Hanner Mosquera-Perea as his pivot. The freshman would then be saved from dueling with the bulky opposition, but would face slightly more athletic forwards like Iowa's Aaron White or MSU's Branden Dawson. Vonleh's chances of beating those forwards to the glass would be much better than if he's boxing out centers.
Unless Will Sheehey begins draining three-pointers as efficiently as Victor Oladipo did this past season, Vonleh will have a very good chance of leading the Hoosiers in scoring.
Speaking Of Rebounding...
Vonleh averaged nearly 12 boards per game in his senior season at the New Hampton School. It's highly presumptuous to expect that level of production in the always-rugged Big Ten, but he could equal Zeller's team-leading eight RPG from last season.
Listed at 6'8", Vonleh actually measured in at 6'9.75" in shoes at the Nike Hoop Summit. That figure puts him approximately two inches shorter than Zeller, but he more than makes up for it with a wingspan that exceeds Zeller's by eight inches (7'4" to 6'8").
With those long arms, large hands and a frame that may not be done growing yet, Vonleh may not always be at such a disadvantage. He'll never be an earth-mover, nor should he be expected to lest he dull the quickness and agility that make him dangerous to opposing bigs.
Vonleh's rebounding may be the single most critical factor to Indiana's 2013-14 success. The underweight Hoosiers will need all the boards they can grab if they are to work Crean's transition offense and take advantage of their team-wide athleticism.
While averaging a double-double will likely be far-fetched, don't be surprised if Vonleh cards a solid 16-and-8 in his freshman season.
Accolades and Honors
The Big Ten Network's Brent Yarina is tabbing Vonleh as his early choice for conference freshman of the year. That's a fairly conservative pick, considering that the Big Ten has only one other player in the Verbal Commits consensus top 35 (Michigan's Zak Irvin).
With the extensive role Vonleh should be allowed to play for the Hoosiers, it's reasonable to expect an All-Big Ten honor, even if it's only honorable mention.
As for Indiana itself?
Well, we've already discussed the best-case scenario. Worst case should see IU still contending for the NCAA tournament and standing in the middle of the Big Ten pack.
Either way, Noah Vonleh will be a major factor. Enjoy him while he's around, because it may be an upset to see him still wearing cream and crimson in November 2014.
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