The Starting Six*

After being announced Pre-season player of the year and the “savior of Indiana basketball”, Cody Zeller’s name graced many newspaper headlines, and it still does. Similarly, Victor Oladipo, although not projected as a top ten pick in the NBA after only his freshman year of high school like his teammate Zeller, received enormous recognition, all of which he deserved throughout this past season. With the highest shooting percentage of the Big Ten and many perfect dunk moments highlighted on ESPN, Indiana fans and general NCAA fans a-like worship Oladipo’s accuracy and speed. Seniors Christian Watford and Jordan Hulls are expected favorites also. Watford serves as a power forward and strong senior leader, with a strong loyalty to the Hoosiers, and Bloomington’s own Jordan Hulls, a high-school state champ in his earlier days, has court presence and composure unexpected for a six foot star facing some of the NCAA’s largest players. To close up the regular Indiana starting five is freshmen Yogi Ferrell. As is Indiana tradition, a freshman comes in strong, learning the traits of a dynamic and fluid team to create a sense of longevity; when Watford and Jordan graduate, when Zeller and Oladipo leave the NCAA, Yogi will remain for another three years, unless he joins the rank of NBA potentials.

As beloved as these starting five, the depth of the Indiana Hoosiers is what allows for so many invigorating second half comebacks. If it weren’t for some fresh energy and a drive to prove oneself play worthy, the Hoosiers would not be recognized as the team they are today—they wouldn’t have accomplished so many feats. Arguably the best sixth man in college basketball, number zero forward Will Sheehey storms the court, bringing an intensity and passion deserving of acknowledgement, if not, praise for his many contributing plays. I won’t bore you with a chart of his stats as compared to other players, although I almost thought of submitting one just as evidence. To sum it up, Sheehey’s numbers of made free throws and field goals, as well as number of rebounds, exceed those of other starters. As his title as “sixth man” would have it, Sheehey’s ranks third in the teams assists, one away from Zeller, and only significantly trailing Oladipo.

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This is what Sheehey does: he mans up for his team. He drives down the court with speed and agility, looking for that open spot, setting the pick, and finding the steal. So why isn’t Sheehey a starter? Firstly, as a forward on a team with Cody Zeller and Christian Watford already fulfilling the position, there isn’t much space to add the talent. Secondly, like most, sometimes he cracks under pressure. His dominant and aggressive manner can be a detriment; he can lose focus and miss an opportunity, drop the ball, or overshoot. Regardless, any game without Sheehey would hurt the team immensely. During a 40-minute game, that best sixth man is undeniably critical. This is exactly as the Big Ten recognized him this year, awarding him the title Big Ten Sixth man of the Year.

Another reason Sheehey is worthy of recognition? His passion and drive make him an emblem of Hoosier basketball. Sheehey plays hard all the time, fumble or on-point, he offers his 100% effort every time he is called on court. It’s ironic his jersey number is zero. Maybe it signifies zero percent slack.

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