Indiana's rugged Derek Elston
November 18, 2009
by Jeremy Gray
Even after watching just one practice, I was sold on freshman forward Derek Elston. A sturdily built 6-9, 220 pounds, Elston ran with the guards, effectively put the ball on the floor, ripped down rebounds, and passed very well for his position. He just looked like a basketball player.
I want to say from the outset that I have no background in coaching or talent evaluation. Though I watch, write about and broadcast a lot of basketball games, no one will ever consider me an expert on the game itself. I'm just a basketball junkie with a forum, so take this column for what it's worth. But disclaimer aside, I have a feeling that Derek Elston is going to be special player at Indiana.
His resume is impressive. As a high school senior, Elston averaged 19.7 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game while leading Tipton High School to a stellar 23-3 record. He was first team All-State and was ranked as one of the better incoming power forwards by the various recruiting services.
His aforementioned skill set is equally impressive. Elston possesses the speed and strength to excel at the college level. If I may channel Jay Bilas for a moment, Elston also was blessed with length and deceptive explosiveness. All of the above are nice qualities to have in a power forward.
His versatility is also appealing. He can fill a lane on a fast break, and he can mix it up in the half court offense. He can play and defend multiple positions. And unlike many power forwards, Elston handles the ball well enough to help break a full court press. I really like his versatility.
But in my mind, it's his voracity that really stands out when watching this rugged freshman play basketball.
He grinds for rebounds, he initiates contact, he goes up hard when attempting to score on a putback, and most appealing of all, after watching two exhibition games, I get the vibe that opposing forwards do not enjoy playing basketball against Derek Elston.
Elston is a tough, active and physical basketball player. In other words, Derek Elston is a quintessential Big Ten power forward.
The best part about watching this freshman play is that what we have seen so far is the floor and not the ceiling of his abilities.
How tough will he be to block out when he inevitably gains 20 pounds of muscle?
How deadly will he be after he hoists several thousand more shots in practice?
How difficult will he be to account for when he has a firm grasp of Tom Crean's concepts?
This is as weak and unpolished as we ever will see him, and he is neither weak nor unpolished.
In the first exhibition game, Elston scored 10 points and hauled in seven rebounds in less than 17 minutes of action. In the final exhibition contest, the Tipton, Ind., native pulled down eight points and eight rebounds in 16 minutes. He went a collective eight of 13 from the field in those two games.
Perhaps I should pump the breaks. I am dumping all of this praise on a freshman who only has played in two regular season games. He's been good but hardly dominating.
I am not arguing that he's the second coming of Karl Malone. But from what I have seen from him so far, I have every confidence that Derek Elston is going to be one heck of a college basketball player at Indiana.
That's plenty good for me.