Final Grades: Al Durham Gave Indiana a Shot in the Arm

Tom Brew

Third in a series

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — There were a lot of good things about Al Durham's season at Indiana. He was the team's best three-point and free-throw shooter, its fourth-leading scorer and, as a co-captain, a clear team leader.

He hit a lot of big shots, too. He hit a huge 3-pointer late in the upset win over Michigan State, and was a rock early in the season when injuries had decimated Indiana's backcourt. He scored 17 points or more in four of the Hoosiers' first six games in picking up the slack.

Durham was only of only three Hoosiers to start every game, along with fellow junior Justin Smith and freshman Trayce Jackson-Davis. Let's take a look at Durham's season.

By the numbers

  • Games played: 32
  • Games started: 32
  • Minutes per game: 26.4
  • Points per game: 9.8
  • Assists per game: 2.5
  • Rebounds per game: 2.1
  • Field goal percentage: 44.1
  • 3-point percentage: 38.3
  • Free throw percentage: 81.1

Best game

Indiana 98, Western Illinois 65 on Nov. 5, 2019: It was the first game of the season against an unthreatening opponent, but what Durham did against Western Illinois was, quite literally, perfect.

Durham made all seven of his shots from the field, including three three-pointers, and made all four free throws. He had a perfect scoring line in 27 minutes of action, scoring 21 points while never missing a shot. That's hard to do, regardless of  the opponent.

"My team trusted me to knock down shots today and that's what I did," Durham said. 

Things I liked

When you can knock down more than 38 percent of your three-pointers, that's a big deal, and Durham contributed often in a big way in knocking down shots. 

He also carried this backcourt early in the season when Devonte Green was out with a hamstring injury and Rob Phinisee was playing through an abdominal injury and wasn't really ready to play when the season started. At a time when the Hoosiers literally had no other options at guard, he was the team's leading scorer early in the season, and did it all while fighting through a mild ankle injury himself.

Durham is a quiet and unassuming guy, but he's continued to get better every day as a guy who decided to stick around and playing for Archie Miller even after the coach who recruited him, Tom Crean, had been fired. His three-point shooting percentage has gone up every year, as has his free-throw percentage. 

Off the court, Durham was a fine captain this year. When the time came to explain some difficult losses, he was always there and never made excuses. 

Things I didn't like

One thing we learned this year is that Durham isn't a pure point guard. When forced into the role, there was an issue with turnovers on the offensive end and a lack of ball pressure and forced turnovers on the defensive end. 

For me, there were also too many Big Ten games where Durham was a no-show, and that shouldn't have been the case. In the two losses to Purdue, for instance, he scored only two points in the Bloomington loss and only five at West Lafayette. 

Furthermore, in five of Indiana's first six Big Ten losses, he was just 7-for-29 shooting (24 percent) from the field. The Hoosiers needed him to step up more often in the biggest moments. There were six Big Ten games this season where he scored five points or fewer. That shouldn't be happening.

And the bonehead elbow that he threw in the Arkansas game in December was really a stupid decision. That ejection certainly had an impact on the outcome of that game.

Best video

Durham talks about Indiana's win over Louisiana Tech, its toughest November opponent.

Final Grade: B

Much like I did with Devonte Green, I sort of hemmed and hawed over Durham's final grade this season. I went back and forth between B-plus and a B, but eventually went with the B because I feel like there were just too many Big Ten games where he wasn't a factor at all.

There's nothing wrong with a B, of course, and he did a lot of good things this year. But there could have been more that would have helped the Hoosiers get through some of those losses that derailed this season a bit.

Your thoughts? Please join the conversation in our Community thread.

Previous 'Final Grades' stories

  • PART 1, DEVONTE GREEN: Breaking down the season for Indiana senior guard and co-captain Devonte Green. CLICK HERE
  • PART 2, DE'RON DAVIS: Indiana's senior big man battled injuries throughout his career, but stayed healthy in 2020 and played a small role. CLICK HERE
  • PART 3, AL DURHAM: The junior guard leads Indiana in three-point shooting percentage and carries a big load. CLICK HERE
  • PART 4, JUSTIN SMITH: The junior forward was second in scoring and rebounding for the Hoosiers, but there seemed to be something missing. CLICK HERE
  • PART 5, JOEY BRUNK: The transfer from Butler added a lot to the Indiana roster, both on and off the court. CLICK HERE
  • PART 6, ROB PHINISEE: The sophomore point guard never was the same after a lengthy abdominal injury. CLICK HERE
  • PART 7, JEROME HUNTER: It was great to see Jerome Hunter back out on the floor after missing entire freshman season. CLICK HERE
  • PART 8, RACE THOMPSON: The redshirt sophomore was productive off the bench, and had a happy homecoming in Minnesota. CLICK HERE
  • PART 9, DAMEZI ANDERSON: We take a deep dive into what happened to Damezi Anderson, whose offensive game completely disappeared. CLICK HERE
  • PART 10: TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: The standout freshman was Indiana's best player all season, and it wasn't even close. CLICK HERE
  • PART 11: ARMAAN FRANKLIN: Some magical moments back home in Indianapolis this season for Indiana's freshman guard. CLICK HERE
Comments (1)
No. 1-1
Brendan Armitage
Brendan Armitage

In the B1G, he shot 39% from 3 and had 5.6 FTA and shot 82.5% from the line, scoring 13.9 pts/40min, which is fine for a backup 2, which is the only position he should be playing. (Agreed that he can't run the team to play the 1, and isn't physical enough to play as small-ball 3.). Also agreed about his inconsistency of play, but also that his in-conf 2-pt % went down every year (45% as fresh, 43% as soph, and 41% as junior). Having Lander around will give him his "backup 2" position back and with Leal/Galloway there, when he's again inconsistent, I think his minutes will fall back to 10-15 a game, though he may be a Joey-Brunk style starter, in the weird world that is who starts each half for Coach Miller.


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