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Indiana Players Speak Out On Difficult Offseason Off The Court

Al Durham, Joey Brunk, Rob Phinisee, Race Thompson and Trayce Jackson-Davis all shared stories on how they've stayed mentally strong and dealt with issues this offseason.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Joey Brunk is sure he is fully prepared for retirement, whenever that day comes.

In the first quarantined offseason of his life, Indiana's redshirt senior has spent a lot of his time playing golf, fishing and reading — three activities he really enjoys that he thinks will suit him well in his older years.

For now, Brunk doesn't have to be worried about that, because he and his Indiana teammates are back on campus and working with the coaches, preparing for the 2020-21 basketball season like there is going to be one. 

“As far as the team, I just think it comes down to not taking things for granted,” said the 6-foot-11 Brunk, who's in his second year at Indiana after transferring from Butler. “We don’t all know what the future necessarily looks like, and there’s no reason to worry about the things we can’t control. 

"If we make the most of what we have now, there’s not going to be any regrets as a group, so let’s just be ready whenever that moment comes.”

Tuesday night was the firs time since mid-March Indiana coach Archie Miller, Brunk and four other Indiana players talked to the media via a Zoom conference call.

The first half of the team was able to return to campus on June 18 for voluntary workouts and weightlifting, and the other showed up July 1. Miller and his staff then started working with the entire group players on July 20, and the team has remained divided up into two separate groups for practice.

It's been a unique offseason for the five IU players who spoke with the media on Tuesday night. Brunk, Rob Phinisee, Al Durham, Trayce Jackson-Davis and Race Thompson all opened up on regarding how they’ve dealt with everything that has been going on, from the COVID-19 pandemic and how it ended their season to the protests this summer on race relations.

Phinisee and Jackson-Davis said they were both heartbroken for recently graduated seniors Devonte Green and De’Ron Davis because they knew how much they wanted to compete in the NCAA Tournament. The pair left Bloomington without ever playing in an NCAA Tournament game.

But the returning players say they are going to use that as motivation for next season.

“We’re preparing like we’re going to play next season,” said Phinisee, a junior point guard from Lafayette, Ind.  “So, we’re just going to keep building off what we did last season.”

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Jackson-Davis said he’s been using the quarantine time to really work on his jump shot and expand his offensive game. He said stretching the floor is going to be a bigger part of what he brings to the table this season.

In terms of a player stepping up in leadership positions, Durham said that Thompson has really stepped up in that area, which is something the Minnesota native credits to just being around the program for three years and having knowledge to share with the younger guys.

Miller said he’s been impressed with how his team has “absorbed” everything that has happened this offseason, and he added that the leadership has been the best it’s ever been during his three-plus years at Indiana.

They've certainly had to deal with a lot off the court since their last game. 

When George Floyd was murdered by a white police officer in Minneapolis, it hit hard for a lot of the players on the Indiana roster, especially Thompson, who is from Plymouth, Minn.

Thompson said the murder happened 15 minutes from his house, and it struck him hard knowing things like that were happening so close to his home. Thompson participated in peaceful protests in Minnesota, but one he was at got unfortunately interrupted when a semi-truck came barreling toward the protestors.

“Those marches and protests, they were all very powerful movements,” Thompson said. “I felt obligated I needed to go down there and show support for these people because this is home for me, and it hit home for me.”

Thompson was not the only member of the Indiana basketball team to partake in these protests either. Jackson-Davis and Brunk attended one together in Indianapolis — their hometowns — in early June.

“There was an issue, and just knowing Joey and the guy he is, he wanted to come with me and see how it was and he said it was really powerful,” Jackson-Davis said.

“It really was super powerful. Just being in Indianapolis, your hometown, and just marching and standing for something. Just showing unity, and I honestly thought it was a really, really great experience.”

  • ARCHIE MILLER NEWS CONFERENCE: Check out everything Indiana head coach Archie Miller had to say Tuesday night when he met with the Indiana media for the first time since the Big Ten Tournament. CLICK HERE.