BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – The jump from high school to major college basketball is a big one, and it's really big when you accelerate the process. Khristian Lander learned that the hard way this season.
Lander was a five-star point guard at Evansville Reitz, a lightning-quick left-hander who could run the floor and see all the options. His court vision was exceptional, and he could attack the basket.
But when he decided to leave Evansville after his junior year and enroll at Indiana early, a lot of that confidence at full-court game was left behind. As a 17-year-old getting ready to play in the Big Ten, it was simply asking too much. His struggles were evident throughout the season.
Here's a breakdown of his season, what I liked and didn't like, his best game and future prospects and – of course – his final grade.
There's also a terrific video chat with Hilltop30 Scholarship Fund winner Haley Jordan, so check that out as well:
Khristian Lander by the numbers
- Games played: 26 of 27
- Games started: 0 of 27
- Average minutes: 10.2
- Points per game: 2.1
- Rebounds per game: 0.8
- Assists per game: 1.2
- Steals per game: 0.3
- Field goal percentage: 25.7 (18-for-70)
- 3-point percentage: 27.3 (12-for-44)
- Free throw percentage: 87.5 (7-for-8, first on team)
What I liked
You can see the potential in his game, and it was there in glimpses. There were occasions when Khristian Lander would make a perfect pass that no one else on this team could make. He is a point guard with potential, and that's the great thing about him coming back to Indiana after briefly dipping his toe in the transfer portal. He does have a future here.
What I liked about this past season is that it was a massive learning experience for him. It was the ultimate in a bonus season that didn't count, but also set the tone for the future. I like that he gained a year of experience and he knows what he needs to work on.
What I didn't like
At 6-foot-2 and 180 pounds, his slender build wasn't quite ready for the physical rigors of the Big Ten. That was an issue on both ends of the court, because he had trouble controlling bigger guards off the dribble on defense, and offensively they were able to push him around. They forced him to be a three-point shooters, which was a failure.
An occasional airball is one thing, but Lander hoisted them up on a regular basis. Part of it was forcing shots, but the big issue is his shooting form, where he rarely gets squared up to the basket. That will be fixed this summer, as several of Indiana's new coaches have already discussed the importance of fixing that. Another year older, and another year stronger, will help, too.
I blame Archie Miller for a lot of what went wrong with Lander this year. Player development should always be a staff priority, and we didn't see much of that, especially with the freshmen and most especially with Lander. He stripped their confidence away, and it never came back.
In a mid-December home game against North Alabama, we saw glimpses of what Lander could bring to the table. He hit two three-pointers, made all four free throws, grabbed three rebounds and had three assists in just 17 minutes. He had 10 points, and had a big smile on his face after the game.
It stands out for one obvious reason. It was his only double-figure scoring game all season. He had back-to-back seven-point games late in the season against Michigan and Michigan State, but then played only seven minutes against Purdue and didn't play at all in the Big Ten Tournament against Rutgers.
Here's the simplest question to ask of you. If Khristian Lander was a five-star point guard from Evansville just showing up in Bloomington today, wouldn't you be excited? What if he had had a great senior year at Reitz, maybe won a state title or played for one? What he he had won Indiana Mr. Basketball, or was in the final two or three? Wouldn't you be excited?
Of course you would. I know I would, too. That's why I choose to start with a clean slate today, that the 2020-21 season was nothing more than a learning experience. Consider this his true freshman year, with a great coaching staff that will make him better, and not hold him back.
There will be plenty of competition for playing time at the point guard spot, between Lander, Pitt transfer Xavier Johnson and junior Rob Phinisee. Sometimes, two of them will play together, and when they do, they will play fast and he will thrive. I still have high hopes for Lander, and for me, the clock starts now, not a year ago.
And I'm really looking forward to watching this coaching staff fix his jump shot.
Final grade: C
C: When a straight-A student gets a C, that's really, really bad. Well, that's Khristian Lander's season in my eyes. it wasn't very good, and he was in over his head a lot of times. To me, that's simple enough. He arrived in Bloomington a year too early, and if he was doing it all over, a different decision might have been made.
But there's also this positive. He's already accelerated – greatly accelerated – his college basketball learning curve. Nothing will surprise him now. I still think he's going to be an above-average college player. And it's all positive from here.
Previous 'Final Grades' stories
- TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: Sophomore forward Trayce Jackson-Davis was Indiana's leading scorer and rebounder this year, and there was no question he was the Hoosiers' best player. Here's his grade. CLICK HERE
- ARMAAN FRANKLIN: Sophomore guard Armaan Franklin made great year-over-year strides and emerged as Indiana's best perimeter threat on both sides of the floor. CLICK HERE
- RACE THOMPSON: Redshirt junior Race Thompson fought through injuries at the end of the season and battled in the post all year during his fine season. CLICK HERE
- AL DURHAM: Senior guard Al Durham was up and down, but he conclude his career as one of 53 Hoosiers to score 1,000 points all-time. CLICK HERE
- ROB PHINISEE: Junior guard Rob Phinisee really struggled with his confidence this season, and it really affected his shooting numbers. CLICK HERE
- JEROME HUNTER: It was nice to see redshirt sophomore Jerome Hunter stay healthy all year, and he made some big shots along the way. CLICK HERE
- TREY GALLOWAY: The first freshman to make an impact for Indiana this season Culver's Trey Galloway, who got the most playing time and made seven starts on the season. CLICK HERE
- ANTHONY LEAL: Anthony Leal, who won Indiana Mr. Basketball in 2020 during his undefeated senior season at Bloomington South, didn't get much opportunity during his freshman year at Indiana, but he had a few moments that helped the Hoosiers a lot. CLICK HERE
- NEXT UP: Indiana freshman Jordan Geronimo
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