Final Grades: Joey Brunk And His Contributions On And Off The Court

Tom Brew

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Joey Brunk's arrival in Bloomington was a breath of fresh air after the 6-foot-11 forward transferred from Butler. He brought a ramped-up work ethic that this team needed and, maybe more importantly, a sense of humor that helped take the edge off of a team that often looked stressed out.

He started every game but the last one — it was De'Ron Davis' Senior Day — and immediately filled a need on Indiana's depleted front line. The Hoosiers, who finished 20-12 with him, probably wouldn't have been a .500 team without him. What he brought — and what they needed — converged at the perfect time. 

Let's take a look at Brunk's season.

By the numbers

  • Games played: 32
  • Games started: 31
  • Minutes per game: 19.5
  • Points per game: 6.8
  • Assists per game: 0.6
  • Rebounds per game: 5.2
  • Field goal percentage: 52.2
  • 3-point percentage: 0.0
  • Free throw percentage: 46.6
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Indiana forward Joey Brunk (50) grabs a rebound against Ohio State. (USA TODAY Sports)

Best game

Indiana 72, Minnesota 67 on March 4, 2020: For three weeks, Joey Brunk had hit the skids a little bit, and coach Archie Miller had lost a bit of faith in him. Even worse, Brunk had lost faith in himself, as well. He was still starting, but when he struggled out of the gate, Miller had a quick hook. 

During a six-game stretch prior to the March 4 home game against Minnesota, Brunk was just 7-of-25 shooting (28 percent) from the field and was playing only 10 minutes a game. But against Minnesota, a game that Indiana absolutely had to win to keep its NCAA tournament hopes alive, Brunk bounced back nicely. He made 6-of-8 shots, scoring 12 points and getting eight rebounds and doing a great job on Minnesota big man Daniel Oturu. The Hoosiers won 72-67, and Brunk was a big reason why. 

IndianaJoeyBrunkMinnesotaDanielOturu
Indiana forward Joey Brunk (50) battles for a loose ball with Minnesota's Daniel Oturu on March 4, the day Brunk snapped out of his slump. (USA TODAY Sports)

Things I liked

It wasn't uncommon seeing Brunk stroll into Cook Hall early in the morning for a workout, or catch him leaving late at night, too. There was no doubt that he was the hardest-working player on this team, and that attitude seemed to rub off.  He was a fine complementary player, and his presence definitely made life easier for true freshman Trayce Jackson-Davis along the front line.

Brunk brought a toughness to the front line that Indiana lacked without him. He also brought a personality, which is something this team also lacked. His very public story — he lost his father to brain cancer in 2017 — also made him very popular with his teammates and most of the Indiana fan base.

All that — work ethic, personality — really was more important to the actual stat line from time on the court. His offensive game doesn't venture far from the rim, and his post moves are above average, though becoming a better — and quicker — passer would be something nice to see next year. He's an athletic enough big man who was a key piece to this team all year. 

Things I didn't like

The three-week slump was bothersome, because someone in his fourth year of college basketball should have been able to work through that better. But that was just a snapshot of his season, and the good far outweighed the bad. 

The most bothersome thing to me was his woeful free throw shooting. Brunk was just 25-of-56 from the line (44.6 percent), and didn't make a single free throw in Indiana's last eight games, going 0-for-8. That was shocking, considering during his three years at Butler, Brunk was 68-for-109 from the line (62.3 percent). It was stunningly ironic that he missed 31 shots this year — the same he missed at Butler in three years — on 53 fewer shots. 

As much as he has the ball down low, he needs to get to the line more often and he needs to be a 65 percent or better free throw shooter next season.

Best video

That Minnesota game was huge for Brunk, and it was even bigger for the Hoosiers because they needed that kind of performance. Archie Miller even said so afterward.

And then there is this, the Big Ten Network's 7-minute feature on Brunk and his family, talking about losing his father. It was so well done, that it needs to be shared often. Here's the link to it.

Final Grade: B

There are things that would normally knock this grade down a notch, like the free throw shooting or his late struggles. But when I'm balancing out the totality of his season, what he brought to this team — both on and off the court — pushed it back up a notch.

Let's be honest. This team would have been lost without him. He did a good job guarding all the big guys in the Big Ten, and he rebounded well and scored well enough for most of the season. He needs to be quicker with moves around the basket, and he definitely needs to be a better passer, but he was a key part of this team. It was all the stuff off the court that kept this team together and found its way to winning 20 games. He was a nice addition.

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Related content on Joey Brunk

  • BRUNK IS BACK:  Joey Brunk snapped out of his slump with a huge game against Minnesota. CLICK HERE  

Previous 'Final Grades' story

  • 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 he 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

Coming on Thursday

  • FINAL GRADES: Rob Phinisee's incomplete sophomore season. 
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