BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – When Joey Brunk left Butler to transfer to Indiana two years ago, he did it because he talked often about how much he always wanted to be a Hoosier.
That thought went away this week, and on Tuesday announced via Twitter that he was not coming back to Indiana for his final season.
"I’m incredibly grateful for Indiana University,'' he tweeted. "I have been able to get my Master’s Degree and am thankful to have been able to continue my education. I’ve decided to pursue my final year elsewhere. Thank you Indiana.''
The decision came as something of a surprise because new Indiana coach Mike Woodson just said on Friday that Brunk was with his Indiana teammates every day and was back on the floor doing basketball things.
"He’s coming back. He’s been down on the floor here the last few days and he’s running around, so I’m excited about having him back in a uniform and ready to go,'' Woodson said.
The problem, though, was that Brunk wasn't saying so himself. During our last conversations with him in early March, he talked about the frustrations of missing this entire season after back surgery, and wanted a different ending.
He talked a lot about not wanting to be a part of Indiana's Senior Day festivities, 'because it felt like if I participated, it would feel like closure for myself and my decision wasn't really set in stone yet.''
He also talked further about discussing a final season with Archie Miller and his staff, and he told me "I want to keep playing basketball for the foreseeable future.''
After Miller was fired, he stayed quiet, other than to thank his former coach for bringing him to Indiana.
But when his teammates who dipped their toes in transfer portal started returning to Bloomington, Brunk was among the first to retweet the news. And when his best friend on the team, Trayce Jackson-Davis, decided to return, Jackson-Davis even talked about playing with Brunk again next year.
Tuesday's news wasn't as much of a surprise in that there was inaction on Brunk's part after Woodson's comments on Friday. Woodson said he was returning with such conviction, but when Indiana people were asked to get a comment from Brunk, we were told that he would announce it himself like all his other teammates did with staying – like Race Thompson, Khristian Lander, Parker Stewart and Jordan Geronimo – or leaving like Al Durham and Armaan Franklin did.
But we didn't hear anything from Brunk all weekend, and even on Monday. It raised eyebrows, and then Tuesday came the news.
Brunk's departure doesn't really help Indiana's scholarship numbers because he wouldn't have counted next year anyway. Indiana currently has 11 scholarships committed for next season, so there's still room for two more players in the transfer portal if Woodson and his staff prefer to go that route.
Woodson didn't even mention going after a center on Friday, but that might change now. There are a lot of talented big men in the portal, including several Big Ten players. There's no question Indiana could use some depth at the position.
Brunk's decision is odd because he seemed happy here in Bloomington. He genuinely cared about his teammates, and he and Jackson-Davis are very close.
It's going to be interesting to see where he lands.