BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — A big deal was made of Michael Durr's arrival at Indiana during the summer after he transferred from South Florida. A 7-footer showing up for a team that desperately needed size was a true gift.
Indiana's shortages in the post were clearly evident a year ago after Joey Brunk missed the entire 2020-21 season with a back injury. Trayce Jackson-Davis had to slug it out with all of the league's burly 7-foot centers all year long without any help.
Durr's arrival was supposed to change that, but it hasn't played out that way so far. He was slowed by a knee injury all summer and hasn't really hit his stride yet. He's averaging only 6.8 minutes a game, and has scored only 31 points all year.
The parade of Big Ten centers starts in earnest on Thursday night, when Purdue's Zach Edey, a 7-foot-4 sophomore, and senior Trevion Williams come to town as the best post duo in the country. Michigan's Hunter Dickinson, another 7-footer, will be here Sunday.
So this would be a great time for Durr to step up and lend a hand.
Indiana point guard Xavier Johnson said during the "Point Guard Podcast'' on HoosiersNow.com on Wednesday night that Durr in champing at the bit to start making a bigger impact.
"A lot of people don't know, but Mike has had to guard Taco Fall before,'' Johnson said of the former Central Florida center who stands at 7-foot-6 and has spend some time in the NBA with the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers organization. "He's way taller than him. Mike's going to be locked in and ready. He's been waiting for his moment, and I just know he's ready to make an impact.''
"He's a monster in the paint and we need to lock him on them in the post and make their guards miss threes. We do that, and we'll be fine. I feel like Mike's ready for a big game for us.''
Purdue is 15-2 on the season and ranked No. 4 in the country — with good reason. They can dominate in the post — Edey and Williams combine for 30 points and 16 rebounds a game — but also have great perimeter players in Jaden Ivey and Sasha Stefanovic, and a deep bench with quality at every spot. ESPN's Seth Greenberg likes calling them the Noah's Ark team — ''because they've got two of everything.''
Jackson-Davis and Race Thompson will start up front for the Hoosiers, and Woodson has been very clear every time he asked that he won't play Durr and Jackson-Davis together. The are both fives — true centers –in his book. But when Trayce takes a break, Durr needs to deliver in a big way, either against Edey or Williams.
"(Edey) definitely poses a threat, because he's so big, and you've got Williams there, too,'' Indiana coach Mike Woodson said. "They both are great players down low on the block. That's a big part of their initial threat in terms of their offense, and playing inside out, and we're going to have to deal with it.
"We've got to come ready to commit for 40 minutes. That's all I can tell you guys. They're a hell of a team. Their front court is damn good, and they've got guys that can make the long ball, as well. I mean, they pose a double threat. They've got inside and out, so we've got to defend it all.''
Jackson-Davis took a hard fall and landed on his tailbone near the end of Indiana's victory at Nebraska on Monday night. He missed the last six-plus minutes of the game, but said on the way home that he would be ready to go come Thursday.
"As far as Trayce, he didn't do a whole lot (Tuesday), and I'm sure that we'll work him back in slowly (Wednesday), and he'll be ready to play (Thursday),'' Woodson said.
Woodson needs every player to perform well. The Hoosiers have been very good at home, winning all 11 games so far this year, including a win over No. 13-ranked Ohio State two weeks ago.
"We play well here at home, and it's in front of our fans, and we've just got to commit,'' Woodson said. "I can't tell you how the game is going to turn out, but we've got to commit for 40 minutes. We can't play a half. You can't play 35 minutes. You've got to commit for 40 minutes to beat a good team.
"I've watched (Purdue) play a number of teams, and they've got the total package. They do. They play hard. Painter has done a hell of a job in terms of implementing his system and how he wants them to play. It should be a hell of a game.''
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- RELIVING MIKE WOODSON'S 1980 SEASON: Mike Woodson had one of the best playing careers in Indiana history from 1976 to 1980, but he left without a ring in the class between two national champions. What he accomplished in 1980 with a team ranked No. 1 in the preseason was both miraculous and courageous. Woodson and his 1980 teammates were featured in the book "Missing Banners,'' and those three chapters are included in this story. CLICK HERE
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- Here's how to get your copy of the book "Missing Banners,'' which chronicled the 1980 season, along with 1975, 1993, 2002 and 2013:
- AUTOGRAPHED COPY: If you would like an autographed copy of the book. simply email Tom Brew at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- AMAZON.COM: The link to order the book on Amazon.com is here. CLICK HERE