FORT WAYNE – Anyone asking for a look at Kevin Yogi Ferrells birth certificate, Indiana coach Tom Crean joked, is not going to believe what they see. Because the freshman guard is playing like a veteran.
There is no ceiling to his game, Crean said after Sundays victory against Michigan State.
Ferrell is nine assists shy of becoming just the fourth freshman in IU history to record 100 assists in a season. Isiah Thomas, A.J. Guyton and Verdell Jones III reached the mark as freshmen for the Hoosiers.
But thats just where the contributions start.
Defensively, Ferrell has harassed Penn States D.J. Newbill and Michigan States Keith Appling. He played a role in limiting Appling to three points before the Michigan State guard fouled out Sunday. Ferrells strong defense is even more impressive given that his team played mostly zone in high school.
Ferrells also become more of a factor scoring. He followed a career-high 15-point performance against Penn State with 11 points against the Spartans.
He can shoot, IU junior guard Victor Oladipo said after the Penn State win last week. It was all in his head at first, but hes finally realizing that he can shoot the ball. A lot of the players were just coming off and they were just leaving him. Im not just going to not kick to him and he knows that. He gets ready to shoot, and its very hard for him to miss when he gets going and the confidence gets going and it all pours in after that.
Ferrell credits his teammates for helping him along the way.
Just getting in the gym, especially with these guys, Vic and Will (Sheehey), they have a tremendous work ethic, Ferrell said. Theyll pull me along with them just to get extra shots up so thats what were always doing after practice.
Crean said one of Ferrells strengths is that he has a short memory.
He can get over a mistake and he can move on from a success equally fast. Some people will spend too much time with a mistake or live too much in the bask of the glow of success. And he doesnt do that, Crean said.
Hes a tremendous competitor. He wants to win, knows how to win, has won all his life. And hes gaining more of a leadership role for us on the team. Hes learning more about situation basketball. Hes learning more about knowing personnel. And hes done a tremendous job being a defender. Thats the stuff that will separate him.
Ferrell is third in the Big Ten in assists (4.6 per game). Hes averaging 7.3 points, 8.9 in the Hoosiers seven conference games.
Im playing a lot harder and a lot smarter, Ferrell said. Im trying to learn different things as the games go on.
Im watching film and trying to pick my spots because I have a long ways to go. Im just trying to get smarter about the game.