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Returning UI basketball players to watch

In today’s landscape of college basketball, players who opt out of the NBA draft after their first two years or choose to ignore the option of the transfer portal are a rarity. These Indiana men’s and women’s basketball players had the option to leave Bloomington, whether it was to play professionally or at a different school, but decided to remain Hoosiers.

All of these players were instrumental in the success of their respective teams, so their offseason decisions made for incredible news to the Hoosier faithful. The 2022-2023 basketball season is shaping up to be one for the books for both the men’s and women’s teams.

race thompson

Thompson, who is returning to Indiana in his sixth season with the program, was a vital part of the team’s success last year. Dubbed a “glue guy” by his teammates, fans and members of the media, his consistency, effort and leadership of him hold the team together.

Thompson was second on the team last season in rebounds per game, with 7.5, and field goal percentage, at 53.6%. His average of 11.1 points per game was a career best, and he notched double-figure scoring 23 times during the 2021-2022 campaign.

Beyond the numbers, Thompson has an invaluable presence in court. His hustle plays on defense, patience on offense and smart decisions on both sides of the floor make him an irreplaceable part of the Hoosiers’ puzzle. He has been a team captain since 2020 and is bound to serve as a role model for Indiana’s four incoming freshmen

Xavier Johnson

Indiana’s point guard uncertainties were an issue during the first half of the 2021-2022 season, but Johnson’s takeover as the primary facilitator in the latter half sparked a breakout for the fifth-year senior that fans hope will continue into his final year. Johnson’s offensive production exploded at the end of the season – his scoring average for him went up almost 5 points per game from the beginning of February until the end of the season.

Johnson’s confidence is one of his biggest assets, and his improved 3-point shooting, savvy moves around the basket and pesky defense played huge roles in Indiana’s postseason push into March Madness. Given his performance from him at the end of last season, Johnson is almost guaranteed to start in the point guard position next year, continuing to provide defensive lockdowns and offensive sparks.

Grace Berger

Berger has been Indiana’s most outstanding offensive threat on an incredibly talented and well-balanced squad for the past two years. Her 16.2 points per game from Ella helped lead the Hoosiers to the Sweet 16 one year after their first Elite Eight appearance in program history.

Berger has many weapons in her arsenal, but her mid-range jumper is one of the most lethal jumpshots in the country — 12.5 of her points per game came from two-point range last season. The All-American Honorable Mention recipient is also a skilled ball handler, sharp passer and lengthy guard defender.

The poise and intelligence that Berger exhibits play into her lead-by-example mentality. She has the chance to be the best player on the Big Ten’s strongest team next year.

Mackenzie Holmes

Holmes, the only player on this list who has multiple years of eligibility remaining, has distinguished herself as one of the strongest bigs in the conference. Despite sustaining an injury in the second half of the season, she cracked the top-10 watch list for the Lisa Leslie award, an honor presented to the best center in women’s college basketball.

Holmes led the team in rebounds and blocks per game with 7.0 and 1.7, respectively, while averaging 15.2 points per game. She scored in double figures 22 out of the 25 games in which she appeared, with a career-high 30-point performance against Ohio State on December 12.

Her defense around the basket is crucial to the Hoosiers’ success, and she has become increasingly athletic over the years. Holmes has been a star in her entire collegiate career and, paired with Berger and Indiana’s incoming transfers, she can take her team to new heights.

This article was originally published in the 2022 Orienter New Student Guide. Explore the entire guide here.

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