Mutka: Jordan Hulls, Hoosiers guard against hoopla
November 11, 2012 11:32PM
Updated: December 13, 2012 10:38AM
Indiana’s Jordan Hulls is the ultimate gym rat.
Not a day goes by that he doesn’t devote himself to filling the nearest available hoop.
“I’m kind of a perfectionist,” he admits. “I could shoot forever.”
To keep it interesting, Hulls devises personal motivational games.
“Things like, see how many I can hit in a row ... from different spots. How many free throws.”
Ah, those free throws. Charity begins at the 15-foot stripe. Dating from his sophomore season to Game 12 of last year, Hulls set a Big Ten record of 58 in a row.
Still, stepping to the line takes a back seat to firing shots from a different zip code. Three-point marksmanship defines the former Bloomington South standout’s game. Shaking and baking his way to double-figure scoring — he’s averaged 11-plus for the last two seasons — Hulls connected on a fraction less than 50 percent of his 3s. He entered this season 30 points shy of the 1,000 milestone.
Three years removed from leading the Panthers to a 26-0 season and the state 4A title, the scrappy point man embodies the work ethic which defines Coach Tom Crean’s philosophy. Whatever is needed to confirm IU’s No. 1 preseason status.
“That’s the way I was brought up,” said Hulls at Big Ten media day. “My dad raised me that way.”
J.C. Hulls is a source of inspiration, fighting a courageous battle with cancer, which has required surgery and chemotherapy.
His strong-willed son balances basketball with community service. Hulls has already earned a degree in exercise science and is working on his masters in athletic administration. All this while starting 68 games in the last two years.
In that time IU’s talent level has risen, which means Hulls’ minutes will decline no matter how Crean spins it.
Giving way to a freshman may bruise the ego even if Yogi Ferrell is a McDonald’s All-American. Still, Hulls has extended a welcoming hand, seemingly embracing his role as a mentor.
Ferrell brought a high basketball IQ with him from Park Tudor, but Hulls understands how difficult the transition is from carefree high school hoops to the Division I pressure cooker.
“As an older guy I’m trying to teach him what I know about the system,” he said. “Bits and pieces.”
Admittedly, educating the precocious rookie shouldn’t take long.
“He’s pretty mature and came in with a lot of knowledge,” Hulls said. “He has a knack for getting to the rim and can dish.”
As Ferrell takes on point duties, Hulls could be relegated to sixth-man status. Shifting to the off-guard role doesn’t seem like the best long-term solution, though Hulls started beside Ferrell in Friday’s season opener. The two-guard spot has belonged to Victor Oladipo, who gives the Hoosiers more size, explosiveness and athleticism.
Oladipo and Will Sheehey join Hulls in serving as big brothers to IU’s talented freshman class.
“Three or four guys can step up and hold each other accountable,” Hulls said.
Crean’s job is to convince an expanded roster to buy into his philosophy.
“If we’re going to win we need everybody,” he said. “Guys like Jordan typify the dynamics of the program.
“You win in a lot of different ways. There’s got to be a lot of different voices on the inside.”
That also means shutting out external distractions. Upperclassmen understand how potentially destructive being over-hyped can be.
Changing roles are inevitable when a storied program explodes to 27-9, 11-7 after managing just seven Big Ten victories in the previous two years.
And now that ridiculous No. 1 rating? How they handle it is the key.
“We’re pretty excited about it, but all it means is that we have to work that much harder,” Hulls said.
Cliches aside, he’s talking the talk of a blooded veteran.
No worries about Crean easing up on the throttle? Hulls knows better.
“Coach is relentless. He’s doing a great job of getting the players to buy into his intensity.”
No exceptions. Not even for Cody Zeller.
“He’s not going to get better if he’s not challenged every day,” said Crean, who was rewarded with a two-year extension over the weekend. “You can’t let anyone in the program level off.”
Level headed leadership is what he’s likely to get from Hulls.