IU freshman guard Devonte Green saw the clock ticking down in the final moments of the game against Rutgers. His team was up 19 points, and the Hoosiers had their second conference win secured.
Instead of just dribbling out the clock and then shaking hands with Scarlet Knight players, Green decided to throw up a no-look alley-oop to junior forward Freddie McSwain Jr. The pass was on the mark, but McSwain didn’t execute the dunk, and when the horn sounded moments later, IU Coach Tom Crean marched toward his freshman guard on the court and scolded Green for his unsportsmanlike action.
“They’re getting better. No question about that, and they’re improving,” Crean said about Green and fellow freshman guard Curtis Jones after the Rutgers win. “But a long way to go — long way to go maturity-wise, long way to go understanding that urgency and long way to go when it comes to understanding how efficient you have to be possession-by-possession.”
Now, as IU continues the season without sophomore forward OG Anunoby for the remainder of the year, Green, like most of the Hoosier reserves, has seen more meaningful minutes in the past two games.
He tied his season high by playing 17 minutes against Michigan State on Saturday, and as the level of play becomes tougher in conference, he said the biggest adjustment comes from scouting players. Green will log more time watching film on his opponents as the season progresses, and through that film become more confident in his play.
“I think I’m getting more comfortable,” Green said on the Inside IU basketball radio show on WHCC 105.1 FM with Don Fischer Monday night. “Playing within the offense, learning the plays and playing my game within the plays.”
Green wasn’t the first member of his family to draw Division-I attention. His older brother is eight-year NBA veteran and San Antonio Spurs guard Danny Green, who played his college ball at North Carolina and won a national championship there in his senior year in 2009.
As Devonte grew up, his brother flourished in the NBA while he was trying to land college offers of his own. The younger Green had 15 Division-I offers, including three from the Big Ten schools. North Carolina showed interest but ultimately never offered him the chance to be the second Green in Carolina blue.
Devonte said he and Danny talk here and there, but when IU plays, the Spurs usually have a game as well, so it is hard for the elder Green to watch his little brother play.
The most important source for learning at the college level for Green has been his teammates, and while everyone has taught him something, Green said he’s learned the most from sophomore forward Juwan Morgan.
“He was in my position last year, so he knows what it’s like for me,” Green said. “He’s always talking to me and giving me confidence, telling me if I forget something in a play or tell me what I can do better in my game.”
Green said he prefers to play defense rather than offense, and it’s shown early on in his IU career. The North Babylon, New York, native has recorded 12 steals through his first 18 games as a Hoosier, which is the fifth most on the team. He has had four steals in the six Big Ten games he’s played.
IU has found success on the court when it takes advantage of mistakes from its opponents and turns them into points on the other end. Against Michigan State, IU scored 23 points off 12 Spartan turnovers, and Green said he’s recognized how crucial defense is when leading to points on the other end.
“Especially coming off the bench it starts with defense,” Green said. “Getting warm, getting into the game, getting your legs going — it starts with defense.”
There’s still a lot for Green to develop in his game, but so far his highlights in a Hoosier uniform have come from his defensive setups for his teammates on the offense.
Against Rutgers Green stripped the ball clean from an opponent and found an open Morgan underneath the basket as the Scarlet Knights were trying to advance the ball up the court. On Saturday against Michigan State he picked off a Spartan guard in nearly the same spot on the floor and circled a pass around the defender to find freshman forward De’Ron Davis for the bucket.
Green wears No. 11 for the Hoosiers. Although he’s not in total control of the offense yet, Crean said he sees a lot of similarities between Green and the last Hoosier to don No. 11.
“Devonte — he’s got that Yogi body. Not Yogi yet, but as far as in the sense of lower to the ground and he’s strong,” Crean said. “We just need him to keep the game simple, but he can put pressure on the ball. He’s got quick feet because he has low center of gravity. He can make passes, has good feel, and he’ll get better and better.”