Devonte Green is learning that pace of play is an issue in basketball, too. But it’s not about the time it takes to play a game; it’s about the rhythm it takes to play the game effectively.
“The college game is a lot faster and the players are a lot bigger and better. The biggest change for me has been knowing when to slow it down and when to play fast,” Green, the former Long Island Lutheran star guard who is a sophomore at Indiana University, told Newsday in a phone interview last week.
Where once he played all-out, all the time, that’s not the case under Hoosiers coach Archie Miller. “The learning process has been a struggle. Trying to simplify my game and getting better every day has been a long journey,” said Green, who has had an inconsistent sophomore season. He played well initially, earning a starting spot in early February and helping the Hoosiers go on a four-game winning streak. But he struggled in the last two games, losses to Nebraska and Ohio State.
Indiana is the No. 6 seed for this week’s Big Ten Tournament, being played at Madison Square Garden for the first time. The Hoosiers (16-14) are candidates for an NIT bid assuming they don’t run the table. They begin play on Thursday night against the winner of Wednesday’s Rutgers-Minnesota game. The top seeds, Michigan State, Ohio State, Purdue and Nebraska, have Thursday byes and will play in the quarterfinals on Friday. The semifinals are Saturday with the championship game on Sunday afternoon.
“I’m excited to play in Madison Square Garden and my family is, too,” said Green, a North Babylon native and brother of San Antonio Spurs sharp-shooter Danny Green. He expects his parents and relatives to be in the stands, just as they were when he played at Seton Hall (treating them to a 16-point outing) and at Rutgers during the regular season.
Green has started 11 games and played in all 30, averaging 7.6 points in 22 minutes per game. He has not been as efficient as he’d like to from the field, shooting only 36.3 percent. But he is hitting 34.4 percent of his three-pointers, a respectable rate. He delivered clutch free throws late to secure victories over Penn State and Notre Dame. He scored 18 points, including four three-pointers, in a recent victory over Iowa, but was scoreless in the regular-season finale against Ohio State, a crushing double-overtime loss.
Sometimes the learning curve is steep, with stock market-like ups and downs. Miller praised Green’s effort after the Iowa game, his third straight start, saying: “For him to be playing the way he is right now is really a good step for our team.”
But the coach also reminded Green that it’s more about substance than style. “It’s not always the home run. You can go for the single once in a while,” Miller said of Green’s tendency toward flashiness. “He’s starting to be the guy that has his head up and is looking for people. Every once in a while you’re going to see him make a couple of plays that a lot of people can’t make because he’s really talented.”
Green said he is getting the message. “Make the simple pass when it’s there or the simple read on a play instead of trying to make the spectacular play,” he stated.
There has always been a dichotomy to Green’s game. In high school he was more of a two-guard than a one; in college he knows he’ll likely have more success if he embraces the role of playmaker. Even if that sometimes goes against his instincts.
“Ever since I came to college, I’ve been adjusting to the point guard role,” Green said. “But the scoring mentality doesn’t go away. I think it comes naturally. Getting my teammates involved has definitely been a part of the growing process.”
That takes time, too.
At Madison Square Garden
Illinois vs. Iowa, 5:30 p.m.
Rutgers vs. Minnesota, 8 p.m.
Both games on Big Ten Network