Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell — the sophomore point guard who wasn’t asked to do much last year, and who has been asked to do everything this year — leads the Big Ten in made 3-pointers.
Ferrell has made 60 3-pointers thus far this season.
That’s 23 more than Minnesota’s Andre Hollins, 14 more than Michigan State’s Gary Harris and 10 more than Michigan’s Nik Stauskas have made this season. Only Stauskas is shooting better than Ferrell’s 44.1 percent from beyond the arc in the Big Ten.
Ferrell, a one-time five-star recruit from Indianapolis, was recruited by IU Coach Tom Crean and his staff to do exactly what he is currently doing.
Last year, however, Ferrell mostly played the role of a contributor on a team that started four 1,000-point scorers and two lottery picks in the 2013 NBA Draft.
Ferrell played in all 36 games last season. He averaged 28.1 minutes per game, which was on par with how much playing time Indiana’s other starters received. He averaged 7.6 points and 4.1 assists per game.
In the second round of the NCAA Tournament, Ferrell showed his vast potential against the No. 16 seed James Madison Dukes.
He scored the game’s first nine points and tallied 14 points during the first six minutes en route to an 83-62 Hoosier rout.
After IU defeated Temple to move on to the Sweet Sixteen, where they would fall to No. 4 seeded Syracuse, Ferrell struggled mightily.
Ferrell, who failed to score against Temple, struggled against the Orange as well. He went 0-of-2 from the field, recorded one steal, one assist and four turnovers.
After that game, Crean said that Ferrell would learn from his freshman year experiences.
“Yogi is a great player,” he said. “That’s the first time he’s seen that kinda zone and length.”
In the press conference, Crean discussed Syracuse’s zone defense and how difficult it was for the team to prepare, finishing his answer with a declaration that Ferrell would be better for it.
“So he will learn from it,” he said. “He will be a great learner from it.”
On Dec. 3, 2013, Ferrell and his teammates traveled to Syracuse, N.Y., as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge to play the team that ended their season a year ago.
At the time, Syracuse was the No. 4 team in the country, playing better basketball than the Orange team that reached the Final Four the year prior.
No one expected the Hoosiers to offer much resistance to C.J. Fair and company, but Indiana went toe-to-toe with the Orange for a half before falling off in the second.
Ferrell fared better against the Orange the second time around, scoring 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting, but his team fell, 69-52.
After that game, the media sought out Ferrell to ask what he thought of his team’s second half collapse.
“We’re just gonna go back to Bloomington and get better,” he said.
Right now, the Hoosiers have an overall record of 14-8 and are tied for seventh in the Big Ten with a 4-5 conference record.
Entering conference play, the Hoosiers had no noteworthy wins to their name.
Nine games later, they have two — a 75-72 victory against then-No. 3 Wisconsin and, most recently, a 63-52 win against No. 10 Michigan.
In both of these games, Indiana’s two best wins this season, Ferrell paced his team.
IU ended Wisconsin’s 16-game winning streak to start the season behind Ferrell’s 25 points, 19 of which came in the second half. Though he struggled from beyond the arc — he went 1-of-8 from 3-point range — Ferrell consistently got to the basket, leading the Hoosiers to 41 second-half points.
Against Michigan, he went 7-of-8 from 3-point range on his way to a 27-point performance and an Indiana victory. Ferrell also shut down Stauskas, Michigan’s leading scorer, by holding him to six points and one made field goal.
Ferrell was calm and composed in both postgame press conferences. After he let himself celebrate with fans that stormed the court against Wisconsin, he was all coach-speak when talking with the media.
“We’ve come very far,” he said. “Had a lot of early losses, but I felt like we learned from that just watching film. We’re going to take this win and be grateful for it.”
Ferrell said practically the same thing after the Michigan victory, just in different words.
“You know, that’s what’s great about our team. We may not get something in transition, but we set a play and run it.”
This is Ferrell now. He is no longer the role player he once was, but is the face of this year’s team.
He scored more than 15 points in 14 games this year and scored 20 points or more seven times. In those games, the Hoosiers are 6-1.
It’s more than his scoring, though. Crean said Ferrell has evolved into a leader, that his potential is endless.
“Yogi Ferrell is playing at an extremely high level,” Crean said. “The approach that he takes to it, the leadership that he’s displaying over the last couple weeks — the improvement has been some of the best I’ve been around. If he continues to keep that up, sky’s the limit for him.”
Ferrell’s performance against Michigan came after a disappointing loss three days prior at Nebraska.
The Hoosiers led by as many as 16 points, and entered halftime with a 32-19 lead. Ferrell led all scorers at the break with 11 points, going 3-of-4 from beyond the arc.
During the second half, however, the Hoosiers collapsed, eventually losing 60-55.
Ferrell had a lone 3-pointer with less than a minute remaining. The made trey brought the Hoosiers within three, but it was too late for a trying Indiana squad.
After the Michigan game, Ferrell, without being asked about the Nebraska letdown, brought it up himself, saying he and his teammates were intent not to have back-to-back second half letdowns.
“It just shows how well we’ve been practicing from the loss to Nebraska,” he said. “We were very disappointed in the way that we came out the second half, so we didn’t want to have that same letdown, so we wanted to have the same energy for all 40 minutes.”
Once a highly-touted freshman, Ferrell is now fulfilling predictions once made by recruiting experts in his sophomore season.
He is averaging 17.8 points per game this season, and is shooting above 40 percent from the field and from 3-point range. He’s also efficient at getting to the foul line and finishing there: he’s made 83.2 percent of his 107 free throw’s this season.
This is Ferrell’s team now. After the Michigan game, as Vonleh and Evan Gordon were asked about particular things that happened during the game, it was Ferrell who was asked to summarize the game’s significance for his team.
“This is a great win because Michigan is such a great team,” he said. “But we got this win with our resilience on defense, and especially the fans definitely cheering us on. I felt like they helped us a lot, too.”
Ferrell has led IU to its two biggest wins of the season. With Ferrell at the helm, the sky is the limit, Crean said.
Follow reporter John Bauernfeind on Twitter @JohnBauernfeind.