Indianapolis IN-He’s not the most celebrated Hoosier, but he nonetheless would not trade his time at IU away.
Current Minnesota Timberwolves forward Noah Vonleh played one season for the Hoosiers in 2013-2014 and had positive experiences donning the Cream and Crimson in the short time he did.
“The whole college experience was great,” he said. “Coming in with that freshman class, we were pretty talented. I just loved going to Indiana University. Indiana breeds basketball players and I just love the fact that they worship basketball so it was just a great environment playing in Assembly Hall.”
Vonleh ended up at IU following a long recruiting process with former Indiana coach Tom Crean and former assistant Kenny Johnson, who he praised for helping him work up to his potential.
“Still talk to (Crean and Johnson) every once in a while,” he said. “They pushed me to the limit when I was at IU and it was a great experience overall.”
Despite a season that had its ups and downs, one thing that stood out was playing with former Hoosier star and current fellow NBA player Yogi Ferrell, who along with Vonleh were the two leading scorers for that year.
“Yogi’s a great point guard,” he said. “He can really play-make, he can score the basketball. People take his size for granted but he is a hell of a basketball player and it was a great time playing with him here at Indiana.”
While Crean was known for his team’s offensive prowess, with four of his last six teams finishing in the top eight in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency, Vonleh’s team was an exception as they finished outside the top 100 in offense — the third worst in the Crean era. However, like current squads under current Indiana coach Archie Miller, Vonleh’s team was top 40 in defense, which was second-best during Crean’s nine-year tenure as Hoosier coach.
Vonleh said he has nothing but praise for Miller and the job he is doing with the Hoosier defense and thinks he is the right man to lead the program.
“Archie’s a hell of a coach,” he said. “He’s gonna figure it out. He’s gonna recruit the right guys to come in there and fit into their system.”
During his season as a Hoosier, Vonleh averaged 11.3 points and nine rebounds. However, his team finished with a disappointing 17-15 record. This followed two seasons where former IU stars and current fellow lottery picks Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller led the Hoosiers to a Big Ten Championship, two Sweet 16’s, and their highest rankings since Bobby Knight roamed the sidelines.
Vonleh said he was happy with his season as a Hoosier despite the struggles, but does imagine what it would have been like if he had been added to the elite 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 rosters.
“I am happy with the year I played,” he said. “I watched Cody and Vic the year before. It would have been fun to play with those guys. It would have been fun and interesting to see me, Vic, Cody, and Yogi playing together. That would have been a fun team to watch.”
After his season as a Hoosier, Vonleh departed for the NBA draft, where he was the ninth pick of the Charlotte Hornets. He has since played with four more organizations (Portland Trail Blazers, Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks and now the Timberwolves) with a career average of five points a game in his sixth season.
Vonleh is content to see where his NBA path continues to take him.
“I’ve been on a few teams,” he said. “I’m just going with the journey and seeing where it takes me. I hope to be in this league as long as I want.”
More than anything though Vonleh, who measures 6-10, had advice for any future Hoosier big man who is an NBA prospect.
“Just continue to work hard,” he said. “Listen to your coaching staff and the sky’s the limit.”