Indiana Center Thomas Bryant Returning to School for Sophomore Season

Despite being considered a first-round selection by several NBA executives, Indiana big man Thomas Bryant opted to return to school for his sophomore season. (Source: USA Today Sports) (Header Photo: Indiana Athletics)
Despite being considered a first-round selection by several NBA executives, Indiana big man Thomas Bryant opted to return to school for his sophomore season. (Source: USA Today Sports) (Header Photo: Indiana Athletics)

Even though they fell to the Michigan Wolverines in their opening game of the Big Ten tournament, the 2015-16 season was still a successful one for the Indiana Hoosiers. They finished 25-7 overall, 15-3 in Big Ten play, and took home the regular season conference title to boot.

In the NCAA Tournament, they reached the Sweet 16 with wins over the Chattanooga Mocs and the Kentucky Wildcats, before falling to the eventual national championship runner-up North Carolina Tar Heels. Looking back on the season, Hoosiers’ fans have plenty to be proud of.

Looking ahead to 2016-17, and Indiana fans also have plenty to be excited about. With plenty of talent back, and some high-profile recruits coming to Bloomington, Indiana is expected to contend for the Big Ten title once more.

One question mark surrounding next year’s team was the status of freshman center Thomas Bryant. In the minds of several NBA executives, Bryant was a projected first-round selection if he opted for the NBA Draft.

On Thursday, Bryant gave everyone an answer in regards to what path his career would take.

Indiana fans can rest easy for the time being, as they get another year of the big man after Bryant announced that he was returning to school for the 2016-17 season.

Out of high school, Bryant was one of the most coveted big men in the Class of 2015. He was the 6th-ranked center in the class, and the 20th-ranked recruit overall.

The 6’10”, 245-pound center chose Indiana over the likes of the Kentucky Wildcats, the Miami Hurricanes, the Villanova Wildcats, the Syracuse Orange, among others.

In his first season with the Hoosiers, the Rochester. NY native enjoyed an increased level of success as the season moved along. He slowly became the dominant big man that many expected him to be, but there was still room for more improvement. The potential and the tools are there, it’s just a matter of Bryant taking the next step and becoming the elite center people think he can become.

As a freshman, Bryant averaged 11.9 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 0.9 blocks per contest while averaging just 22.6 minutes per game. With his return, his playing time should increase significantly, and people will get a glimpse of what Bryant is capable of as he continues his development.

Bryant’s return pushes Indiana into the conversation as a top contender in the Big Ten next season, and likely makes them a top 25 team. But, their ceiling could be a lot higher as more players make their decisions.

Indiana is still awaiting a decision from junior forward Troy Williams, who averaged 13.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game last season while shooting 51.3% from the floor. If he returns, along with freshman OG Anunoby, the Hoosiers will arguably be the top team in the Big Ten.

Can you imagine a front court with Bryant, Williams, and Anunoby next season? Yikes.

The rest of the Big Ten has been put on notice once again. The Indiana Hoosiers are coming, and they’re looking to keep the Big Ten regular season title in Bloomington, IN for another year.

– T.B.