Kevin Ferrell Jr. was so chubby as a toddler that his mother called him Yogi. As he became a pint-sized yet high-profile point guard at Park Tudor High in Indianapolis, which he led to two state championships, he heard just about every variation on his nickname. "They called me Yog, Yogurt, Yoshi, Yoga, Yoda," Ferrell says. "One time at a road game, someone held up a sign that had a picture of Yogi Bear and said IT'S BEAR HUNTING SEASON. I thought that was the coolest thing I had ever seen."
Listed at 6 feet, Ferrell admits he tops out at 5'11" and knows he's in a mighty big spot for the Hoosiers. As a freshman he'll be handed the keys to a team that nearly knocked off eventual champion Kentucky in the Sweet 16 and has four starters back, including national player of the year favorite Cody Zeller. Fortunately for Indiana, Ferrell is smarter than the average point guard, not to mention faster and tougher. "That dude's the quickest player I've seen with the ball in a really long time," says junior forward Will Sheehey. "He's definitely going to add an element to our team that we didn't have before."
Though the Hoosiers led the Big Ten in scoring last season (77.3 points per game), their point guard play was rarely spectacular. The jet-quick Ferrell will change that in a hurry. In transition he will create opportunities for athletic finishers such as Zeller, Christian Watford and Victor Oladipo. In the half-court Ferrell will free up Jordan Hulls, who made 49.3% from three-point range as a junior but was often pressed into running the point. "Jordan will benefit the most from having Yogi here," coach Tom Crean says.
The coach doesn't see Ferrell's lack of size as a liability. "Yogi's got a real toughness to him," Crean says. "He has great vision, and he's such a willing passer. He's a pure winner." Ferrell may be short, but he has strong legs, broad shoulders and a warrior's heart, all of which should propel Indiana to a honey of a season.
ROUND OF 32
ROUND OF 64
Projected Starting Five
COACH Tom Crean (5th season)
2011--12 RECORD 27--9
BIG TEN 11--7 (5th)
WHAT'S BACK Minutes: 77.6% Points: 84.6% Rebounds: 84.2%
*High school stats
43.1 PERCENTAGE of threes made by Indiana last season (229 of 531), which ranked second in the nation, behind Northern Colorado. Returning Hoosiers accounted for 76.9% of the team's treys.
MIKE DICKBERND/IU ATHLETICS
KEVIN (YOGI) FERRELL He may be undersized at 6 feet (or so), but the freshman has speed, heart and a championship pedigree.