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Freshman All-American Cornerback D’Angelo Ponds Brings Special Qualities to Indiana Football

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Freshman All-American Cornerback D’Angelo Ponds Brings Special Qualities to Indiana Football


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Indiana’s secondary took a hit on April 29 when starting cornerback Kobee Minor entered the transfer portal.

But new head coach Curt Cignetti acted quickly, landing James Madison cornerback transfer D’Angelo Ponds on May 4. While Cignetti and his staff had an established connection with Ponds from the 2023 season, they had to fend off the likes of Auburn, Miami, Tennessee, USC and others for Ponds, a 2023 Freshman All-American, who’s Indiana’s top-ranked incoming transfer, per On3.

Ponds was named to the Lott IMPACT Trophy Watch List on Wednesday, which included 18 defensive backs, 13 defensive linemen and 11 linebackers around the nation. The award, named after NFL Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott, considers both on-field talent and IMPACT, which stands for Integrity, Maturity, Performance, Academics, Community and Tenacity. Winners of the award include recent No. 2 and No. 3 overall NFL Draft picks Aidan Hutchinson and Will Anderson Jr.

“[Ponds] was a big get, I think,” Cignetti said. “But he’s going to have to earn it here. Nothing’s given. Everything is earned, not given, and that’s the way it’s got to be.”

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Ponds had the best coverage grade (89.3) in the nation among true freshmen defensive backs in 2023, according to Pro Football Focus, ahead of players like Alabama’s Caleb Downs and Notre Dame’s Christian Gray. But like Cignetti mentioned, he had to earn his spot on a talented Dukes defense.

Ponds committed to James Madison out of Chaminade-Madonna Prep in Hollywood, Fla., as a three-star recruit ranked No. 1966 in the class of 2023, No. 170 among cornerbacks and No. 280 in Florida. He had offers from Akron, Arkansas State, Bryant, Florida International, Florida Atlantic, Liberty, Louisiana-Monroe, Old Dominion, South Dakota, Syracuse and Tulane. 

Cignetti said Ponds had “special qualities” in preseason fall camp, but he had to clean up his technique. Ponds played just 14 snaps in Week 1 and only four in Week 2. But James Madison’s defense was struggling against the pass, allowing 377 passing yards and 18.9 yards per completion in a 36-35 win at Virginia. So Cignetti gave the freshman a chance, and he ran with it.

Ponds played 68 snaps in a Week 3 win at Troy, then he logged 91 and 90 snaps in wins at Utah State and against South Alabama in Weeks 4 and 5, respectively. He became a mainstay at cornerback the rest of the year on a James Madison defense that ranked 18th in the nation in points allowed per game at 18.5.

“When we did that, it was really a shot in the arm for our entire defense,” Cignetti said of Ponds moving into a starting role. “…Great competitor. Super intelligent. Can really move, play the ball in the air.” 

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Making the jump from the Sun Belt to the Big Ten will be a step up in competition and require an adjustment. But Patrick Mayhorn, who covers Group of 5 football for the website “Meet at Midfield,” believes Ponds, with three years of remaining eligibility, was a major addition for the Hoosiers. 

“He was, I think, one of the best corners in America,” Mayhorn told HoosiersNow. “I don’t think I would really need to qualify that with one of the best corners in the G5 or one of the best corners in the Sun Belt. “

“He’s undersized [at 5-foot-9 and 165 pounds], but he is just so good in coverage. It’s so hard to get past him, and he can fill so many different roles for a defense because he’s also a capable, and I would say even a very good tackler, despite his relative lack of size. He was doing that in his first year at the Sun Belt level at the D1 level. He’s excellent. He’s really kind of a foundational piece for a defense, I think, moving forward, and that would have been true at James Madison and I think it’s going to be true at Indiana. That talent translates right away.”

Shane Mettlen, who covers James Madison for the Daily News-Record in Harrisonburg, Va., said Cignetti and his staff established a strong track record identifying talented players that recruiting sites overlooked and ranked lower. Often, this was with undersized players. 

Mettlen believes Cignetti had a philosophy of going after speed rather than size, with the belief that a player could put on muscle after training with James Madison. They added players who they knew had speed to get to the ball – in line with their fast, physical and relentless mantra – and that players with all the desired measurables out of high school usually looked to attend Power 5 schools.

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During the 2022 season, true freshman cornerback Chauncey Logan – unranked by 247Sports – led James Madison with 10 pass breakups. Ponds followed a similar path with his impressive true freshman season in 2023, despite not being a highly touted prospect from the outside.

“It kind of got to the point where it wasn’t a surprise if anybody did that at JMU, especially in the secondary,” Mettlen told HoosiersNow. “… Guys before Ponds who were a year ahead of him came in and kind of set the tone that if the coaching staff says that this guy can play, then you expect big things out of them even if their recruiting rankings and stuff were not up there.”

Indiana’s pass defense ranked 13th in the Big Ten last season. The loss of Minor, as well as starting safeties Louis Moore and Phillip Dunnam, made that a remaining area of concern heading into 2024. 

The group is now coached by defensive backs and safeties coach Ola Adams, plus cornerbacks coach Rod Ojong. It returns 2023 contributors Jamari Sharpe, Jamier Johnson, Nic Toomer, Josh Sanguinetti and Amare Ferrell. 

Like most of the roster, Indiana added transfers in the defensive backfield both by necessity and in hopes of improving from a 3-9 2023 season. Along with Arizona transfer DJ Warnell Jr., Austin Peay transfer Cedarius Doss and Old Dominion transfers Terry Jones Jr. and Shawn Asbury II, Ponds headlines that effort.

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“There’s got to be competition. That’s what makes everybody better,” Cignetti said. “But I was thrilled we were able to get him.”



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Indiana GOP chair to step down following tumultuous party convention

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Indiana GOP chair to step down following tumultuous party convention


INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana GOP party chair Anne Hathaway is stepping down about 10 months after outgoing Gov. Eric Holcomb appointed her to the role.

Her departure was announced

shortly after delegates at the state party convention rejected party leadership and the endorsement of former President Donald Trump to nominate an ultra-conservative pastor for lieutenant governor to run alongside gubernatorial nominee U.S. Sen. Mike Braun.

Hathaway was the first woman to hold the position. She also chairs the panel organizing the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee this July 15-18.

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The state party’s announcement said Hathaway was unanimously reelected Friday as national committeewoman and informed members in the same meeting that she would be stepping down from her state leadership role. Hathaway’s successor will be elected by members of the Indiana Republican State Committee June 24. Executive Director Joe Elsener is also stepping down, the party said.

“The timing is right having just concluded our 2024 State Convention, and I look forward to working with Senator Braun and the members of our Republican State Committee to select our next chair,” Hathaway said in the party’s announcement.

The convention came to shocking end on Saturday when delegates elected Micah Beckwith, who promotes uncompromising views as co-host of the “Sex, Jesus and Politics” podcast, instead of Braun’s choice of state Rep. Julie McGuire to be his running mate.





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Indiana Pacers know that to improve in the offseason, they must get better on defense

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Indiana Pacers know that to improve in the offseason, they must get better on defense


INDIANAPOLIS — It’s officially the NBA offseason. The Boston Celtics won the 2024 NBA Championship on Monday night, and after a few days of celebration and reflection, other teams will figure out how to improve their long-term outlook.

That includes the Indiana Pacers, who just won 47 games and reached the Eastern Conference Finals. They had a terrific 2023-24 season, but as a young team, they know that growth isn’t always linear. They will have to find ways to improve if they want to make it back to the conference finals — or even farther — in the future.

“We see areas where we’ve got to improve. Both the roster, skill level, defensively, things like that,” general manager Chad Buchanan said at his end-of-season exit interview. “There’s plenty of areas for us to improve. I think that will be a focus for us this summer and building a team moving forward.”

Buchanan shared that he believes the players on Indiana’s roster recognize the importance of getting stops to make it deep in the playoffs. The team had several moments throughout the regular season where they re-focused on defense — either through a lineup change or intense practice — and it often led to bursts of defensive success and wins.

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But the Pacers still finished the regular season with the 24th rated defense, and they were 13th out of 16 teams in the postseason. They can score against anybody and they know it, but future improvement starts with getting stops.

“As a front office, you’re always looking for ways to improve your team,” Buchanan said. His team has three draft picks to try to improve, but no salary cap space. They can use cap exceptions to add talents as well as re-sign their own free agents. “I also believe that we have a lot of internal growth ahead for some of our players,” he added, specifically referring to defense.

“If there’s something out there we feel addresses a need, we’ll be aggressive to do that,” Buchanan explained. Between the Pacers young core and only being out one first-round draft pick in future seasons, Indiana can make any reasonable move that becomes available to them.

Their most important offseason task is re-signing Pascal Siakam. The forward was tremendous last season, and both he and the team have talked about their hopes for free agency this summer. Reporting suggests there is mutual interest between the parties.

Then, the Pacers can look at Obi Toppin, who spent last season with the team, and other free agency options. The 36th overall pick could help the team add talent, too.

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Buchanan said that the blue and gold are trying to follow the Denver Nuggets and Boston Celtics model of constructing their team piece by piece. Those franchises got their star(s), then slowly acquired players that fit in their systems around the mega talent.

Boston’s foundation, in particular, stood out to Buchanan. Their defense is great, and that’s where the Pacers want to grow. “I think our players really recognized the importance of being able to get stops,” he said.

The offseason is underway. Indiana will hope to keep Siakam and Toppin while adding defense where they can.



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Indiana Basketball Releases Jersey Numbers for 2024-25 Season

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Indiana Basketball Releases Jersey Numbers for 2024-25 Season


It’s time to start looking ahead to the 2024-25 Indiana basketball season. On Monday, the Hoosiers released the jersey numbers for the roster.

Indiana is coming off a 19-14 campaign last season, finishing sixth in the Big Ten standings with a 10-10 mark in league play. In the offseason, coach Mike Woodson and his staff recruited hard from the NCAA transfer portal, bringing some big-time players to Bloomington.

Will that help the Hoosiers get back to the top of the Big Ten and re-establish their place on the national stage? We’ll find out soon enough.

Until then, here’s a look at Indiana’s 2024-25 men’s basketball roster, along with jersey numbers.

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#0 G Jakai Newton — redshirt freshman
#1 G Myles Rice — redshirt sophomore
#2 G Gabe Cupps — sophomore
#3 G Anthony Leal — redshirt senior
#5 F Malik Reneau — junior
#8 F Bryson Tucker — freshman
#9 G Kanaan Carlyle — sophomore
#10 F Luke Goode — senior
#11 C Oumar Ballo — redshirt senior
#12 C Langdon Hatton — senior
#21 F Mackenzi Mgbako — sophomore
#32 G Trey Galloway — redshirt senior

IU DROPS SUMMER HYPE VIDEO: The Hoosiers are putting in plenty of work this summer in an effort to get back to the top of the Big Ten. This weekend, Indiana released a hype video, showing off this year’s summer workouts. CLICK HERE

XAVIER JOHNSON REFLECTS ON INDIANA: Thursday, former Indiana guard Xavier Johnson had a pre-draft workout with the Indiana Pacers. He reflected on his time with the Hoosiers and what he learned from coach Mike Woodson. CLICK HERE

ANSWERING FAN QUESTIONS ABOUT IU BASKETBALL: With roster movement around college basketball settling down and summer workouts beginning, it’s time to answer some fan-submitted questions about Indiana’s fourth season under coach Mike Woodson.CLICK HERE

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