The most important days of the year.

Assembly Hall was quiet, and the seats where you’ll watch next year were dimly lit. Only the court itself was bathed in full light Wednesday afternoon.

Mike White, the hulking senior forward, leaned against the the east bleachers talking to an older gentleman who sat in a chair. Armon Bassett came out dribbling a basketball, looking as he so often does like he was put on this Earth to do just that. Other voices, including D.J. White’s, were muffled behind the locked doors to Indiana’s locker room. The rest of the healthy Hoosiers were getting ready to have a little run.

This is how Indiana’s players will spend most of their summer days. Mornings and early afternoons will be filled with working out under the supervision of strength coach Jeff Watkinson and classes. At about 4 p.m., though, the guys will gather to play basketball together.

As I watched DeAndre Thomas, the 6-8 346-pound forward who’s been on campus less than two weeks, dribble and appear impossibly nimble for an object so large, it occurred to me that these summer days might be the most important of the year.

Later this summer, there will be reports of Indiana’s preparation for that foreign tour to the Bahamas.

Starting in September you’ll begin reading the stories about Kelvin Sampson’s strenuous morning workout routines and how it’s preparing the players for a long season.

You’ll be there on October 12 for Midnight Madness, the ceremonial opening of the fall practice session.

All are big symbolic beginnings, and tempting times to dub essential toward any future success.

But these are the days when the Hoosiers are really becoming a team.

Thomas talked to me about his admiration for White as a teammate and leader. Bassett appeared so comfortable and confident.

So away from all the structure Sampson will eventually impose and away from all us journalists needing something to write about, a team will form. There’s still just enough of that element left in college sports. While many of the players are future mercenaries — NBA players — they’re still young enough and driven enough to sacrifice — and that is the only fitting verb here — the way they must to fit in and create that special chemistry that you as sports fans hope to follow for a season.

3 comments

  1. Very eloquent description. I already can’t wait for next season. Great first-hand stuff here, keep it coming!

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