Crean talks free throws

Judging from the calls to Tom Crean’s weekly radio show on Monday night, the Indiana fan base is pleased with the Hoosiers’ win over Minnesota, but they’re still a little concerned with the free throw shooting.

The Hoosiers were 25-for-40 from the line (62.5 percent) against the Golden Gophers, which put them a hair under their season average of 65.5 percent. As per usual, junior point guard Jeremiah Rivers was one of the most frustrating detractors, making just one of his four free throws. He’s now shooting 50.7 percent from the line, problematic for anyone, especially a point guard who handles the ball so often.

A caller into the radio show, trying to be as diplomatic as possible saying he was a big fan of Rivers, but said, “his free throw shooting could be better, though,” and asked Crean if he thought Rivers was falling away from his shot.

Crean first said that Rivers has had too many people analyzing his shot, and he needs to narrow down the voices to his father Doc, one of his father’s assistants with the Boston Celtics, Crean, and one of IU’s assistants. Rivers biggest problem, Crean says, is anxiety.

“When he relaxes his shoulders, he takes a deep breath and he lets all that anxiety out of his shoulders, and then holds his follow-through, he usually ends up pretty good,” Crean said. “The point you make is well taken because sometimes when he feels that that’s a miss — and I’ve seen this in practice and I’ve seen it in games — when he feels that he’s short or he feels that he’s off, he falls back off that line rather than staying in and coming all the way through.”

Crean continued, saying that so much of Rivers’ free throw woes are in his head.

“He over-thinks his free throws too much,” Crean said. “When he just stands up there and takes that deep breath and relaxes, we had a situation a couple of weeks ago, I think he made 27 in a row in practice. Those things happen. Unfortunately, you don’t see them, and then there’s probably about 75 percent of the people listening that tell me I’m full of it right now when I say that. But I’m there to see it. You get in to the games and then different things happen, but he works very, very hard at it. He wants to be an excellent shooter, he wants to be an excellent free throw shooter. We don’t want him to stop at all going to the basket. Hopefully over a period of time he’s going to continue to gain more confidence with it.”

Crean said he’s also trying to build the rest of the players’ confidence in their free throw shooting through various drills.

“We play some different games that I think are going to help us,” Crean said. “We play games, a 21 game. This is good, you’ll partner up with somebody, every make you drop down, so you’ll go from 21 to 20, you make the next one, you go to 19. Now, everybody’s got a one-and-one, you miss the first one-and-one you go back up two. You have five minutes or seven minutes, and then we add a swish game to it where you don’t drop down unless you’re swishing the ball. We shoot them when we’re tired. We shoot them in a break situation, we shoot them in scrimmage situations, there’s no question about that. I have no concerns whatsoever in what we’re doing to practice free throw shooting. What we have to do is to keep developing that confidence to make them in pressure situations which you can never simulate in practice. You can never simulate a game situation in the people in the stands, but you can try to put them in as many situations as you can. Like last week, we shot free throws to noise to get ready for Michigan. We turned the noise up full blast. Any type of thing that gives them that little mental edge.”

Some other random points from the radio show.

  • Crean was asked about Indiana’s final possession in regulation when Rivers drove to the middle and appeared to slip before passing the ball to Christian Watford for the final shot. The caller asked why Rivers wasn’t called for a travel or a double-dribble — he probably should have been. Crean said he didn’t remember the play but “believe me now, if we got a break over the last year and a half, we would’ve deserved it.”
  • Following from that, host Don Fischer asked Crean about how he handles officials. Crean said, “last year I was begging for technicals. With my language and some of the things I said, I should’ve been thrown out for a few games. I couldn’t get one. That made me even madder, because they knew we were in trouble.”
  • Crean said his young team probably shouldn’t see him out of control but, “that doesn’t mean that the next game I won’t get thrown out.”
  • Crean talked about his players having changing roles and dealing with those. He mentioned senior guard Devan Dumes, who was the leading scorer on the Hoosiers last year, but is coming off the bench now. “One thing that’s helped him is he’s not turning the ball over as much as he did a year ago,” Crean said. “Field goal percentage, three-point percentage, free-throw percentage, they’re all very, very similar. There’s an example of someone who played a lot more last year, not quite as much this year. He had a very, very good first half for us when he was doing the things that were coming in the context of the game. That’s what a role is. Are you getting things done in the context of the game?”
  • Crean addressed the fact that several of his players seemed to be yelling at each other on the floor during the game. Though some fans appeared to see that as a chemistry problem, Crean said it was actually good for them. “We’re not close enough as a program yet, as a team, to not get after one another on the court,” Crean said. “… (Former IU player and current athletics administrator) Chris Reynolds made a good point and said, ‘Players are not comfortable calling each other out anymore.’ I can’t accept that.” Crean said he went back and read Bob Knight books looking for signs of leadership, and said he thought Knight’s guys did a good job of holding each other accountable.


  1. TC’s solution for free throws is to stop calling them “free” throws and start calling them foul shots. “Foul Shots” sounds harder and therefore we will be excited about making over 50%. Way to spin TC.

  2. Interesting points by Tom Crean. Give him credit, he is a politician. He’d fit right in up here running for Cook County Board President. He would spin the privatization of the Chicago parking meters and make it seem like the best thing since sliced bread.

    It would be great if someone could probe Crean a bit further about his description and analysis of Devan Dumes. Dustin, I feel that if you did this, Crean would not talk to you at all anymore. Ha..

    What I would agree with Crean is that Dumes is not turning the ball over and that his role on the team is now defined as “contributor off the bench”.

    What don’t see is that his field goal and three point percentage are similar to that of last year.

    His shooting is erratic as is demonstrated by his low FG % (33% this year as compared to 41% last year.) Even more so his effective field goal percentage (which weights one 3pt effectiveness) is down from 52.2% to 42.7%.

    Now some of this is most likely contributed to his role coming off the bench. The adjustment from a starter to a bench player puts added pressure on a player and they may try to force things to happen on the offensive end. I’d have to say that Dumes has succumbed to this habit at times.

    He is the type of player that when he is on, Dumes can score points in bunches. Looking back he reminds me of Rod Wilmont in his first year in 03-04. I think Rod shot something like 29% and didn’t see a shot he didn’t like. But, Rod was a freshman in 03-04 and Devan is a senior. My end game is that I’d like to see better decision making from him.

    And is that a Knight reference in this piece by Crean? Why yes it is.

    That’s all folks. Open for comments.


  3. Dustin, nice summary of the Tom Crean radio show. I have not yet been able to tune in to it this season.
    PB – that is a pretty good summation of things.
    Chronic – yep, Crean’s remarks did that for a lot of us.
    This may sound a little strange to say (even at this point) but just think of how many more games we may have won with Creek (and Roth) healthy….
    Here’s to a win against Penn State

  4. Matt Roth wouldn’t have been a factor, healthy or not. Even if he didn’t break his foot, I doubt we would have seen much of him on the court this year.

    How many more games would they have won with Creek healthy? Well let see, since the injury they are 2-3, with a loss to Illinois and a blowout loss to Ohio State and Michigan. With Creek, the Illinois game is a possibility. Michigan, depends, they were in that game late, but just ran out of gas. Ohio State they still get killed. I say with Creek healthy they are 3-2 in the conference instead of 2-3.

  5. Mike P: Let’s remember that they lost to Loyola with Creek. They beat Michigan and Minnesota without him.

    You never can tell, I guess.

  6. Husky,

    That is why I think the only game we have lost without him that we could/would have won is Illinois. I really think Michigan on the road and Ohio State results would be the same.

  7. It’s also possible to say that we could have lost against Mich or Minn if Creek was playing. He could have changed the rebounding dynamic, for example, or he could have been cold from beyond the arc. It’s hard to predict.

  8. I think Coach Crean in his second season is very similar To Coach Hoeppner in his second year. Both staying positive to the face of the team and fans, trying different techniques and applications during practice to develop players. Who has the tougher job may be a jump ball. On one hand CC is trying to get back to a winning tradition and CH was trying to build a new one.

  9. I don’t have a problem with players calling each other out, especially if it’s constructive and the player deserves it and responds to it. We haven’t had good leadership on the court since probably 2002 and Tom Coverdale. The Bracey Wright era ushered in a play for yourself era that quickly unraveled a storied program.

    Rivers problems maybe anxiety, but the fact of the matter is, he’s an awful free throw shooter _thus far_ in game situations shooter and probably shouldn’t have the ball at the end of the game (if I were the other team, I’d consider the hack a shack strategy with Rivers). It’s great that he hits 27 in a row in practice now he needs to translate that into something that counts.

    Rivers has a lot of great qualities about him. Free throw shooting is the final piece to his puzzle. He figures out his anxiety problems, he’ll be a dangerous point guard. Until then, he’s average and in some cases a liability.

    Tom maybe frustrated with all of the comments on free throws, but free throws win games. Had the Hoosiers hit them, Tom would have had more wins over the last 2 seasons. Had Mike Davis’s teams hit them, he might still be the head coach. If you look at past statistics, we would have won 60% of the games we lost if we’d have hit half of the free throws we missed. That’s a substantial amount of wins AND it’s not an unreasonable thing to achieve. What is it about Bob Knight teams that could hit free throws that was different.. did he just recruit better free throw shooters or has an emphasis been taken off free throws throughout the younger kids basketball careers.

  10. I recall Norm Ellenberger (late ’80s) providing pre-game interviews on TV … aside from Bob Knight’s show. Ellenberger once talked about ballplayer free throw shooting and how it usually came down to a mental process for the shooter. He always coached I.U. newcomer’s to realize that the basketball hoop was actually wide enough to accommodate two basketballs – side by side. He said that image helped to relax the shooter.

  11. It’s got to be tough for Rivers to learn how to shoot a proper foul shot. Does he listen to Doc or his coach?

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