Tom Crean gave a rousing address to Indiana students at IU Auditorium on Thursday night. I wrote a story on his more thematic elements, as he wove calls to the students for hard work and sacrifice and charity around the story of the 2011-12 Hoosiers. That should run tomorrow, and the audio will be posted below.
However, here are some of the newsier notes of the speech about the progress so far of his 2012-13 squad.
— Crean talked at length about what sophomore center Cody Zeller can do to build on a freshman campaign that earned him second-team All-Big Ten honors. The goal, Crean said, is to make Zeller unstoppable even by those who design their game plans around stopping him.
“Cody Zeller is as fundamentally sound a player as I have ever seen at 18,” Crean said. “Forget coaching. Without a doubt he was the most fundamentally sound I’ve coached. He’s the most fundamentally sound I’ve ever seen or even heard about at that age. Because he was so well coached by his father, by his brothers, by his high school coach Gene Miiller, by his summer coaches. He came in with those fundamentals. Well Cody sometimes, what he’s pretty good at, he’ll stick with. But what he’s pretty good at and what he’ll stick with and what his capabilities are are the difference between him being an NBA All-Star and playing for NBA championships someday and just being a pretty good player at the next level. Cody had to lead the way with, ‘How do we stretch his athleticism? How do we stretch those fundamentals? How do we give him even more confidence?’ My whole thing is, OK, if we’re gonna play against us, we could probably find just about anybody that could look at our team and say, ‘You know what? We better start with Cody Zeller.’ … That’s where it’s gonna start. So we had to get to a point this offseason where no matter what you do in your office at Purdue, at Ohio State at North Carolina, at Butler, at Northwestern. Whatever it is. No matter what you’re doing to prepare for Indiana and prepare for how Cody plays, he could go above and beyond that, that there’s no real plan for what you do in your double-team or how you’re gonna take the ball out of his hands because he’s so secure in his fundamentals and he’s so good at reading and not predetermining what’s gonna happen, that he just takes his game to another level. If your best player and a guy like Cody can lead the way with that fundamental improvement, then nobody else has an excuse.”
Crean said Zeller has worked to stretch his game. Though last season, the Hoosiers seemed satisfied with keeping him around the rim and in the post despite his considerable ability to handle the ball and shoot from the perimeter, they have looked to expand him this season.
“We’ve had Cody working in as much ball-screen pick and roll as Jordan (Hulls), as Victor (Oladipo), as Will (Sheehey), as Remy (Abell), as any of them,” Crean said. “We’ve had him working on stretching his athleticism. We want to get him to the point where he’s on one part of the 94 foot and he can get to the other rim in two dribbles. Right now it’s at three. Is he ever going to get there? Probably not, but he needs that mindset.”
— Crean talked at length about defensive improvement. He said the defensive field goal percentage needs to go down, but just as importantly, the turnovers need to go up, because the added athleticism with the freshman class can only be unlocked if the Hoosiers cause turnovers and create fast breaks.
“When you’ve got a team full of athletes, when you’ve got a team full of athletes, when you’ve got a team full of guys that you think are deep, that you think can really create some havoc for their team, you’ve gotta create some turnovers,” Crean said. “… We averaged 53.5 shots a game last year. There have been champions who have been in the mid 60s, high 60s. We’ll play some teams in the Big Ten, they’d just as soon have that in the high 30s or low 40s. I told our guys, OK, 53.5 shots, and 10 of those left with the seniors, so that puts us at 43.5. Now, if we look at this as there’s only 10 shots available to the rest of this team, well nobody’s gonna be happy. Who’s gonna be happy with that? Everybody wants to score more. It can’t be about, ‘Well, let’s just see if we can find 10 shots for everybody.’ Plus these freshmen? No, no, no. We’ve gotta take it and we’ve gotta get these numbers up. We’re going to play a little faster on offense. We’ve gotta offensive rebound better. We don’t need to get deep in the shot clock, but sometimes that’s gonna happen. Now how are we gonna do it? We’re gonna defensive rebound better. We’re gonna create more turnovers. We’re gonna get out on that break a little faster because we’re gonna put more pressure on the ball. That means you’re gonna have to be in that much better shape and that much better physically strong to get these things done. That means that we can’t have a team that can go seven or eight deep. We have to have enough guys that we can look at right now and say we might have eight or nine starters. We might have eight or nine starters.”
—- Crean said he did expect the competition to be intense, but he did not expect the five incumbents — seniors Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford, juniors Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey and the sophomore Zeller — to all keep their starting spots.
“I probably wouldn’t put it in a Sharpie pen just yet,” Crean said. “I would probably use a fountain pen, but we’re probably gonna start a freshman. That’s probably what’s gonna happen. Because I really don’t want to look at it and say, ‘These four freshmen are here, well let’s just put these guys all in together.’ They’re gonna be new too. The point I’m making is, the battles are on. The battles are on right now. I don’t know if all of our players realize it yet. but a good portion of them do. You’ve gotta bring it. You’ve gotta bring it every day.”
And, he said, the battles will be determined by defense.
“If you can’t carry your weight and be a guy defensively and you can’t keep the ball in front of you and you’re not a great helper and you don’t talk more on defense and you don’t defensive rebound and you can’t play at a fast pace, it’s gonna be hard to get you in there,” Crean said. “… We need to play a little faster and we need to be better defensively.”
— Crean said Zeller and Sheehey were the most improved players of the offseason, but said that Oladipo was close.
“Victor’s decision making, Victor’s ball-handling, Victor’s outside shooting,” Crean said. “When he gets that where that needs to be to go with everything else, you’ll be waving hi to him at an NBA arena. Because that’s where he’ll be. It’s the same thing with Will Sheehey.
— Crean on Jordan Hulls: “The guy that’s gonna stand to get the most opportunities — he’s had a lot of opportunities in three years — but the most opportunities to go to his No. 1 strength, which is shooting the basketball is Jordan. More and more now, Jordan is getting better at creating. He’s getting better at the pick and roll, he’s getting better off the dribble, but it is hard to find someone that can match up with him shooting that 3. Now having Yogi, now having Jeremy, now having Remy who is another year better, now having Victor, who’s gaining and has to keep improving his decision making and he’s getting better with that ball. Having Will Sheehey be the guy that he is, having Cody having he ability to create more from the outside, that’s only going to help Jordan that much more.”
— On Derek Elston: “He just needs to be Brian Scalabrine. He just needs to be Matt Bonner. He really does. He needs to make open shots. He needs to talk more on defense, he needs to hold his position in the post, be able to switch on the perimeter and be able to rebound. Because that kid can make shots. He really can. He needs to spend that time in the gym getting better.”
— On Maurice Creek: “I can’t even tell you what those days and weeks and months were like watching this young guy go through those three surgeries in 22 months. I can’t. I can’t tell you for me. I can’t even begin to tell you what that was like for him and his family. … I’ve been slow to bring him back because I don’t want to see him endure that. I don’t know how he does that. I really don’t. I don’t know how he did. it. Remember this now, he put 31 on Kentucky that second year. If he would’ve stayed healthy that second year, he wouldn’t be here. He’d be getting ready for training camp for Washington or L.A. or Milwaukee or Indiana. He’d have been gone. What he’s lost with those injury and what he’s lost in athleticism and strength, we’ve gotta keep getting him in that mindset. I was so excited watching him the last couple of weeks, because he’s getting better. He’s getting better. He’s not where he was, and his body may never get to that. … It may never come. He’s gotta be a lot stronger. His legs are not where they need to be. He’s starting to get it. What’s really exciting is it’s great to watch his confidence. He’s gonna have some moments and I’m gonna have to live with it. I’m gonna grind my teeth. … That will be part of it, but I love that guy. There’s a lot of guys on this team to root for, but he takes a backseat to no one.”
— On Austin Etherington: “When he believes in himself in the way I think I do, especially in his ability to shoot the ball, then I think we’re gonna have a guy that can get out there and help us. What I’ve said to him is, don’t look at it like, ‘OK, I’ve gotta beat this guy out or I’ve gotta beat that guy out.’ Don’t look at it like that. Look at it like, ‘I’ve gotta be so good at what I do, I’ve gotta be so good at shooting the ball that I’ve gotta get in there. He’s gotta play me.’ I hope he gets to that because he’s got a lot of talent. The first three years here, he would’ve started and probably have been one of our leading scorers.”
— Crean said similar things about Remy Abell, who Crean said will also be hard to take off the floor because of his defense and ability to get to the rim.
— Crean said foot injuries have limited Watford and freshman Hanner Mosquera-Perea and they have both been shut down for parts of the summer. Crean said Mosquera-Perea is not working out right now, but he is hopeful he will be back by Hoosier Hysteria on Oct. 20.
— In a question and answer session, Crean was asked again about the Indiana-Kentucky series.
“We’re just gonna sit here and wait for them to come to their senses,” Crean said. “I’m certainly not putting words in their mouth. I’m just telling you what I think. I think eventually it will turn. I think eventually this will become a home-and-home series. We’re the same. We wanted a two-year contract, but we were certainly willing to do more than that so that we could go up to LucasOil for two years in a row. We had given and then some on the situation. Right now, we’ll just sit back and schedule somebody else in a home game for a year from now. We’ll bring in somebody high level for a home game in Assembly Hall, knowing we’ll have to go back on the road. But I think it will be in our lifetime, they’ll be back here.”