Crean: Rivers will play less point; Jones, Hulls and Creek to handle ball

Tom Crean said he doesn’t believe it will be necessary to anoint a point guard to be the primary ball-handler on every possession this season, but he did say that he does not envision senior Jeremiah Rivers at that position.

The 6-foot-5 transfer from Georgetown was the starter at point guard most of last season and led the Hoosiers in assists with 3.4 per game. He was also second on the team in rebounding with 4.3 per game. However, Rivers also was second on the team with 86 turnovers and struggled at the foul line, making just 57.8 percent of his free throws. His mid-range jumper improved throughout the year, but he finished the season 0-for-5 from beyond the 3-point arc.

Rivers severely injured his ankle earlier in the offseason, and has missed significant time.

“This is going to be a situation where I don’t see him at the point,” Crean said. “I see him as a guy that’s gotta get defensive rebounds. I see him as a guy that’s got to move the basketball. We don’t have anybody faster with the ball. The best way that that’s going to happen is if he gets a defensive rebounds. He’s got to be an outstanding defender for us, which is something that I think he got away from a little bit. I know what he’s capable of defensively, and I always hold that in my mind. That’s what I expect him to be. Again, I expect him to come in and hold his own. He’s going to have to earn his way into minutes on this team.”

Crean said the three players that could handle point guard duties would be junior Verdell Jones and sophomores Jordan Hulls and Maurice Creek. He said he didn’t think the Hoosiers necessarily had to designate one as the starting point guard and that he could see them all on the floor at the same time, but that those were the three who could bring the ball up frequently.

“I don’t know if having a point guard is going to be as important as it has been a lot of other times. I think having guards that can get the ball entered, that can make plays, that can feed the post, but most of all, we go back to the decision-making. … It’s not like, ‘wow, that’s our point.’ I don’t see it like that this year.”

Though Crean spoke at length on Friday, that was one of few issues he was comfortable addressing specifically simply because he hasn’t been able to watch his team in person since May when the school year ended. He did provide an update on Creek, who is recovering from a fractured knee suffered in December.

“I don’t think he’s going to have any restrictions when we get back to our individual instructions,” Crean said. “He’s still limited in the sense of how many pick-up game he’s played. Tim (Garl) has got him on a schedule as far as how many games he play and how much time he’s out there. I can’t imagine there’s been anybody who’s been asked to do more in the sense of rehabilitation and at the same time he’s in the gym all the time and he’s working on his game all the time. He’s in here. You just know he’s here because you see him come through. His birthday was Monday, and I said, ‘What do you have planned for the day?’ And he said, ‘Gym, gym and more gym.'”

Crean reminded reporters that he has not seen Guy-Marc Michel play live yet, but said that he often asks his players who would be in their top eight if they had to make a rotation. All of them, he said, have Michel in their top eight.

Crean was also asked to speak about in-state recruiting in a general sense. By NCAA rule, he could not discuss specific players, so that kept him from discussing the recent verbal commitments of Peter Jurkin and Ron Patterson. However, he did say he thinks IU has made strides in-state.

“It’s all something that had to be really started from in the beginning,” Crean said. “There are numerous young men that are entering their junior and senior years now that I was trying to see the max time when they were freshmen and sophomores. It’s a couple of different things. No. 1, you want to recruit in-state. We became aware more and more how behind we were. But at the same time, you weren’t just going to catch up with one class. You had to really be able to dive into the youth. We’re trying to still do the same thing. The first year I felt like we signed the two best players in the state. One that recommitted in Derek (Elston) and one that ended up proving to be that in Jordan (Hulls). The next year, it became a little bit supply and demand in terms of what fits us best.  … It’s wasn’t like anybody slipped our mind. Some, we weren’t able to recruit. Some were too far down the road with others, and some we made the choice not to do it. So the bottom line is, especially with the smaller class we were going to have with that class is to get guys that we felt could have an impact for the long run and I felt we did that. Certainly looking forward to the years, we want to be at home as much as we possibly can, but at the same time we’re not going to shut the door on what we feel like could be great fits for Indiana.”

29 comments

  1. Great story. All good news. I’m sure JR isn’t the only one who is going to have to earn their minutes.

    I really believe that IU is really on the way back. Going to be very exciting to see!

  2. Crean is taking IU’s most experienced player out of the loop. I said he should have done this at the beginning of last year. I don’t want to ever admit that Crean has done something right, so I will not give him credit for diminishing Rivers’ playing time.

    Patterson and Jurkin will renounce their commitments, if I have anything to do with it.

  3. I’d be interested to hear each players top 8 and who is left out. You gotta think they would be very different. I can’t honestly believe that Capo and Pritch are telling coach yea top 8 are Capo, Pritch, Guy, Elston, Hulls, Mo, Christian, Verdell. Or mix and match in there. Then you know the guards are putting in more guards and leaving out one or more of Elston, Pritch, and Capo if Guy is really in their top 8. Either way, either guys they are competing with for playing time, or at other positions that they don’t work with as often are getting thrown under the bus. This also leaves no room for freshman at all.

    I’m not saying Crean is wrong here, just an interesting quote and thought. I hope Guy is really one of our top 8 and that it turns into a battle for minutes so we always put out players who want it. Just somebody is getting pushed out if everyone is really saying Guy is in their top 8. (Cue D-Wade and Sir Charles commercial for T-mobile and their fav five)

  4. 4tards or whoever u are/why do you give your stupid remarks when u don’t even like IU. Go to Kentucky, you belong there with the cheat Calipari/you 2 would make a good pair. GO HOOSIERS……..

  5. I hope Coach Crean plays Jeremiah, Vic and Will as a group for 15 min/game and just attacks, attacks, attacks on defense and runs, runs, runs on offense. IU should totally disrupt the opponent with this group and wear them down. Show no mercy. When we are up 20, attack and run some more until we are up 40!

  6. Don Taylor: 4tards anticipator is joking. He is mocking a frequent poster on several message boards named 4guards that only ever has bad things to say about Crean and IU. Twas a joke.

  7. I am OK with Jones not handling the ball. But to keep him away from the ball outright is ridiculous.

  8. | December 14th, 2009 at 3:01 pm |

    I’ve had enough time to evaluate Rivers and Jones…..Jones has demonstrated some improvement, but a slow release hampers the slim window of opportunity to take advantage of his open shots from the outside…I think he is still weak driving to the basket and often has trouble protecting the ball in the lane.

    Rivers has had spurts of greatness..Also spurts of horrible inconsistency…He is unquestionably athletic ….He’s a powerful kid providing great size to defend the backcourt….There are definite positives on finding considerable minutes for Rivers. Unfortunately, I’ve not been impressed with his decision making and court direction. He has no jump shot…He often bricks free throws(22-38, .579)..If you’re not reliable at the stripe, then is there great advantage in always going hard to the basket?

    In the limited minutes Hulls has played the point guard position, I see more of a floor general. I see a kid that moves the basketball with passes and doesn’t stymie the offense with ridiculous attempts to dribble into crowds and clog up the paint..I see a kid that can shoot the deep 3-ball from corner pocket…With more time on the court he could become equally dangerous as Creek…I see a kid that won’t come up empty at the stripe when he draws fouls driving into the trees…I see a leader. Why should he is erased from opportunity to prove what he can do in a starting role? What better time than now? Three games in December…..Maybe even a Michigan start.. Let him strip himself the Opie Taylor image and show there was a reason he was Mr. Basketball. I think he’s up to the challenge..I think he’s got GAME, GUMPTION, GUTS, and GLORY written all over his GRUMPY face..GIVE Hulls a chance!

    Yes, it was 4guards that strongly advocated getting the ball out of Rivers’ hands. We wasted all of last season not letting Hulls run the team like 4guards suggested.

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  10. I do not think Coach Crean was shooting from the hip. I can easily see with no imagination at all Guy M. Michel in the mind of every player forecasting his potential 8 man rotation. Roth is the only other possibility. GMM is competing at a position that has a larger need, so his injection into the core of 8 is a smaller mountain to climb than Roth or the new Freshman have ahead of them.

  11. Nate Thurmond,
    The Texas-sized flaw in your argument is that the current makeup of the team bears little resemblance to the team of December 14th, 2009. There are different players available with incredibly different skills development. Jordan Hulls is not long an 18 year old kid with 4 college games under his belt. Everyone else has a season under their belt as well. At the time, tardy’s suggestion was foolish (surprise, surprise).

  12. I don’t know what “tardy” was suggesting in December ’09. I’ll leave interpreting the basketball challenged to you. He may have a few ulterior motives that cloud his high basketball IQ. I’ll get back to you on how the new dynamics on the team could easily be seen as reason to put the ball back in Rivers’ hands(opposite of what Crean is inching to suggest). Not that I would necessarily force that issue. Not until I see a few of the new pieces in the puzzle in action on the court. And let’s not forget that every opponent has identifiable strengths and weaknesses that can have effects on lineup decisions that enhance our best opportunity to exploit. I still prefer “GAME, GUMPTION, GUTS, and GLORY written all over his GRUMPY face” running the offense(as I was advocating his transition in December ’09).

    Wish I had more time this morning. I’d like to talk a little more about Rivers, but my strikingly attractive wife has just rolled out of the master suite and is requesting I make her favorite Belgium waffles. They’re lovely and light.

  13. ^^^ I hereby charge Husky Tom with impersonating my client. Why he would choose to go after a man as innocent as Larry befuddles me.

  14. Dopirak, thanks for doing this interesting article. Your report indicates to me that Crean is trying to stay in touch with the concerns of the fans regarding Rivers, recruiting, etc. Since Crean is taking input from the player themselves and he is utilizing Steve McClain’s expertise in a variety of ways, and he is listening to the concerns of the fans, he is showing an openness to lead this program in some very helpful ways. Maybe the media gets some special input this year because this article is something special from the coach.

  15. Watch for Gary Harris visiting IU today. As usual Coach Crean is still having trouble identifying the top Indiana HS talent.

  16. I’m guessing there is a reason that Rivers sat the bench in Georgetown. From what I saw last year it is that even tough he is very athletic, in my opinion he is at best an average basketball player. I do believe that Hulls we be point at some point and time because he can pass, lead and shot 3’s. I have to agree that Elston should have been playing all along once he started attacking the basketball and stopped acting like the ball was too hot to hold and started attacking and shooting. I believe that Crean either by design or because he was trying to find a good mix has created a team that has a lot of good bench help. Even though the success this year is going to depend on how well Creek does when he returns I believe they will be in the top half of the league and will battle in most games. I am just curious what Pritchard’s role will be this year.

  17. In the case of Elston, if he would have offered more of an offensive threat in practice, his defensive liabilities would have been less of a negative for earning more minutes, and vice versa. As he established himself more defensively he gained more playing time and his offensive potency increased.

  18. Sitting on the bench might have been the best thing for Elston in the long term…..nothing motivates a player more than not playing…aka Tom Coverdale.

  19. I personally don’t think the answer for elston is to set the bench. He did enough of that last year. He needs to be motivated to use his offensive tools more.

  20. Elston’s obviously doing fine.

    Why are we creating an issue out of his playing time last year when he, himself isn’t?

    It looks like he responded, bulked up and is using the offseason to get better. I’m guessing he’ll play a bigger role on the team this year. Why not focus on that, instead of dwelling on his playing time last year? What’s done is done.

  21. What happen to at least one other 7′ type kid on that Tipton team Elston played on? I think there was another tall kid also, Division II or what?

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