Steve McClain cites individual improvements

Indiana assistant coach Steve McClain took questions on the Big Ten teleconference Monday morning in place of coach Tom Crean. He faced several questions on topics other than Indiana, including Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger and the growth of the pick-and-roll as an offensive play, but he was also asked about the individual improvements of players and what that can do for IU going forward.

“I think you start with Verdell,” McClain said. “Has he been better? Yes he has. Up until the point he got hurt for that little bit of time, his game was continuing to grow. He was taking better care of the basketball. He was getting in areas where he knows his shot is. I think his overall leadership of the team has definitely grown.  I think when you look at his numbers taking care of the basketball  and just being a leader, he’s really grown. Jordy Hulls. I think again for me, I have to go back and watch film of last year to see where he was a year ago, but to become a guy that teams now have made an emphasis on, so he’s had to learn how to raise his level of play and where to get his shots. We’ve seen him do that. His overall strength and his ball handling has improved, so he’s really grown. Christian. We all look at young players, and I think that’s the part sometimes when you’re building something young players get thrown in at the beginning. I think Christian his growth has continud to come. He was coming off his best game maybe ever in an Indiana uniform at Michigan State when he had the hand injury, then had to go through a little setback there. I think his growth overall in his ability to score. Here’s something I’d say about all of them. I think their growth physically and in the weight room and that area has shown in all of them and will continue to show. That’s another area I think as Christian gets another year older and gets more strength, he’ll even score better in the post. He’s really developed himself into a very good 3-point shooter. I think his game has shown growth.”

McClain was asked specifically about the development of Hulls and what it has been like for him to be more of a focal point of opposing defenses.

“I think you see it,” McClain said. “I think our fans see it. You saw it Sunday at Ohio State, he’s become a focal point. I envision that growing even more for him the next two years. I’ve seen Jordy grow his game. Jordy’s the kind of kid that he’s gonna come back in and watch film and learn from the film and  watch film of other very good guards. How do they create things for themselves. I think that will be his next growth period is having to go through becoming a focal point. That is a growth area for a player. When you’re kind of the unknown and you start making great plays, that’s one area, but when you become the known and now how do you change your game to grow it so you can continue to put up those kind of numbers, that’s where I’ve seen him already grow this year and the part of his game that over the summer he’ll even take to another level to become a guard that is very difficult to play.”


  1. If McClain has been watching the same VJIII and Watford that I have and he thinks that they have improved- then, he should be fired. Neither one has improved one iota on defense or as true team players. Most of our close losses have been due to one of those guys trying to do it all. Does Watford or Crean even know what a shot fake looks like? The guy everyone is giddy about-Hulls- may make honorable mention Big 10 , maybe.

    Next year will be more of the same with our coaching staff– lousy defense with excessive fouling and an inconsistent offense without any concept of screeing except Elston’s moving screens or blocking out.

  2. Disagree on VJIII. His bone-headed mistakes and tendency to go shoulder-down into the drive (to the point here he has, literlly, driven himself into the hardwood), have driven me crazy all year. But I think Coach McClain’s points are well taken–his assist-to-turnover ratio has gotten better, and just before he knee started bothering him I really thought he was getting in a groove pulling up from around 15 feet (which everyone was falling for because I assume before the only scouting report on him was that 95% of the time he would just lower his shoulder and go all the way). I do think he is getting better, it is just that his knee issues are throwing him off for the past few games (he wasn’t able to practice on Friday, for example).

    I wish Watford would play more with his back to the basket, but that wrap is clearly a factor in every aspect except maybe free throw shooting.

  3. We will be a factor someday.When the 2012 recruits get here we will be a national power again. IU Gave themselves the death penalty by getting rid of Sampson. Crean had to build program with only 2 walk ons. He’s been building this program from the bottom up. With no major victories he has signed and verbally committed some of the best Talent in Indiana. CREAN IS part of the solution Not the problem!!!!!!! Negative fans are the problem. All you so called IU fans”glass half empty” will be pu fans. and we will laugh at you from assembly hall. Your not the real iu fan. If you hate the way IU does things go somewhere else. Your actually a pu fan and you just haven’t admitted it to yourself!!

  4. someone tell McClain that no one cares about 2 players showing ‘improvement.’ Maybe McClain should tell Wisc that 2 players on IU have shown improvement, maybe Wisc will spot IU 20 pts for the next game as a way to congratulate IU’s staff.

    he should’ve ended this press call with “But to be honest, we are a terrible team, we are absolutely awful at basketball. Off the court, with twitter, with press conferences, youtube and with ticket sales we are sorta cool, but on the actual basketball court, oh we are just an awful ball club. As coaches we do not understand how a team like St. Johns or a coach like Steve Lavin is able to win games. His 7 best players are seniors. Those same 7 seniors had a well below .500 record in 3 years at St. John’s before Lavin arrived. How they have won and put themselves into position to make the NCAA tourney in Lavin’s first year is mind boggling to us. Coach TC today was saying that Lavin missed out on at least 2-3 full season of losing and making excuses.”

    examples of other team’s who aren’t perfect or aren’t ‘rebuilt’ but still win and don’t cry when they lose: Arizona, Utah State, BYU, George Mason, Temple, Missouri State, Cleveland State

    about 5 of those above 7 teams do not have ‘better’ rosters than IU so don’t give the “IU doesn’t have the players” argument

  5. @3-17
    Lavin is winning because he has 7 seniors. We have 1 and he is a transfer. If CTC is not winning when Jordy, Christian and the rest are seniors then we have a problem. You are way off in your analysis. I hope your not an IU fan, what team would want a fan like that.

  6. Chris- I’m a college basketball fan and IU is my favorite team, but it doesn’t stop me from seeing problems. Lavin is winning because he is a good coach and he made some important upgrades and changes to St. John’s, he took those 7 seniors who had a combined .400 win percentage in the previoius 7 years and helped them beat 7 ranked teams this year and move up to #15 in the country. If we are winning when Jordy/Christian/Creek are seniors it will be because of an amazing recruiting job, not because of Crean’s coaching abilities. Lavin doesn’t have 2-3 5 star recruits, he has regular players who were losers for 3 years, he’s helped make them winners. Why? Because he can coach and he is a good coach. You are merely saying Crean is a good recruiter, so what if he’s a good recruiter, I’m talking about his coaching abilities not recruiting. Those StJ seniors you are talking about were 17-37 in the Big East without Lavin, 11-5 with him. Stop making excuses for Crean, or do you really think IU can’t beat NW and Iowa?

  7. @3-17

    Feeling a bit disingenuous today? Maybe a little trolling?

    You focus on St. John’s being .400 over the last three seasons combined, the 7 seniors from which somehow miraculously are beating ranked teams and are ranked themselves . . . did you forget to mention that last year they had a winning record and went to the NIT? So, as a class of 7 *juniors* *without Lavin*, still had a winning record and went to the NIT.

    So now we’re supposed to be shocked that Lavin took that team, returning what are now 7 seniors, and has them ranked and poised for a solid NCAA seed? SHOCKING! SHOCKING, I tell you!!

    *Totally comparable* to Crean, starting three years ago with a cobbled-together team returning, what 2 points per game . . for the whole team from the prior year. Why, that analogy is totally bulletprooof! I’m sure St. John’s best guard also went down this year to a season-ending injury, and then their next best player broke his hand.

    Man, you couldn’t come up with a better and more direct comparison than if you more or less made it up out of thin air.

  8. A tourney team from last year with 7 returning seniors being successful is some sort of accomplishment? Sounds like a formula for a championship to me. This team made the post season last year and returns seven seniors yet they are still going to end up with double digit losses. Lavin should return his salary.

  9. Jimm, obviously the comparison isn’t justified. we get that. what I was showing was an example of a bad team turned good, of ‘bad’ players who were 3 star recruits, winning games and beating 5 star recruits on ranked teams. All we hear on IU basketball is excuses excuses excuses, about why we can’t win, and about how impossible it is to win, how impossible it is to beat NW or Iowa. But some teams can and do win without the perfect scenario, that was my point. There are numerous teams this year winning games without everything being laid out before them like Crean insist it must. Crean has IU fans thinking there are 4-5 things that must happen before IU has a chance to win a simple basketball game. Other coaches at other schools with equal or less talent somehow still win basketball games, without “Crean’s 8 steps to success, conquering the mind boggling game of basketball”. I am not on here saying IU should be ranked or be making the tourney, not making any unreasonable requests. I just find it ridiculous when guys like you defend a coach who can’t beat Iowa or NW or any other list of teams they’ve lost to. Did you assume IU would go 0-4 to NW/IA? Look at IU’s schedule, they set it up to absolutely gift wrap a free trip to the NIT this year, and they couldn’t get it done, they lost more games in the B1G this season than last season….wow. Keep blindly supporting, maybe Crean will give you a shout out on Twitter.

    Back to the StJ’s thing-in your opinion you saw this coming, because St. John’s lost in the first round of the NIT last year you knew they were going to be ranked in the top 15 this year? Last year without Lavin they were 4th from last in the Big East, finishing 6-12, this year with the same players and Lavin they are 11-5 and tied for 3rd in the same conference. How did Lavin do it? Luck? Twitter? Celebrating like a maniac? Excuses? Oh nope he did it by coaching and coaching well, pretty simple when you can coach. He has no 4 star recruit.

    My point is Crean has done an awful job these past 2 years with the players he has. Sure they’ll win when he gets future pro’s on his team, so what? That doesn’t mean the dude can coach, these past 2 years have proven that he cannot coach. If you argue that they you are literally admitting that you didn’t think IU could win more than 3 games this year.

  10. @3-17

    I question your level of understanding of the game at this point.

    This season IS the perfect scenario for a team like St. John’s that had mediocre talent and a stacked class on their roster. Seven players is a ton for one class, but that class is going to be physically mature as a group of seniors. That helps them take younger players that may be more talented out of their game. The thing about three stars is that they take longer to develop. These guys were winning in the Big East last year, and won enough to make it to the NIT. The media perception is that they went from bad to good because they weren’t on the national radar. They went from mediocre to good. This wasn’t a bad team. St. John’s is in a perfect storm of events right now as far as being as good as they are. I’d wait until next season before crowing Steve Lavin the next best thing, though he has done well next year. He’ll lose a lot of experience but restock his roster with better talent. It’ll be interesting to see how that goes.

  11. aegis chet- yeah because every team in the nation who has 7 seniors beats 7 ranked teams, is 3rd in the big east is ranked in the top 15 nationally and goes to the NCAA’s every year. Every single team with 7 seniors, good points guys.

  12. Rarely is there a team with 7 seniors.
    What else can the coaches say after games? Do you want them saying we suck? Thats good on the public perception. They have no choice but to be positive, or put a positive spin on things. Face it, IU is not that good talent wise. Get off the horse already! When other teams are forced to play us straight up and honest, you will see some success. But if it makes you feel better to bitch about it then go ahead. Most of us had this discussion around November or so.

  13. Well, EVERY team in the Big East, anyway. In fact, they are under performing as they are the ONLY team in the Big East with 7 seniors and they will STILL end up with double digit losses. Not much of an accomplishment at all.

  14. you don’t like the St. John’s reference? We can go with a dozen more, probably 30 more teams who have less talent, more problems and more Wins than IU. You Crean defenders believe that IU is one of the worst teams talent wise in the nation, but they aren’t click on a roster from many many other teams and you will see injuries, 3 star recruits, young teams but somehow they still win! Hahaha the joke is on you. I respect and appreciate the game of basketball too much to just sit and wait for future NBA players to arrive. There are countless other teams, coaches and schools winning right now with the exact same type of players/talent IU has, wake up IU ‘fans.’

  15. If cwat is stronger than last year then why is he still eating leather every time he tries to take it to the hoop? After seeing the conditioning video last summer I was (foolishly) all fired up with the hype we weren’t gonna get pushed around like last year. Well, if there is improvement I sure can’t see it…and the results on the court confirm it. Seriously-where is the improvement???
    I’m not calling for ctc’s head here, I just don’t see ANY improvement over last year’s play.

  16. I’m having a hard time buying the more Seniors = more W’s rationale. Michigan’s total number of seniors: 0 and only two juniors that get any minutes at all. Yet they are a lock for the NIT and on the bubble for an NCAA berth, and possibly even a darkhorse for winning the B1G tourney.

  17. GoHoosiers: It’s not that teams without seniors can’t win. But, just to argue your point specifically, Michigan is highly unlikely to make the tournament, but next year, with more upperclassmen, they will be favored to do make the NCAA’s. And, let’s not forget, IU did beat Michigan this year, blew them out at home, and they almost swept the series in Ann Arbor as well, so if you’re saying that IU should be more on par with Michigan (another young team), well, I’d say they are almost there, even with the relative recent histories of both programs.

  18. Except both teams are coming from different paths over the last 3 years to get to this point. 2 totally different paths.

  19. Of course some of these assistant coaches are going to see improvement, its in their own best interest.HOOSIERDAWG IS RIGHT. CW has had a hard time finishing down low for the last two seasons.He should be a stud by now and if he doesn’t become a better defender he should be talking to Mike Davis.

  20. 3-17,

    What would you have us do? Should we be telling the players to go f themselves? And that would improve things exactly how?

    Should we be demanding Crean be fired? And that would get him fired? And if you think it would, then you may (or may not) understand basketball, but you clearly do not understand the current dynamics of the IU athletic department. Crean is here for an absolute minimum two more years (even if he never wins another game), and almost certainly four more years. That’s just the way it is.

    Should we boycott the games? I have an idea. You do that. I plan on watching every game I can (as I have always done) because when they beat a ranked Illinois team I would rather see that than hear about it.

    “All we hear on IU basketball is excuses excuses excuses”

    Really? I haven’t heard any of that. I swear I’ve heard Crean say that the team did not play well at least a couple of times. I don’t know, maybe I dreamed that. To be honest, I do not pay enough attention to know if all we hear is excuses. If that’s all you are hearing and you do not want to hear it, may I suggest you pay less attention. Watch the games and skip the interviews/analysis. You clearly feel you understand the game (and you well might) so what need have you of someone else’s analysis. Ignore all that and spare yourself the grief.

    As for me, I have found this season to be a bit disappointing. The team clearly lost winnable games. But there were good moments and I see plenty of hope for the future. Maybe Crean is not a great coach. Maybe he is a mediocre coach. I maintain it is still too soon to tell.

  21. jrig5: The key word you bring up is “favored”. Doesn’t mean it will happen, look at the increased number of upperclassmen on MSU and they’ve definitely regressed this year. But comparing Michigan to IU, Michigan has shown improvement within this season. They’ve won 7 out of their last 10. With all of the confusion on defense, bickering about blown assignments, etc. it seems IU has gotten worse as this season has worn on.

  22. IU fans need to take a broader perspective, CTC is implementing his system. A system that will bring better talent to IU, and it has already workied in the form of high level committed recruits for near future years. Except for a few players on this year’s team, the others are not suited to perform well in CTC’s system but CTC appears to have elected to be true to his system, build for the future, vs implementing a stopgap system that might have better suited the current cast of players. Has this approach cost IU a few wins, probably, but so did losing Guy, Mo, and other various injuries to this team. So CTC deserves time to get the type of players that can run his system before fans throw him under the ‘team’ bus!

  23. While I would agree VJIII and Watford have a lot to improve on, some of their issues with TOs and forcing shots could be attributed to IU playing 3 on 5 on the off. end when Rivers and Pritchard/Elston/Capo are on the floor. Hopefully future classes have guys who aren’t afraid to shoot occasionally.

  24. Why don’t all of you Purdue and Kentucky fans stay off of this site/anybody can bad mouth teams. Of course you won’t, because your to stupid/you know nothing about anything. Go Hoosiers, they will be better in the future.

  25. Very intelligent post there Don.Since you can see into the future do you have any hot stock tips?

  26. Don Thanks!!!Anybody with any intellective can see IU will be better over the next year or two!! With the recruits TOM CREAN is bringing in(Cody Zeller,Austin Etherington,Kevin Ferrell,Hanner Perea,Ron Peterson,Peter Jurkin). I can’t wait. With Crean Passion and Coaching ability.The program will be back!!Go Hoosiers!! Keep the Faith!

  27. Don: I do hope you’re right bud. To be honest I’ve been totally patient with CTC until this year. So I began looking in more detail about how his Marquette teams faired. Two things stand out for me:
    -Except for the D-Wade led Final Four run, CTC’s Marquette teams had only 1 NCAA tourney win in 4 trips to the big dance.
    -CTC was also known as a strong recruiter at Marquette but the fan base there began growing unhappy with the limited offense plan, which revolved around the weave at the top of the key and 1-on-1 isolations.
    That rings true to how IU’s offense is. Unless the offense has prime NBA talent, such as a D-Wade, it is bound to struggle a lot of the time.
    I hope it’s different at IU, but I don’t have a good feeling. It seems like it could be Marquette all over again.

  28. GoHoosiers-

    I read your post, and have a few follow-up comments.

    1) Marquette doesn’t have nearly the same recruiting pull that IU does. The fact that Crean was able to win 20+ games per year with 2, 3 and 4 star players could just as easily be viewed as a credit to his coaching rather than a detriment. Yes, Wade helped him get to the Final Four. But Wade’s current teammate Chris Bosh, a much more heralded recruit than Wade, couldn’t even “get” his coach at Georgia Tech, Paul Hewitt, to the NCAA tournament. The Wade/Crean connection is a chicken/egg type argument.

    2) Even if you think Crean’s offensive mind is questionable, think about this: his stellar recruiting ability, when combined with the IU name brand, could easily end up washing out any perceived faults, once the “Big Boys” suit up.

    I’d suggest you withhold your final judgment until you see Hanner, Yogi and Ron in uniform (at the very least Zeller). You may see the coaching suddenly get a lot better.

  29. I don’t think the class of 2012 is going to be the saviors you people think they will.VJlll and C W are horrible.TC thinks these two are gods gift to the indiana team. look at the way this team played when they were out.They won games why because they were playing as a team not as individuals like VJlll and CW.Coach TC has to play people like Elston at the post because that is all he has.Elston is playing out of position. They don’t look at the post anyway.

  30. Sure Coach Crean is bringing in some good players but to assume that insures IU of anything is pure folly.Matta,Izzo,Painter, and Ryan won’t exactly be bringing in homeless people and winos and their programs are light years ahead of Indiana’s.

  31. RAM-

    IU may end up with a top-5 recruiting class in 2012. It would be pure folly not to think that this will make for a huge improvement in the team.

    People talk about Wade all the time, but Crean also fielded competitive teams with guys like Travis Diener, Wesley Matthews, and Steve Novak, developing each into serviceable NBA players.

    He can obviously work with less-than-prime talent. The issue is that things don’t always work out as planned; there isn’t a direct cause-effect relationship between a coach’s style and the player’s output. Ask Izzo the Great this year. MSU was ranked as high as #2 by some polls. Did Izzo suddenly forget how to coach? Only an idiot (ie, Hoosier Scoop Blogger) would make such an assertion.

  32. Don’t you have a team to go coach? If not, why don’t you apply for the Pacers job at the end of the season? Your expertise is unparalleled.

  33. What’s wrong Clarence? Did I say something you didn’t want to hear? Go kick your dog and count to ten. you’ll feel better.

  34. Yes, McClain is the former Wyoming coach who brought us Guy. I don’t understand the hire. What does he bring to recruiting in the Midwest? IU’s future is not bringing in recruits from overseas. I had not read this article before now, but I find it interesting I ran into a guy I coached with a couple of years ago last night and we talked IU. He said to me, “do you think any of those guys have improved their play since arriving on campus?” Neither one of us could say yes. Sad.

  35. brians- Since McClain has been here, we’ve nabbed Zeller, Perea, and Ferrell…although I don’t know how much he’s had to do with getting these recruits, he certainly isn’t hurting matters.

    If you look at the big picture, the smaller details are less significant. Also, we tend to obsess about people’s origins – i.e., he’s a “Midwest guy,” or a”Wyoming guy,” etc. However, there isn’t a lot of evidence that recruits obsess so much about where their coaches were born.

  36. On the subject of improvement. I think the team is much improved this year over last, though I am willing to concede that some of that is the addition of Oladipo and Sheehey.

    I do think that Pritchard has improved quite a bit over last year. He still commits too many fouls, but at least now he does not look like this game is his first lifetime experience with the game of basketball.

    I think Jones and Watford both need to add weight and strength for next year.

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