Fans celebrate “team that brought the fun back”

The line for autographs stretched from a landing on the Assembly Hall concourse ramp, down to the lobby, out the door and around Cook Hall and was constantly moving for about an hour and a half. Not everyone who came for a signature stayed for the awards ceremony, but there were still several hundred fans in the Assembly Hall stands just to watch speeches and videos.

It was just one more microcosm of the relationship the Hoosier fanbase had with this 2011-12 Indiana men’s basketball team, one that will maintain a special place in IU lore despite the fact that it not hang a sixth banner or even reach its ninth Final Four.

Indiana play-by-play broadcaster Don Fischer said during the ceremony that this team “brought the fun back to Indiana basketball,” by reaching the Sweet 16 and knocking off three top five teams just four years after the program imploded amidst the Kelvin Sampson recruiting scandal. Thursday night’s event — which came more than a month after the Hoosiers were eliminated from the NCAA Tournament but just before the end of the semester — was the fans’ last chance to thank this team, and this Hoosier squad’s last chance to return the favor as a unit.

“Tonight, this is probably, in all honesty, the last time we’ll ever all be together in this setting, like this,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said to the crowd before turning to his players. “… I hope you guys take it in. I really do. Take it in. This isn’t the last time you’re going to see each other, but it’s the last time we’re all going to be together like this. (He turned back to the crowd) There’s no way we wanted to do this without all of you. So thank you for being here.”

By the time it was over, every player, every coach and just about every support staff member had the microphone in his hands, trying in some way to express what made this team special and unique. Athletic trainer Tim Garl, who just finished up his 31st season with the staff, had the most blunt assessment of that, but perhaps the most apt.

“What pleases me the most — and the parents should be credited with this — is you don’t come to work in the morning and wonder what knucklehead did something stupid last night and you’ve gotta read it in the paper,” Garl said. “You don’t take kids and say, ‘Hey, there’s a drug test today,’ or something like that and worry about are they going to pass it or not? And if they don’t pass it, what are we going to have to put up with? … Winning is not the only thing. It’s awfully important, but another factor is we have great kids. We have something we can be really proud of.”

Now that this team is off to take its place in Indiana history, the Hoosiers that remain will try to again create something they can have pride in for the 2012-13 campaign. The group will stay just about as in tact as it possibly can. It loses four seniors — possibly five, depending on whether or not Matt Roth uses his fifth year of eligibility — but both IU players who considered leaving the program early for the NBA will return.

Junior forward Christian Watford refused to say where he heard he was projected to be taken in the draft had he left early, but said he felt compelled to stay to help next year’s squad go further.

“I just wanted to come back and be a part of this team,” Watford said. “That’s the main thing why I wanted to come back. I feel like we can do some great things next year. I’ll come back and help build on where we left off from.”

Freshman center Cody Zeller also had the opportunity to play professionally with projections saying he could be a lottery pick. However, the Big Ten’s Co-Freshman Player of the Year and the player voted by the Hoosiers as the team’s Most Outstanding Player wasn’t ready to leave.

“It’s a tough process,” Zeller said. “It’s a lot of money. That’s why a lot of people, a lot of the guys, the Kentucky guys, all those guys left. I’m just not ready to grow up yet. Paying rent or getting a house. Doing all that stuff. Becoming an adult, I’m not ready for all that. I’m enjoying my college career on and off the court. I’m definitely happy to be here.”

The returning Hoosiers have already learned that with those two back, next season will take on a much different dynamic than the one that just passed. The official preseason rankings won’t be out until deep into the fall, but the day after Kentucky won the national championship, numerous publications proclaimed that Indiana should be the favorite for the 2013 national title with its top five scorers returning and a top five recruiting class coming in.

For now, they’re trying to act like that won’t change anything.

“It’s pretty cool,” junior guard Jordan Hulls said. “We’re going to have a bigger target on our back this year, but we can just use that and it doesn’t change our approach one bit. We’re going to work hard every single day. … We’re just going to approach it the same way that we always do.”

But things will change, if for no other reason than that the Hoosiers will lose the players who were part of Crean’s first recruiting class at Indiana, the ones who suffered through a 6-25 season as freshmen. Roth may or may not stay, but Verdell Jones, Tom Pritchard, Daniel Moore and Kory Barnett were a big part of what drove the Hoosiers to end three seasons of losing and what made the team as beloved as it was.

They are the ones who felt it when Crean said the group would never be together again.

“That hit real close to home,” said Jones, who is recovering from his ACL tear in the Big Ten tournament and hoping to hire an agent to play professionally overseas. “These guys have been my brothers for the past four years. Every single day I’ve seen these guys. These are my best friends. We hang out, eat together, do everything together. That’s a big change for me now. I won’t be able to see these guys every single day. It’s real sad, but hopefully I’ll be visiting them soon.”

Awards-Voted on by players
Most Outstanding Player — Cody Zeller
Most Improved Player — Will Sheehey, Victor Oladipo, Christian Watford
Leadership Award — Jordan Hulls
Landon Turner Inspiration Award — Verdell Jones III
Toughness And Tenacity Award — Cody Zeller
Mr. Hustle — Will Sheehey
Best Defender — Victor Oladipo
Hoosier Award — Cody Zeller
Student Athlete Award — Remy Abell

AUDIO: Verdell Jones, Cody Zeller, Jordan Hulls, Christian Watford

AUDIO: Awards Ceremony Speeches, Part 1

AUDIO: Part 2

AUDIO: Part 3

AUDIO: Part 4


  1. That’s so cool. Wish I could have been there. The awards look right about what I would have expected from watching the team, though I had no idea who might win the student-athlete award. Pretty neat that it was a freshman.

  2. I saw a video of Coach Crean and his coaching staff right there at the head of the table signing autographs, and it really touched me. Selfless acts such as this are why Coach Tom Crean has won me over as a big fan. He leads by example, he is a class act who cares. You know basketball is great, but there are some things even more important. Tom’s leadership in his Christian walk, and his example of selflessness speaks volumes about his charecter and integrity. And that is something that we don’t see much of in college sports today. Kudos to Coach Crean, his staff, and our Indiana Hoosiers. A team we can all be proud of!

  3. Yes, Tom Crean is an amazing christian man. He is truly a good guy and it is an honor to be an IU fan.

  4. …and because a high energy man owns all those fine traits the program responds positively…hard to defeat leadership through good citizenship…

  5. Here’s what I really like. To put it in context, in the many discussions about Mike Davis one thing was undeniable. He saw IU as a stepping stone and he said so. Indiana didn’t mean anything special to him. CTC speaks and behaves as though he is truly honored to have the opportunity to coach the Hoosiers and he has often stated that he feels he is at the pinnacle of the profession (the polls tend to agree).

    When you stack that on top of the fact that he has produced what’s not to like?

  6. Seeing as how Davis was CRUCIFIED the SECOND he took the job, why in the WORLD would he think IU was “special”?

  7. Laffy, your martyr complex regarding Davis is getting old. You haven’t provided one iota of proof regarding your claims as to how the fans treated Davis poorly. Were there detractors? Yes. Were some racially motivated? Maybe. Overall I saw a lot of support for Davis and the program after Knight’s termination. The players loved him. They wanted him to be their coach and that is mainly why he got the job if you remember. He may have been ready to be a head coach but he was not ready for the pressure cooker that was IU basketball after Coach Knight’s untimely (although timely) departure. I doubt you will find many situations where anyone has ever replaced a legend and was treated much differently by the fans or the press. That is a tough position to be in.

    To Chet and some others’ points, I clearly remember the interviews and articles where Davis made it plain that he was looking to move to the NBA. Give the whining a rest.

  8. Yeah, and the constant crying, “Davis didn’t think IU was special” isn’t old at all.


    As far as “proof Davis was treated like crap”, sorry I didn’t archive Peegs or the Star for you.

  9. Dustin, you invoked God’s name. Now it will turn into either a discussion about ‘forcing religion on us’ or blasphemy… 🙂

  10. who? Now you’ve done it. While I didn’t actually see it, somewhere in your post I’m sure you called him a name, used obscenities, all in the course of a vicious attack on him (the threshold is pretty low).

    (roll ears)

  11. This will be the most important team in the history of Indiana basketball since the 1987 team hung Banner #5! Indiana is now a top 5 program, a totally clean program, a program of absolutely great kids, excellent coaches and support staff, all of which makes us proud to be part of the Hoosier Nation-“It’s Indiana” (and in four years!)!

  12. You know Indiana is back when the fans are going to be disappointed with anything less than the title (which, unfortunately, I believe is the case).

  13. Chet, I have felt that way about IU’s chances every year since 1971! The media and even Vegas have served notice as to what they think of IU. I think CTC has set an ongoing trend of getting good kids who study hard, train hard and play hard. The results are now showing up on as well as off of the court. A well-played and deep tourney run will satisfy me as a fan although I feel the pieces could be in place to contend for a title. How sweet it is to again be thinking of the Hoosiers in those terms.

    I think Dustin hurt Laffy’s feelings. C’mon Laffy, you are a big boy. Set your jaw, grab those pull-ups and yank them high while shouting “Carpe Diem!” or some such.

  14. There’s a lot of people that don’t fail drug tests that go home to beat their wives.

    And if you want to be totally honest, probably 50% of the students on the IU campus could fail a drug test on any given weekend(If not a drug test, then most certainly, a sobriety test).

    Be humble in your success instead of using it to remind of others weaker that came before you.

    The topic of Mike Davis: I think Davis though IU was special…maybe more so than Tom Crean. Was it not his first head coaching gig? Is it not possible that the public persona, the using of a rather nonchalant demeanor regarding the pressures of living up to “it’s Indiana,” was a form of deflecting a propensity to get overly consumed with just how important it was to him to prove he could succeed at Indiana?

    Whether he was a capable enough coach to ever take the program to the level an inherently unrealistic fan base at IU would expect of a man thrown into turmoil is up for argument. If Davis would have been given 50% the reinforcing vote of confidence exemplified by the time frame Crean was contractually allowed when he arrived in Bloomington, maybe he has less the “whiner” label many have wanted to attach. Were potential recruits going to be more secure coming to a program that has a short leash on their head coach or with a guy that has been handed a 10-yr. contract? Davis was really never given that fair vote of confidence and it’s very possible it scared away some commitments he could have landed.

    Just because a guy wants to someday coach in the NBA doesn’t mean his heart wasn’t in the task at hand. I never saw anything from Davis that spoke of a man not giving his all to succeed at the job. It’s only our own biases that stand in the way of any claims he was any more or any less invested in Indiana than the “good Christian” from Marquette.

    Let’s always remember Seth Davis is a far bigger whiner than Mike Davis, Kelvin Sampson, and Tom Crean put together. The source of Seth Davis’ hatred for IU is pretty easy to identify. His last NCAA tournament memory of his #1-ranked alma mater falling disappointingly short is rather tainted by a fine group of Hoosiers coached by man that had no business stealing the moment.

  15. “You know Indiana is back when the fans are going to be disappointed with anything less than the title (which, unfortunately, I believe is the case)”

    Why is that “unfortunate”? Ask ANY of the great teams of any sport over the last 100 years and they will ALL tell you if they didn’t win a Title, especially when having a GOOD team, they’d be disappointed.

    I hate Kaintuck more than anyone….but at least they don’t settle for mediocrity like some of you do.

  16. I simply adore Chet, but I think it should be reminded(at least as it pertains to this thread)that Chet wanted to set the record straight, “put into context” earlier discussions of Mike Davis, before Laffy made it a topic.

    Why throw fuel on a fire unless you want more flame? Are you sure you don’t own a Harley, Chet?

  17. Dustin, what is up with the three number equation for spam protection? Life was hard enough adding two numbers or a numeral and a written number making it kind of like a story problem. My spam protection calculation was 7 + 1 + 10. I figured on it a good while. I wasn’t sure where to place the parentheses or if I needed to add a letter to one of the numbers. Most folks use an ‘a’ or maybe a ‘b’ but I like to use an ‘x’ cause it makes you look smarter. Sometimes I even like to add one of them little bitty numbers above or below the main number just for effect. Man, the chicks dig that! Anyhow, your spam filter didn’t dig any of that and would not let me post. So I had to go ask one of my rotational engineers cause I figured they were up to date on this new math and all. She came up with ’18’ for an answer and it worked! Don’t tell me that today’s youth can’t compete in a modern economy.

    I figured that post made as much sense as some others I have read on here. Friday afternoon and who? is ready for the weekend.

  18. Dustin should not say weird stuff too. Lol! He talks about banging someone else’s wife! This is an IU website guys. All we should be talking about is IU. Not anything else!

  19. After sniffing and checking for the proper level of spoiled ripeness, I use them to make soup broth for a festering boil of pus named Laffy. His favorite.

  20. I was lucky enough to be at the awards program last night. Thanks to CTC, the team and IU, doing good and doing it the right way.

    Damn cold on the (non-harley)) bike. Will they ever get done with road construction around IU.?

  21. It sure is odd I got ripped for making a “homophobic” comment for ONE thing I said while Hillbilly does his schtick over and over with no outcry from the peanut gallery.

    And I hope he gets a thesaurus for his birthday so he can come up with something besides “boil of pus.”

  22. I was chatting with a friend and the discussion came around to the appearance that IU is now the type of school that Duke once was (in a basketball/student sense). Duke has now become just another repository for one and done players. Sad but true.

    Speaking of Duke, as the Plumlees emigrated to my neck of the woods to get out of the Zeller’s shadow they are in the local news a lot. The nature of Duke basketball and their emphasis on perimeter play has been talked a lot about. Their high school coach is of the opinion that whichever one of them it is that could be leaving early for the NBA (I don’t keep track), should. He is of the opinion that a big man at Duke (of which he has sent three) is unlikely to flourish as their only purpose is to rebound and get it to a perimeter player.

    That type of perception can’t bode well moving forward for the Dukies. You can only go so far without the big guy and if you develop a rep as a school where the man in the middle is an afterthought (which is what is happening to them) you are going to suffer.

    Just a little off season discussion fodder. Hope you guys are enjoying the spring. It’s mountain bikes and motorcycles for me. Headed to Geoff’s neck of the woods next week. A worldwide lobster shortage is soon to follow.

  23. FYI… I pretty much set my own schedule and I’d be happy to share lunch with you and the little miss if you’re in Portland one day.

  24. Chet, NE of Portland is the town of Ellsworth, about 30-40 minutes from Acadia National Park, one of the most beautiful places on earth. About one hour outside Ellsworth, the lobster fishing port of Corea, Maine. The lobster fleet leaves about 4-5 in the am and return with their cages picked up filled around 3 pm on good days. If it is stormy,…they go sit and watch the waves pummel the rocks for hours. The drive from Acadia NP to Corea is also incredible, Cadillac Mtn. always in view. Stop at the little restaurants along the way or go to the lobster boats, pick out the one you like. Get a cheap bucket or a cheap big pot…get salt water from the ocean itself. Bring it to a boil and pick out the one you fondly call….never mind; I said I’d never say his name again…forgot;… lots of butter and 15 Meyer lemons …sea salt…touch of thyme & garlic…….Ohhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!! …can’t get that in Lake Summitt or Lake Toxaway …or even Lake Lemon.

    I once had the ambition of opening up a Cuban restaurant in Corea.

    Have a great time!!

  25. This is so very out of place but I feel the need to share it.

    My dear friend Staff Sgt. Brandon Eggleston, who was part of the US Army’s Special Forces, was killed in Afghanistan last night. He was only 29. Brandon leaves behind his two beautiful daughters and his wonderful wife, Karen, whom he was completely devoted to.

    I am devastated.

  26. Certainly not out of place in my mind Chet. When tragic events like that happen it takes you off the clock and for good reason. I’ve had a few too. Sorry for the loss. Was he a neighbor? All of our soldiers passed, RIP.

  27. I coached Brandon and then, just a few years later, he was the assistant wrestling coach of my boys’ high school team. I watched him grow up, get married, and have children. He shared all the trials of Special Forces with me.

    He was devoted to his wife and girls. This was his third tour of Afghanistan.

  28. Chet-

    I’m very sorry for the tragic loss so close to your heart.. We take so much for granted and often have the luxury to do so because of soldiers we never know. Very sorry for his wife and those two little girls that lost their devoted and loving father.

  29. Chet—

    That sucks.

    No need to apologize at all.

    My prayers are with all who loved him and I really DO appreciate his service.

  30. So sorry to hear this Chet. Just heart breaking. My absolute best wishes go out to his family.

    Just a thought, but why don’t you throw up any links for the fundraisers that I’m sure will follow shortly. It’s such a tragedy when a young family goes through this, and while veteran aid and life insurance should take care of some things, it’s never the long term solution for the family. Maybe we can do a small part as The Hoosier Scoop family…?

  31. Chet…so very, very sorry and sad about your friend Brandon. They are so much the best we have and, along with their families, sacrifice so, so much. My heart felt thanks to him and please to Sgt. Ecclestone’s wife and daughters.

    May I ask what unit Sgt. Eccleston was with? Since he was Special FOrces, was he stationed at Ft. Bragg? My son was commander of a an airborne battalion (including SF)and spent a year in Afghanistan through last spring (Zabul, the Arghendab River valley and Kandahar city)and may have known Sgt. Eccleston.

    Chet, I know how much it means to you. And, I also know how much it means to them that people like you give them your friendship and unqualified and sincere support. We’ve also lost some very, very cold close friends… people who served together and shared the sacrifice for each other and for us. We can not honor them enough. Please extend our deepest sorrow to Mrs. Eggleston and their daughters. And please, please let me know if there is anything we can do for the family.

    And, Chet, my sincere gratitude to you for your friendship to this great American and my deepest sorrow for your loss as well.

  32. Sorry Chet, I misspelled Sgt. Eggleston’s name in a couple of places. Unintentional distraction. My deep regrets.

  33. TTG, Brandon was in the 4th Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group out of Fort Bragg. He could never really share where he was serving (“I’d tell ya, but then I’d have to kill ya”). All the pictures he sent me looked like he was on the moon. What a place.

    Geoff, if I hear anything I’ll post it.

    I appreciate it guys. I’m a mess.

  34. Hang in there Chet. I have a friend over there, and I fear receiving similar news every day. Quite a sacrifice that those young guys make for us over there.

  35. Chet, yes, I know the unit well…lots of close friends and my son spent about 70 percent of his last 25 years either at Bragg or deployed with units from there. They are magnificent men and women and losing people like your friend Brandon hurts deeply. Again, let me know if there is anything we can do. The one solace is that the entire community at Ft. Bragg really is one close knit family and, though it will never make up for the loss, they will come together and support them as what they are, part of a beautiful family.

    My son is visiting here this week. I’ll be able to ask him if he knew Brandon. We will pray for him, for his family and for all those he loved and who will miss him. Thanks again for your friendship with Brandon. I’m sure it meant a lot to him and it means a lot to all the families.

  36. Chet, mine was 1st Battalion, 4th Brigade (he’s JCoS in DC now). You’re exactly right, the landscape was absolutely lunar in all the pictures I saw as well. Parts of Iraq seemed like Brown county compared to southern Afghanistan.

  37. Laffy, I appreciated how you handled and your sentiments for Chet’s friend. Obviously sincere. In his memory, it would be great if we all continued on without the rancor (disagreement can be fine, in fact fun)…just always being aware of the humanity of the other guy.

  38. 1) Thanks.

    2) I’m really sick of people lecturing me on how “I” need to get better and dump everything in my lap. Yes, I know you said “we all”, but this isn’t the first time I’ve been singled out.

    I did not start the name-calling on here. I simply said Jordy had some issues and was ATTACKED.

    So, if you want a “nicer place”, look in the mirror.

    And, Hillbilly is FAR worse than I am so I’m really tired of everyone jumping down my throat while giving him a free pass.

  39. Had it not been for all the crimson coloring on this site I could have easily mistook this forum for a Boiler basketball forum after a 6 game winning streak, complete with all the namecallings, the rumblings, & general bad karma!! LOL

  40. Said this to Chet via e-mail, but just so its out there, thoughts, prayers and condolences to him and the family of Staff Sergeant Brandon Eggleston from all of his here at the Scoop.

  41. Chet,

    It is never easy to lose a friend that is that young. I will say a prayer for Staff Sgt. Brandon Eggleston’s friends and family that they somehow find peace during this tragic time.

    Mike P. and Family

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