Crean says defense improving, Creek finding way back, and other IU basketball notes

Through the first three days at least, Indiana has proven to Tom Crean that the Hoosiers are listening when he talks about the critical nature of defense to this team.

Indiana led the Big Ten in scoring but finished 10th in the league and 158th in Division I in scoring defense. That was obviously adequate enough for Indiana to go 27-9 and reach the Sweet 16, but Crean knows a national title will require much more.

“I think there’s progress everywhere, I really do,” Crean said. “… At some point the practice is always going to hit a wall. The mental toughness part of getting over it is so crucial. That’s where your defense has gotta be. It’s gotta be there consistently. Whether it’s the talk, whether it’s the hands being active, whether it’s your weakside defense, whether it’s your ability to block out, challenge shots, all of those things go together. What it really comes down to is, are we doing that when we get tired? We’re getting better at it.”

Crean said he can already tell that he has more to work with on defense. The addition of center Peter Jurkin (7-foot, 230 pounds) and power forward Hanner Mosquera-Perea (6-8, 225) give him two post men with gargantuan wingspans to help sophomore center and presumptive preseason All-American Cody Zeller (7-0, 240) protect the rim. Freshman swingman Jeremy Hollowell (6-8, 217) is plenty rangy himself, point guard Yogi Ferrell is a lightning quick on-ball defender and the return of mostly healthy guard Maurice Creek adds to what was already an impressive stockpile of wings, including All-Big Ten defender Victor Oladipo.

“I think we’re already better because we have more length,” Crean said. “More athleticism. Over the last four days, just looking at how hard it is for people to score at the basket is a big thing. I think we can put a lot of pressure on the ball. The biggest thing for me is going to be like it was last year. Can our transition defense keep taking steps? Can our shot clock defense keep taking steps. Because in between, I think we’re gonna be able to create a little havoc. It’s where the breakdowns come.”

—Creek wasn’t limited at all in Monday’s practice, and he appears to be mostly uninhibited by the injuries that have ended each of his last three seasons. He doesn’t appear to be quite as explosive as he was as a true freshman when he averaged 16.4 points per game in 12 contests before fracturing his knee, but he appears to be moving much more fluidly than he did early in the 2010-11 season when he attempted to come back from that injury before fracturing his other knee. His jumper certainly appears to be back and he can get to the rim, but Crean wants to see more from him on defense.

“More confidence offensively,” Crean said. “Way more confidence offensively. Still too quiet. He’s just a product of not having the practice to the last couple of  years and understanding the consistency that’s gotta be there. He shot this way, I think you saw today, he’s been shooting that way the entire time since we’ve been in practice mode. He shows flashes defensively. He’s gotta get the same confidence and swagger on the defensive end as he has on the offensive end. … Right now it’s not about where he is or isn’t athletically, where he is or isn’t strength wise. It’s more about where he is with understanding that he’s gotta be a great teammate vocally and really really inspire guys with not only his offense but his defense, because he’s fully capable.”
Mosquera-Perea and senior forward Christian Watford are both back on the floor after nagging foot injuries cost them time in the summer. Neither is at the same level of conditioning at the rest of the squad, but Mosquera-Perea has according to Crean, made stunning strides in that regard within a short amount of time.
“Hanner hasn’t had a lot of time,” Crean said. “Hanner, two weeks ago, was in very limited minutes with us. It’s really amazing what he’s doing. It’s made a big difference. Two weeks literally from today, he could do 30 minutes, couldn’t even do a full 40 minutes. So to see where he’s at is fantastic. He just brings another level of edge. It’s fun watching him get better day after day.”
Sophomore guard Remy Abell was playing with a wrapped left wrist and Jurkin was wearing a face mask, but neither was limited.

— Crean said throughout the offseason that senior point guard Jordan Hulls would have no problem sharing the floor and the ball with Ferrell, the McDonald’s All-American and one of the most highly-touted point guards in the freshman class of 2012. Crean said he’s already seen great respect and cooperation between the two, especially on offense.

“There’s no doubt that if we can have those two playing together with the other wings that we have, we’re gonna be really hard to guard,” Crean said. “You can’t take them both away. If you do, you’re leaving somebody else open. … If there’s anything that we’re lacking in some other fundamental area of the game, be it defensively, be it ball pressure, something like that, they’ve got to be able to make up with it with the shooting and the intangibles. What I like best about it right now is any time Jordan’s out there shooting, Yogi’s shooting with him, especially after practice and things like that. That’s a great sign. Yogi’s so well coached, and we just keep trying to build on it constantly. Yogi understands that, and the two of them get along really, really well.”

The bigger issue regarding their prospective partnership has also been the potential effect on the defense. Both are listed at 6-feet tall, which would mean they would be at a height advantage against bigger backcourts in the Big Ten. In addition, Hulls struggled with on-ball defense last season and Ferrell is getting used to man-to-man defense after operating mostly in a 2-3 zone at Park Tudor High School.

“That’s where we can scheme sometimes,” Crean said. “I don’t think we want to think about that right now. … Just get out there and play. Get out there and play. Guard the ball. Talk on defense. Be great help defenders. That’s really important stuff. Not putting either one of them on an island, making sure our help defense is really good, that the communication behind them is really good.”

Other general observations from Monday’s practice

— Junior small forward Will Sheehey appears to be by far the most amped member of the squad, competing in every drill as though it’s an NCAA Tournament game and celebrating every competitive victory in the same fashion. On Monday, he seemed to take it upon himself to antagonize Mosquera-Perea in hopes that irritating him would serve as a spark. It did, as Mosquera-Perea got increasingly intense in a rebounding drill as Sheehey made him increasingly incensed.

Sheehey’s game has improved significantly as well. His range appears to be extended and his handle better. And playing like a maniac has its advantages on defense and in rebounding.

— Creek appears to be almost exactly between where he was as a freshman and where he was as a sophomore when he was attempting a comeback from his first knee injury. That means he doesn’t look extremely explosive but he doesn’t look hobbled either. Basically, he looks normal. He can move around well  without appearing to be in pain. His knees don’t ever appear to lockup, and his leg strength seems generally normal. He just doesn’t appear to be as exceptional as he was as a true freshman. That’s in part because the competition level is much higher and he has much more to compete with than he did then, but there is a little less bounce.

— Jordan Hulls is in exceptional shape and he’s making almost every 3-pointer he takes, so nothing newsworthy there.

— Victor Oladipo didn’t take many outside shots on Monday, but seemed to have added a floater game. He’s still all over the passing lanes and a terror on the dribble drive.

— Cody Zeller looks humongous, and hasn’t lost an ounce of athleticism. There wasn’t much half-court offense at all in Monday’s practice, so it’s tough to tell how IU is expanding his offensive game, but he was mostly dominant on the boards.

— Peter Jurkin appears to be the furthest behind of the freshmen, but that statement just proves how far ahead of the game this class is. With the exception of Zeller, he’s as game ready as any big man the Hoosiers have added in the last four years. There are parts of the game he’s still figuring out, but the athleticism and length are impressive and he’s much more comfortable with the ball and on defense than any of Indiana’s other recent big freshmen and the height makes him great at protecting the rim.

— Ferrell and Hulls do get along well, and Ferrell looks almost as fast with the basketball among IU players as he does everywhere else.

— Monday’s practice was intense and there was non-stop action, but this group appeared much more prepared for it than it has been in recent years, and generally operated on a more professional level.

“There’s a mutual respect among these guys that’s outstanding,” Crean said. “We will have our differences and squabbles and issues. Every team does, and every family does. But the mutual respect that they have will allow that to get fixed.”

AUDIO: Tom Crean Part 1

AUDIO: Tom Crean Part 2


  1. So many players, so few minutes. I bet Sheehey can really irritate people–a great guy to have on your team–plus he’s a player.

  2. Thank you for a great article taking us into the practice and your observations of the players performance and promise. I really enjoyed reading it.

  3. I love how Will is pushing Hanner. Getting into his head at PRACTICE. This has the makings of something special. The chemistry just might end up making this a very special team.

  4. I try to keep my expectations in check….but these glowing reports keep rolling out making it VERY difficult not to dream of outright B1G & NCAA championships.

  5. I doubt PJ will be in the regular rotation once the season starts. He sounds very raw offensively. I think Hanner is going to be better than everyone initially thought and play 15-20 min a game. Nothing about Jeremy Hollowell in this article?

  6. General Miles,
    He didn’t make a major impression on me one way or the other, in the sense that he didn’t show me anything I didn’t already know or expect. He looked fine, don’t get me wrong. He’s holding his own. He’s the same player I remember from watching him in AAU and at Lawrence Central. Long, athletic, good shooter, good scorer, etc. And he’s in exactly the position you’d expect him to be about four true practices into his college career. He’s showing signs he can contribute, but it’s obvious that he’s playing with the most talented team he’s ever been on and he doesn’t stand out like he used to. Which is obviously standard for a high school star going to college ball. He was there and he played hard and he looked fine, just didn’t do anything that made me stand up and say ‘I have to write about this.’

  7. Hollowell will be much like Remy(another talent Dustin undervalued). He’ll get on the court and make immediate impact.

    Dustin talked on many past Scoops and LiveChats as if Perea was the next Hakeem Olajuwon. I don’t see the quick evolution of progress others have anticipated.

    In terms of basketball skills and how they’ll translate to the pace of college basketball at this level? I think you’ll see Hollowell much more comfortable at the transition and finding many more minutes; likely more than Perea and Jurkin combined.

    I think losing Patterson did hurt us substantially when it comes to energy on defense and playing at an equal energy level in all transitional phases.

    Patterson, Hollowell, Remy….These guys can dictate pace(not just struggle to accelerate to it), have evolved into skill sets that enable them to not force their games, and they have the confidence to transition and adjust to the feel of the college game much faster.

    Perea may have a wonderful “upside”…But can that be realized on the road to a championship with solid talent already on the bench in abundance? I don’t think he’ll get up to speed fast enough to make the impact many have anticipated. Jurkin? That’s more than A-Hope..that’s a prayer.

    Etherington could be the pleasant surprise this year. With Yogi as a set-up man, anyone as pure a shooter as Austin may find more opportunities.

  8. If Jurkin is as athletic as we have been led to believe it’s hard to imagine, competing against Cody day after day, that he won’t make rapid improvement. If you’re judging the potential of a student by the quality of his mentor then PJ may have one of the highest ceilings on the team.

  9. I hope you’re right, Chet.

    Any time with Zeller will be valuable. I do think time on the court will be extremely limited. He’ll likely have about six months to learn from what’s remaining of Cody’s college career. How many years did Cody have with his brothers(not to mention a very good high school coach)?

    When guys reach college, especially programs with the pressures to get back into the mix of relevancy their former “prominence,” I’m not sure how much of the potential ceiling can be attained. It’s such a revolving door and there’s always someone waiting in the wings to claim your minutes.

  10. Yep, too bad I missed the train Jeremy. I agree with DD on this one. Hollowell was a star in high school and when he came to IU he is obviously not the best player on the team. I thimk next year he will start and be C. Wat 2.0 only a better all around player. Hollowell has the potential to be an NBA 1st rounder after 2 or 3 years. Same thing with Hanner but I think hollowell is the better overall player in the 2012 class. Obviously Yogi is one of the best pgs we’ve had in a while but he can’t do as much overall as hollowell and he doesn’t need to as a pg.

  11. Let’s also back up the train a bit. I’m not saying Hollowell can’t play. He can definitely play. I’m not even saying he had a bad day. I’m just saying that in about two hours of one practice, he didn’t stand out in eithr a good or bad way. Again, I know he can play, I’ve seen him and written plenty about how good he is and can be.
    As for your analysis of Perea, Harvard, you are spot on. I don’t think I’m the only one who looked at the potential of Perea when he was a sophomore in high school and suspected he’d be an NBA talent. I have also noticed and pointed out that his post fundamentals have not developed in the way I expected them to by this point. Your mention of Olajuwon works there, because right now, that’s exactly what Perea isn’t. I haven’t seen a go-to post move develop from him and I expected that to have come around for him by now.
    That’ being said, I think he will contribute and do so immediately because the presence of Zeller means he doesn’t have to be as much of a back-to-the basket player as he otherwise would. Last year, his high school coach said he would be more of a “weak-side block,” guy. Considering Perea’s talent, I think he should be more than that right now, but there’s still value there when Zeller draws double teams and finds Perea cutting weakside. He’s also going to rebound and block shots and that has plenty of value in itself as well. I suspect at least early that the rotation will be much larger than it was last year. You’ll see 10 guys in it in stead of 7 or 8 and Perea and Hollowell will both be among those 10.

  12. You really don’t think we’ll keep a 10-11 man rotation throughout the year?
    1st: Yogi 2nd: Abell Possible Scrubs: AE
    Hulls MO Elston
    Oladipo Sheehey/Hollowell Jurkin
    Watford Elston/Perea
    Zeller Perea/Jurkin

    Just look at our roster. How could we not go 11 or 12 deep?

  13. Woa that got messed up.
    1st unit: Yogi

    2nd unit: Abell

    possible scrubs: AE

  14. I guess the answer to that is, against the best teams, you may feel that you need your best players to be in a rhythm in order to win. constantly subbing them from the game to put in fresh (albeit talented players) may hurt you down the stretch.

    I also guess it depends on your definition of rotation… How many minutes do you need to get to be considered part of the rotation? Does 2.5 minutes in the first half equal “rotation player”?

    I would assume that almost every game we’ll go at least 10 deep. I also assume injuries will limit us at some points during the year. Luckily we’ll still have the depth to go 10 deep even with a couple injuries. I also assume that in some games the rotation will be bigger in the first half than in the second… And it’s that 2nd half rotation that I would look to really be the rotation come B1G and NCAA Tourney time.

  15. It will be net resting to see what happens with Elston this year… He is a senior, has game experience, played relatively tough D last year (remember him against Sully in our OSU win), and shot 55%(!) from 3 last year.

    I could definitely see him being the primary back-up to Zeller this year, especially against top teams.

  16. On the rotation thing, what Geoff said.
    Indiana is going to try to play as fast as it can and it will play very fast in November and December and probably early January. But conference games, in every conference, are about what you can do in the half court. Indiana will still play faster than most even in that setting, but teams will be more careful with the ball and better on transition defense, so getting out and running will be more difficult. In that case, it’s better to have your best guys in there longer to get a rhythm, whereas in November and December, when you’re running over people, you get as many guys as much run as makes sense.

  17. There’s a big difference, Geoff.

    I paint Dustin as Establishment. You are Establishment.

    Don’t miss the ESPN special tonight on UK basketball. We all know how the NCAA and the Establishment can’t get enough of making handsome Calipari and his handsome one-and-done teams the poster child for college hoops.

    They give little ol’ Indiana a nice over-inflated ranking, but they do 1-hour specials on Calipari.

    Well, I take that back…There was also a 1-hour special on Kansas last night. I almost threw up. At the same time, I almost felt a bit sorry for people with deep pockets so far removed from the true heartbeat of basketball…Naismith crawled up Kansas’ ass and they thought the hoops gods were delivering a kiss on the lips.

    The tournament played at the college level today emulates what was born at the micro level from the real Renaissance of the game that occurred in Indiana(much of that Renaissance attributed to being at the forefront of blending rural with inner city, bringing diversity into a game, and not adhering to the bigotry and exclusion remaining in many other parts of the nation’s high school sports..e.g. Crispus Attucks).

    At the end of the day, I almost feel more pride in Indiana when these specials run with no mention of Crispus Attucks, the passion that fueled the foundations of “March Madness,” and a college tucked in the limestone hills of southern Indiana that has hung five banners(the greatest number per capita its population) as a result the ideals that grew from a state in love with a game enough to not destroy it in bigotry and privitization.

    It’s all good. They’re not rewriting the history of the game…They’re simply avoiding a significant and vital chapter devoted to the heart of the game; the riches of its lifeblood pouring out from a tiny state that believed long before any Establishment invented bushel basket, loving something should mean everyone gets a fair shot.

    It’s Indiana that truly freed the game and allowed it to blossom into its true beauty. I don’t know if they’re blinded by their own infatuations or they’ve just truly just flushed the hope down the toilet. Calipari may put the rocketing teenage stars of athletic beauty on stage, but the irony of the story is where the true wars of equality and defending the roots of an all-inclusive high school game plays in the background his gloat to its old same beat; forever on the invisible hardwood of Indiana, a buried chapter of a story that rests in humble gratitude to the lost ideals any lasting redeeming purpose that brings men to equal terms their love and endeavors.

    It’s just too bad it could never evolve beyond dollars and into the halls of learning our Establishments built to entertain but still exclude.

  18. If Elston could downshift from overdrive into a comfortable 4th gear, he could be one of the best forwards in the Big 10. I’m not sure if there’s a coach that can take the buck out of the bull. I love Elston’s attitude and the energy that flows from his personality onto the rest of the team.

    It’s a huge amount of wattage and sometimes I think he’s confused how to control it and use it to his benefit on the basketball court…breathe in …breathe out…breathe in…breathe out. Is it an ‘urban legend’ of sorts that says athletes shouldn’t make love before an important game? I think Elston needs to make love to an experienced beautiful coed back-to-back-to-back an hour before tip-off. This should give him the proper level of zest to go with the huge talent never broken out the nasty bull.

  19. Yeah… I’ll be skipping the uk special tonight… In favor of The X Factor or Survivor or anything else, leading up to the season premier of American Horror Story that my wife can’t wait for.

    Did you almost puke when ESPN did a 1 hour special to start all the 1 hour specials last Friday? Cuz I was hoping it would go 3 hours.

  20. Oh and uk actually gets half the time that ESPN gave us… 30 minute special.

    If you’re going to paint me as something I’m not, and put words in my mouth, at least get the surrounding facts straight…

  21. Hmm? Zest?…Nice little word, but You don’t hear it used much anymore.

    Don’t let that Mike Miller punk steal it, Dustin. Has anyone told Mike he looks a bit like a young Omar Sharif?

    That’s my new motto for Elston: ‘Harness the Zest.’

    Would Elston not make one hell of a tight end? I know he talked of throwing a baseball..Wrong sport. Put a helmet on that kid.

  22. 5:00 time slot? That ain’t no special. That was five ugly Establishment guys talking at a table, pretending they know something about the game, during rush hour.

    And didn’t your hear Mitt last night? Five o’clock? That’s when his new female executives he hires are just getting home to start assembly of the lasagna.

  23. Ohhh, gotcha… So ESPN determined the practice time. And an hour is less than 30 minutes because you have an eternal need to pay the victim.

    Now it all makes sense.

  24. By the way, get a DVR… There is no such thing as rush hour.

    And I forgot that Dan Dakich (former Hoosier player and coach, born in and lifelong resident of Indiana) is Establisment. You pick some weird arguments to back up your pointless points.

  25. Harness the Zest…Tonight on ESPN @ 8:00…Tune in to the story of Indiana basketball as they go from a team buried by an NCAA that wanted to defecate on a black man addicted to a cell phone and make him the poster child for all that’s wrong in college hoops…blah…blah…blah.

    Hear the true story of a vengeful NCAA headed by a man once running the university that represented the ideals of athletes actually becoming students…
    That’s a laugher!! blah..blah..blah.

    Harness the Zest…Get those lasagna plates cleaned up and put the kids in front of the XBox in the basement.

    Don’t miss Harness the Zest…Did I say it enough times? One more time…HARNESS THE ZEST….The untold story of an Indiana basketball program the top Establishment assassins just COULDN’T kill.

  26. Haven’t you been following the news? 50% of college grads can’t even find a job….but 95% can still afford the latest Apple iPhone…Weird. I wonder if they have enough residual spending power to still afford DVRs after the eight year loan on the iPhone? Harness the Zest, Geoff…Harness the Zest. And what of the 47% of the 50% of the 95%…
    Trade in those iPhones for more food stamps instead of supporting Chinese manufacturers that build iPhones!..Damn fools.

    Harness the Zest.

  27. Dakich? Don’t get me started on Dakich. His career average in points per game at IU is analogous to true convictions a stronger Indiana.

    He’ll forever go to his grave knowing his Knight disciple bloodlines lost out the coaching job to a preacher from Marquette. Yeah, he really wanted Cody to come to Indiana.

  28. If ‘Hoosier’ equates to time diving for balls on McCracken, then he’s more Hoosier than the Mop Lady.

    That doesn’t equate into anything truthful coming out his blowhole.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think he’s charismatic and found a home for his spin. He’s a huge fan of Tebow. He knows how to push all the right buttons to sensationalize sports. He turned Cody into a sensation…He got so close one would think he was wearing his shoes.

    He blew so hard, it’s truly amazing he didn’t blow Cody all the way to Chapel Hill to spite his all-knowing, all-seeing, insight into everything Indiana(an Indiana that couldn’t stomach him enough to make him coach). He’s human and when he talks I hear the pain of the heart broken and left in disdain.

    Harness the Zest, Goeff….Harness the Zest.

  29. He pushed for Cody so much on the public airways he really gave Crean no choice where to channel his true strengths in building a basketball team. Once you move the local fan base so strongly toward one name, it has quite the negative effect on other recruits that may have seriously considered Indiana.

    It’s not Dan’s basketball team anymore. I think he needs to stop meddling. I think he should dial down the theater and let Tom Crean control his own destiny(whether that means success or failure on his OWN recruiting efforts).

    Branden Dawson may have been a more logical case for building a team in the style of what brought success to Marquette for Crean. Irony? Dawson was coming out of the same zip code area of Indiana that Bobby Knight ventured to find Dan Dakich… a very mysterious area of Indiana now removed from Hoosier recruiting…

    The same strange dust bowl corner of Indiana a Luke Harangody, a Robbie Hummel, a Mitch McGary, a Zack Novak, a E’Twaun Moore…and many, many others that made hardly a fart of an impact to their college programs when compared to the mountains moved at Indiana University by THE Dan Dakich.

    For those of you attempting to claim Crean put Cody in candy-stripes…Speak the truth. You know the truth. Dakich is close friends with the Zeller family. Dakich put Cody in candy-stripes. Praise him…Never stop listening to his blow on the radio.

  30. If we could use VCUs “havoc” defense we would be unstoppable! It requires a very deep team which we have even if some injuries happen. You saw what they did to us in the NCAA tournament. If we play defense like that and do just as good offensively as last year no one can beat us! I am pumped up and ready for this season to get rollin! Please IU play defense like VCU!

  31. Harvard, just for the record, Sampson isn’t black. He’s Lumbee Indian (i.e. Native American).

    I’ve always enjoyed watching teams deep and talented enough to play pressing defense. Pitino used to have a pretty good full court defense. We got the fast big man down low.

  32. He was targeted. I’ll let you decide if the NCAA was making him the poster child for evil deeds at Indiana(while Calipari receives ESPN specials)because he was Lumbee Indian. Maybe Donald Trump just couldn’t find a valid birth certificate and that fired off the desires to pick through phone records. Maybe Barack shouldn’t go too forcefully at Mitt because, heaven forbid, he’ll look like an “angry black man.”

    I think you fully understand the way witch hunts can work…all within the context of the true creeps and criminals getting away with highway robbery and violating every recruiting rule in the book….Not to mention the way boosters have corrupted the entire college basketball with their deep pocketbooks and personal agendas…

    Think Sampson had a lot of deep pocketbook boosters at Indiana when he arrived? Onward Christian soldiers. This house is clean as a Joyce Meyer colon flush.

  33. oops..

    Not to mention the way boosters have corrupted the entire college basketball [landscape] with their deep pocketbooks and personal[(often bigoted)] agendas…

    Anonymous donor for a bus ticket..? Anyone?

  34. I actually enjoyed the ESPN special on Calipari. I’m going to stop being a hater. He’s not worth it. He’s a good friend of Tom Crean and I can now begin to understand the full extent of the shallowness within the attraction.

  35. Except for you, Chet. You had the facts and facts matter when asses are being covered…Much like the facts an over-sign recruit being told his grades are now not going to make the cut two months before he’s ready to step onto campus. Facts do matter.

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