Checking in with IU women’s coach Curt Miller

I stopped by Cook Hall Friday to chat with Indiana women’s coach Curt Miller. Coming out of the NCAA’s first women’s summer access period, Miller said he was excited to have the chance to work with his entire team ahead of the fall semester. We touched on a list of topics looking ahead at this year’s team, so check in for updates over the next few days.

Part of the curiosity with this year’s group will be the addition of nine players who weren’t available last year because they were either playing somewhere else, playing in high school, sitting out due to injury or redshirting.

After the NCAA recently approved a summer access period for teams in the women’s game, the Hoosiers took full advantage of the opportunity to bring coaches and players together during a time of the year that was previously off limits. Miller, who enters his second season in Bloomington this fall, was able to spend valuable teaching and practice time with his group this summer, which he hopes will serve as a head start for a young program in transition.

“It was a huge advantage for us, especially,” Miller said. “The whole country took advantage of it, but for us being such a young team and trying to establish work ethic and culture, it was really important.”

The summer session lasted eight weeks, with teams allowed eight hours of access per week. Six of those hours are dedicated to strength and conditioning, while the remaining two can be spent on the floor.

Rather than have his six scholarship freshmen come to Bloomington days after graduating high school, Miller opted to bring them in for the final six weeks of availability. That gave him and his staff 12 total hours of oncourt instruction with his entire team present.

“We didn’t make it mandatory for our upperclassmen to stay the entire summer, but every single one of them elected to,” Miller said. “With the whole team being here, it was great for them to take some of the stuff that we’re tweaking and adding from the practice court to when they’re playing pickup with each other when we can’t be in there. It feels great because we already have a start with that freshmen class.”

With the team’s leading scorers, Aulani Sinclair and Jasmine McGhee, lost to graduation, the Hoosiers will be forced to retool their attack. Sasha Chaplin, entering her sixth year of eligibility, is the team’s top returning scorer at 6.1 points per game. That puts Miller and IU in the unenviable position of starting over, while finding the points that aren’t coming back. At least early in the year, Miller acknowledges that his team won’t have a go-to threat.

“(It) will have to be by committee,” he said. “We have to throw the ball inside more than we did last year. We have the ability to play a little more uptempo with our added athleticism. I think our defense and ball pressure will improve, so we hope to create a little bit of offense from our defense.”

Having graduate transfer Tabitha Gerardot join the team will help the Hoosiers underneath. Gerardot, a forward who averaged over 15 points and nine rebounds at Valparaiso last year, is the only lock to make the starting lineup at this point. But Miller said players like Chaplin, seniors Milika Taufa and Simone Deloach and freshmen Lyndsay Leikem and Jenn Anderson will also be in the mix in the frontcourt.

Toward the end of last season, Miller lamented that there were games when he had only seven scholarship players available. His backup guard was walk-on Andrea Mize. Although there’s plenty of depth at the guard position this year, most of it is young.

“The scary aspect is that we have very few points coming back in the backcourt,” Miller said. “We did not have an underclassman wing in the program, so our wing players are all first-year players for us. We go into the year with a lot of unanswered questions of how we’re going to score in the backcourt.”

Hulls ahead of schedule
A year after tearing the ACL in her right knee for the second time in as many years, former Bloomington South standout Kaila Hulls is progressing ahead of schedule.

Miller said she has “100 percent of her strength back,” and has been cleared to do drills in a north-south motion. The team is still cautious about letting her get into what Miller calls “explosive lateral movements,” but the coach expects Hulls to be ready to play when the regular season begins.

“It’s nice to be able to be working with her,” Miller said. “Kaila is her own worst enemy. She’s just a workaholic. She wants to be back now. We’re trying to slow her down a little bit, but she’s ahead of schedule and the doctors are really pleased with her progress.”

Claire Jakubicek, who tore the ACL in her right knee last month, was the only casualty of the summer access period. Miller said that while there were a few hip flexor strains, groin strains and ankle injuries, everyone emerged healthy from the busy summer schedule.

“You’ll have your wear and tear that you have during the course of a practice season since we really basically ran the program like we were in the season for six-to-eight weeks,” Miller said. “Fortunately, we have stayed away from the major injuries, with the exception of Claire.

Looking ahead
When he arrived at Indiana last spring, Miller inherited a schedule locked into four-year contracts with schools in the state and beyond. A few of those deals expired after last season, allowing Miller to add a few personal touches to the 2013-14 slate.

His influence on the non-conference schedule is still limited, but Miller was able to do more this year than last. His eventual goal is to take IU to stops around the country and not limit the program simply to the Midwest. Indiana’s full schedule is expected to be announced later this month.

“The schedule we inherited plays a lot of in-state teams,” Miller said. “That doesn’t bother me. Eventually those will end and we’ll add different parts of the country to our non-conference schedule. Right now, we continue to have in-state rivalries in our non-conference scheduling.”

5 comments

  1. Can’t get enough information about IU women’s basketball, please keep this up! All we ever read about are the men, there are many women’s fans that would really appreciate these type of updates. Keep them coming please! I am an IU women’s season ticket holder that lives 100 miles away in Kokomo and I am always craving more women’s information. Can’t wait for the season to start! Go Hoosiers!!

  2. Thanks Mike Miller for the update. I agree with MikeC there needs to be more coverage for the women.
    Coach is trying to market Hulls as the face of the team which is smart because she has the name recognition.
    Hulls had a great summer and will get the start at the 3. Bell had a great summer and is a lock at the point. Coach will probably start Newberry who had a decent summer at the 2. Tabitha had a great summer and will start at the 4. Simone had an impressive summer and should start at the 5. Mize,Taufua and Shasha had solid summers and will not concead any playing time.
    The Freshmen all had good summers and although coach will never say anything one freshman really stood out and the coaches are giddy about her. Only one of the Freshman really struggled and will probably reshirt.

    The Skinny; Coach needs to be flexible and untraditional to be successful this year. Don’t be surprised if he plays Big Ball (playing three posts at the same time).

  3. Indiana Insider, I would be shocked to see Newberry start at the 2, she simply can’t shoot a lick. While her ball handling is strong and I am sure her leadership will be very good, the 2 position needs to be a strong shooter and she is not. I have no problem with the rest of your selections although I love Bell but, am not sure she is more than a backup point guard. Surly, one of those impressive freshmen will be better at the point? It is certainly quite early to guess as to who is starting in what position? But, that just makes it more enjoyable to discuss. Can’t wait for more coverage of the women’s program. Give us more Mike. Go Hoosiers!!

  4. I agree I would play the five best players even if someone is playing a little out of position. It’s a tricky situation

  5. Indiana Insider, I love exchanging thoughts with IU women’s fans that are as knowledgeble about IU basketball as you. It is quite obvious that you have close knowledge of what is going on in Bloomington. Since I live 100 miles to the North, I an sort of out of the loop although I am a women’s season ticket holder. Although I do not always agree with what you say, I love the exchanges we have shared in the past about our favorite team! We both obviously have great passion for the IU women’s program. Keep those opinions coming. I so look forward to more observations from you in the future! I am very excited about the future of coach Miller’s program. Can’t wait to order my season tickets. Go Hoosiers!!

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