Curt Miller enjoying the challenge of player development

When he took the Indiana job last March, women’s basketball coach Curt Miller refused to constrain himself to a timeframe for success.

He wasn’t going to guarantee the same five-year plan he and his staff established when he took the Bowling Green job. He wasn’t going to let time dictate success.

The second year of the women’s rebuilding process brings specific challenges that weren’t around last season. Particularly, youth, inexperience and a lack of returning scoring. But these are the challenges that allow Miller to get back to basics — the basics that first attracted Miller to this field all those years ago.

“The fun part is the coaching and teaching aspect,” he said last week during an interview with the Herald-Times at Cook Hall. “You’re teaching the little things again. When you get your program up and running, sometimes you manage personnel, sometimes you manage your program. It’s really fun to teach, to educate and to try to have the kids understand why you do certain things and teaching those skills. I’m really energized by the youth of this team.”

The Hoosiers welcome six scholarship freshmen — Jenn Anderson, Taylor Agler, Larryn Brooks, Karlee McBride, Alexis Gassion and Lyndsay Leikem — to Bloomington this fall and Miller has made it known that the minutes are up for grabs.

Of the five players — Nicole Bell, Jasmine McGhee, Milika Taufa, Linda Rubene and Aulani Sinclair — in IU’s final starting lineup last season, only Bell and Taufa return. The team’s leading returning scorer is sixth-year senior Sasha Chaplin, who averaged 6.1 points off the bench.

Entering the fall semester, graduate transfer Tabitha Gerardot appears to be the only player locked into a starting spot.

“I don’t care if you’re a sixth-year senior like Sasha or if you’re a freshman, we’re gonna play who gives us the best opportunity to be successful,” Miller said. “Everyone is scratching and clawing right now knowing there’s a lot of playing time to grab. I’m not — I never have been and I never will be — afraid to play freshmen. I’m gonna play the players who deserve to be on the floor. Whether it’s an eight-player rotation or a 12-player rotation will play itself out based on how everyone is performing and how healthy we remain.”

Miller said he’s also pleased with the way his new freshmen have bonded with each other and the rest of the team. If you follow any of them on Twitter, it’s easy to see the effect social media has in bringing the group closer together despite being dispersed around the nation.

“It really helps them establish relationships before they even get here,” Miller said. “But the amount of time they have to be together during the summer — they take similar summer classes, they’re on a similar schedule for the academic support area in terms of study hall and tutoring. They eat together, they live together, and so you can’t help but bond. I’m really pleased with where they’re at. Certainly, when you have six sisters together for 18 hours a day, will they desire some time away from each other? That’s human. But I’m really pleased with how this group has bonded and I’m excited to work with them. It’s a nice group to start our rebuilding.”

Miller also made a point to mention his 2014 class, of which Maura Muensterman, Tyra Buss, Jessica Walter and Amanda Cahill are members.

“The 2014 class can be the class that really jumpstarts us,” Miller said. “Without going into specifics, I’m really, really excited about the start of our recruiting in 2014.”