The Tom Crean Blue Ribbon Interview

Just as I was in the last three years, I was asked to write the Indiana preview in this year’s version of Blue Ribbon magazine, a national college basketball preview publication. For that purpose, I was granted a one-on-one interview with Tom Crean. Now that the magazine has been published and practice is beginning, I believe it proper now to share the transcript of that interview here.

Before reading, however, a few things should be noted. No. 1, this is admittedly a soft interview and it should be noted that it was conducted for the sole purpose of producing a preview article that would analyze the current Hoosiers as an on-court product. I did not ask Crean to relive the Syracuse game or to analyze what the loss meant to the program or his career. I didn’t attempt to get in his head in ways I normally would if the story were to focus on him. I was asked going in if the interview could be finished in 30 minutes — we ended up speaking for 42 —so the goal was to talk briefly about the team in general and discuss every player on the roster in the allotted time. Had this been conducted for the purpose of a Herald-Times story alone, it would have been significantly different, but I still believe it’s relevant for Herald-Times and Hoosier Scoop readers because it is a very insightful and honest assessment of Crean’s team for the coming year.

No. 2, because of the time constraints, the questions themselves weren’t spectacularly worded. As we neared what I presumed was the end of the clock, I basically just started throwing names out. No. 3, the interview was conducted on Aug. 23, so in terms of the healing of injuries and other general progressions, that should be kept in mind.

Anyway, a transcript of the interview follows.

Q: What are seasons like these like when you go from having so much experience to having so much youth this quickly?

A: They’re hard. It’s all about the chemistry. The chemistry has to be, especially when it’s young and old. Do the young come in humble? Do they come in really excited to get better? Do they come in and prove to the older guys that they’re here to win and that they’ll do the work that it takes to win? And do the older guys look at the younger guys as part of the keys to the team?  It’s not, ‘They’re the young guys, we’re the older guys.’ You really look at it, we’ve only got two seniors and only one of them’s been here. It’s more unique than anything I’ve ever personally experienced in coaching. I do think it comes down to the common thread of older guys being seen by the younger guys, really being committed to helping them and practicing what they preach and the younger guys being committed to winning, which brings an energy level to the older players. Again, our older players, it’s very hard to look at that, it’s different. I think the best thing we can build in this program this year is really have a tremendous focus on what our depth can really be like. Because we’re going to have to score points different ways. We’re going to defend a little differently. The style of play, the system of what we play in will remain the same, but how we score points this year at times could be a little different. I do think it will be about, will the depth truly be consistent as we go over a period of time versus being sporadic. I think chemistry is going to have a lot to do with that.

Q: You said it’s not like anything you’ve experienced before, but what’s your closest model for this in terms of making the chemistry work, whether it was at Marquette or as an assistant coach?

A: No. I’ve thought about that. I don’t think there is. Even after our Final Four year at Marquette when we lost Robert Jackson and we lost Dwyane Wade, we still had Travis Diener back, we still had a very good front line player in Scott Meritt back. Steve Novak was going to be a sophomore. So we had older players. Right now we’ve got literally two seniors. If you count Austin (Etherington) as a sophomore, you’ve got a junior in school and a sophomore on the court, but he’s gotta be one of our older more experienced guys, then we have some guys like Jeff Howard and Taylor Wayer in that situation. There’s going to have to be a tremendous togetherness where class really doesn’t play into it, where commitment to work and just really building a true consistency. It’s so different that it’s hard to have a projection of where it can be. But the good news is there’s talent. It’s young talent. Jim Leyland made a great point one time, if I ever have to choose between taking experience and talent, I’m taking talent. I heard that a couple of years ago from him, and I’ve always remembered that. I look at it like that. Where will that talent go? It’s gotta continue to get better. You can look at it and say  ‘We’re very young, and it’s gonna take a long time.’ Or you can look at it and say, ‘There’s a lot of talent and they should get better that much faster.’ This is a very unforgiving tough league to try to grow up in. But the talent gives you an opportunity. That’s where, ‘OK, how are we going to be our best. It may be a little different than last year. We may not be close to having the spacing and execution and efficiency on offense to start the year, but we still need to score points, we still need to get to the foul line. We still need to be able to get easy baskets, we still need to be able to make stops. So how do we do that? I think that will be the fun part of this team. I look at it with great excitement. If you sit here and think about who we lost, then you start looking at the glass half-empty. If you start thinking about the excitement level and the energy level that could be created by a young team, then you look at the glass half full.

Q: What’s your initial thought on what kind of offensive team is this going to be, can this be, should this be?

A: It’s gotta be a great rebounding team. I don’t think there’s any question that this is a team that’s going to have to be on both ends of the backboards. If you look at those numbers the last two seasons, we’ve led the country (Big Ten) in field goal percentage, 3-point percentage, free throws made, free throws attempted. How do we go there? One of the reasons on the shooting has been shot selection. The one thing right off the bat is you can’t accept poor shot selection. This is not a team where one guy or two guys are going to take the bulk of the shots. It’s not all of the sudden going to become a quick-shooting, challenge-shot team. When we weren’t very good, we had to deal with some of that a couple of years ago. But at the end of the day, we still had 20 losses. As this team has improved and evolved, the efficiency of it has evolved because of the shot selection, because of the ball movement, because of the spacing, because of the cutting, because of the inside-out play, because of throwing it ahead on the break. So you don’t want to get away from any of that. Those are all things that have to be constants. Now, how will we do with that? This should be an athletic team that can be a good cutting team. Spacing, from looking at this summer, spacing has got a long way to go. Efficiency has got a long way to go. But hustle shouldn’t have a long way to go. Making defensive plays, getting offensive boards, getting out on the break, getting 50-50 balls, those are all things that may have to get us in there for a while while our offense is getting more efficient and while it’s being learned. The crux of the way we’re going to start this week, the way we’re going to start the preseason is the same way we did it last year. We’re going to start with really trying to build a defensive mindset.

Q: How is this team just at putting the ball in the bucket?

A: Hard to tell. Hard to tell. We didn’t do a lot of five-on-five this summer and now we won’t be able to do five-on-five until after Sept. 15. I love that we get to start practice early. Right now, it’s just more about development. It’s been more about strength. It’s been more about real work ethic. The required work has been phenomenal here. When you see what happens in the program over a period of time when you look at the guys who brought the unrequired work, what they required of themselves more than what we would’ve required. Preseason and postseason, it’s two hours and during the season its 20 hours. But no team gets built on two hours in the preseason and 20 hours during the season. It’s the constant extra work that guys do to get their games better. It’s too early to tell on that. We’ve lost some of our hardest workers. We have some other guys that are pretty hard workers, but there’s gotta be a real strength of teamwork, true depth, how do we protect one another defensively? How do we keep making the next pass? When you have guys that are used to being the leading scorers on their team and guys that have had support roles (on this team) for the most part and they’ve gotta keep taking those roles up to a higher level, the worst thing that can happen is for somebody to automatically think they have to do more on the offensive end. No, you have to do more on the defensive end and the rebounding end and the hustle end and the ball-movement end. If you do those things, then the scoring and those type of things take off. The better passing team we became the more points we scored. The more we took quick shots and didn’t pass the ball as well or use the post, we didn’t score points. That stays the same. So that’s gotta continue without a doubt. Then, we’ll see. It’s all about easy baskets. It’s all about the foul line, how do we keep getting to those places? And it’s open shots. So, that really remains to be seen. It’s way too early to tell how that’s gonna be. But we’re not gonna slow down. We’re not going to start playing at a slower pace. If anything, we’ll speed it up defensively.

Q: How much do you like the raw material you have in terms of what these guys are defensively?

A: Love it. Love it. Length, it’s definitely what it was recruited for. Length, athleticism. It’s a different game at the basket right now. We could see that this summer. It’s a different game. Now what you do is is you take, like why did Victor Oladipo become better? Because he went from being a really good athlete to being an even better athlete and he went from being a solid basketball player to being a great basketball player. That all went together. What we try to build it on is we’re going to take athletes and make them better basketball players and take basketball players and make them better athletes and at the end of the day, you hope to get as many complete players as you can get. Now, with that being said, because there is so much athleticism and there is so much ability to play at the basket and play at the rim, that should allow us to do that much more defensively, which hopefully will create more opportunities for us on the offensive end. So this team getting a mindset of ‘our defense is going to create a lot of offense is going to be really, really key. And that’s going to take a lot of time. We don’t have a lot of time to get it. There’s going to be a lot of impatience with that. For me as a coach in the sense of, we can’t be patient in learning how to be active with our hands and to get deflections and cover ground and switch defenses, all of those kinds of things. We have to really push the envelope on what these guys pick up defensively and then continue to stay with the basics of what makes a good offense, which is spacing, which is good shots, which is next pass, which is inside-out, then just be in a feeding frenzy when the ball goes up on the basket.

Q: Getting into player by player, you mentioned chemistry at the beginning and that starting with the seniors and the upperclassmen, what have you seen from Will Sheehey so far? Obviously he spent a lot of time away this summer with Team USA.

A: We haven’t seen enough because he has been gone for so long. But I’ve seen his films. I think he’s done a good job. I think his confidence is growing. I think what he’s got to understand is that he’s got to be stronger. There’s no question. What he gained in experience this summer in being with the team, we lost in strength-training. So we’re still trying to get that back to where it needs to be. That’s the one trade off that you make when you do that, but it’s for the betterment of them. He always plays so hard, now I think the efficiency is important. I think he’s a guy that everybody is going to look at to do more. OK, well doing more is making sure that the ball moves even better, that he stays with his strengths of moving without the ball, that he becomes an even more efficient shooter, that he can be good in the pick and roll, which has not been a strength of his, that he gets to the offensive boards. Will came here with a great mind for offensive rebounding. He’s going to play more of a swing guard. There’s going to be more two spot for him this year. You really look at our team. We have four guards, and you have to count him as one of those guards. Last year we had six when you’re looking at scholarship guys. But at the same time, he’s gotta be phenomenal on the boards. You know, when a guy that is that athletic, he can’t get caught in the middle ground, no man’s land. He’s gotta be at the board using his athleticism, but at the same time when it’s not there, sprinting back to be a defensive stopper. So we’re going to expect a lot of him. We’re going to try to take his athleticism abilities to another level, but his efficiency as a player is going to be paramount. This thing is not about “there’s a couple of guys back that played a lot of minutes, so they have to take a lot more shots.’ No, they gotta be efficient players. And if more shooting comes in because of it, well that’s great. Because scoring 79 points a game happens because there’s a lot of balance and a lot of ball movement. We can’t have that change. We just can’t.

Q: Where do you think he is better already this offseason?

A: I think shooting. Um, this is gonna be different. This has got to be one where, the younger guys, it’s far more important for him to be accepting in teaching of the younger guys — because he’s such a veteran — than it is for them to look up to him. He’s got to be somebody that reaches out to them. That hasn’t always been his strength.  He’s such a hard worker but he works, he’s also got a bit of a Lone Ranger mentality when he works. That’s not what we’re going to need. He’s one of the smartest players that I have ever coached and his knowledge and photographic memory are at another level. I mean, it’s just ridiculous how good it is. He’s gotta bring that to them. We can’t ever look out there and see, ‘Well there’s an age separation. There’s a year separation.’ We know there’s going to be an experience separation, but he’s truly got to be a guy that’s one of them. But at the same time, they have to look at him and know, ‘If I follow him, I’m gonna be pretty good.’ That’s what you want with him. I think he’s better offensively, I think the ball-handling is better. I can’t answer where he’s at right now in the pick-and-roll. We just didn’t have very much time this summer. His ball screen work is going to have to get a lot better in a hurry. Because we’re gonna need him in the ball screens. He has a tendency to turn his back. He has a tendency to not attack the pressure the way it needs to be attacked. Some of that is strength. Some of that is repetition. But the bottom line is we know what the issues are, now let’s make them better. Because I think he’s gonna be a pro basketball player. So there’s a high level of expectation for him to keep getting better and better, not to just be a guy that’s really good, but a guy that can become great at so many different things. My thing is, there’s always a checklist. We need to keep checking boxes off for him. Because the more boxes get checked off, the same boxes are getting checked off at the next level.

Q: Another guy coming back is Yogi Ferrell. It sounded like you were really happy with developments he made, at least that you saw at the beginning of the summer. Where do you feel like he’s better, where does he have to get better?

A: His shot is better. He has to understand that his No. 1 strength is running the team, throwing the ball ahead, making the open pass. Scoring points because that’s what the game is giving him, not looking to score points. Yogi is not going to be a high-volume shooter with a  low-percentage. He needs to be a high-percentage shooter. One of the keys to why Victor was so successful is he took good shots. His shot selection was really good and therefore his efficiency was extremely good with his percentages. Yogi needs to be the same way. Again, this is not gonna be a team where one or two guys just dominate the shooting.  It’s not how we’re going to be. We won’t win. That’s happened here in the past. It doesn’t work that way. It doesn’t work at the highest level. We’re not built for that. So him being a great mover of the basketball, moving better without the basketball, being a better catch-and-shoot shooter. Our hope is that he can become as good as anybody in the country in the pick-and-roll and making decisions. Not just scoring, not just passing but making decisions. Then he’s got to be a tremendous defender. I think we had a season where when he played at a really good pace, he played very well. When he let the game speed him up faster than what he was ready to do, he didn’t play so well. Case in point, look at how well he played against James Madison, look how poor he played against Syracuse. That’s always going to be, you’ve got to read what that defense is giving you. At the same time, on the defensive end, you’ve gotta be the dictator of the tempo of the defensive attack. That’s what we’re looking for from him.

Q: How have you seen Jeremy Hollowell and Hanner Mosquera-Perea progress?

A: The biggest thing for those two, they’re works in progress in a big way. They have the potential. The common thread for those two in the spring and going into the summer is you guys need to win everything. You need to win. You need to win if it’s one-on-one game, if it’s two-on-two, five-on-five, you need to win sprints, you need to win drills, whatever it is. You need to really put an emphasis on winning. That sounds very basic, but it’s very, very important. The bottom line is they can’t just exist and be out there. What they require of themselves, that can go either way. When you’re around Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey and Jordan Hulls, you see, ‘OK, this really works if I spend a lot of time in the gym.’ But it can’t be sporadic. The reason Victor is Victor is he was here 365 days a year. Will’s the same way. Jordan’s the same way. There’s no 330 days. There’s no 250 days. There’s no, ‘I’ll shoot once in a while after practice or a workout.’ It’s every day. The best I’ve ever been around, that’s the way they are. That’s. The. Way. That. They. Are. That’s what those two have got to develop. They’ve shown signs of that. But Jeremy has got to be a guy again, both of them have gotta have a defensive mindset. Jeremy’s become so much better at shooting the ball, but Jeremy’s gotta have a just as strong desire to be a great defensive player. The No. 1 thing that still stops him is his lack of emotion that he plays with, his lack of communication on the court that he plays with. He’s extremely smart. He’s very good at understanding what to do, but he doesn’t always share it with everybody. When you’re smart, you’ve got a responsibility to bring it to everybody else. We need him to become Christian Watford — and I said this to him the other day — we don’t need Christian Watford sophomore year from Jeremy Hollowell. We need Christian Watford junior and senior year from Jeremy Hollowell. Because Christian could do tremendous things on the break. He became a much better shooter, went from 32 percent to the high 40s. Jeremy needs to do that for us. It’s not going to come on volume, it’s going to come on efficiency. Again, that’s the phrase of this group. Anyone who thinks they’re going to become a volume-level player on shooting, it’s never going to work that way. What are you going to do inside of what you’re doing? To me, that’s Hollowell. He’s gotta be a great offensive rebounder. He’s got to get to the foul line off drives, off offensive rebounds  and off post-ups, because he’s gotta become one of our leading free throw attempt guys. Got to be much better at on-the-ball and off-the ball defense. That’s what will help him. That’s what will help him. I’ve seen enough to know it’s in there. I’ve seen enough to know that emotion is there too. But he’s gotta bring it out, because he can go a lot of different ways on this team. He can be one of our mainstays or he could be a support player. It could go a lot of different ways. It’s going to come down to, does he have a dominant spirit when he plays, and is he trying to win everything. In Hanner’s case, never been around a guy who has improved his footwork around the perimeter in as short of a period of time than what Hanner has. Now, what that leads to, we’ll see.  He should become an effective shooter for us away from the bucket. Still struggles in tight spaces. We need to keep the game very simple for him on move, counter-move, both sides of the basket, relentless offensive rebounder. He’s got to play with tremendous fight. If there’s one concern I have with him since he’s been here is he needs to play harder longer. I’ve seen him do some things in high school and even in practices last year at times that, ‘Whoah, OK, there’s the real deal.’ But I’ve also seen him migrate into the woodwork a little bit and just become another guy. He’s far too long, athletic and nasty to be one of those guys. He has to have a high-level of toughness daily, which turns into a nastiness. Then you’re going to have a very good player. We’ll have a very good player.

Q: Is he getting the base fundamentals, just catching the ball and the very basics?

A: Yeah. He still struggles in tight spaces. We’re not trying to give him 50 things to do. Because he’s not there. We’re trying to give him things, ‘Move-countermove. Move-countermove.’ And get a face-up game. I had a great visit with Bo Outlaw last week, who was a 14-year pro. Every time I think of Bo Outlaw’s play or have a chance to visit with him about what made him effective, I think of Hanner Perea. And just energy, movement, attack you, couldn’t get around him. Hanner, I mean, God gave him some real gifts with his body and athleticism and length. Now it’s a matter, he’s gotta develop that great spirit of toughness and let that be his No. 1 strength and let the other stuff evolve as it comes. Because again, the improvement’s there. His footwork on the perimeter has really gotten good.

Q: I guess I’ll ask about the injured guys together, how have Austin and Peter been?

A: Austin’s had a great summer. He really has. He just started going up and down the court, I haven’t seen him go up and down the court yet. So it’s just starting now as they’re starting to play. Great summer. Gotten stronger. As strong as anybody on our team. Has to be, we’ve really worked hard on him to speed him up. He’s one of those guys that would shot fake whether it was 90 degrees out or 9-below. Whether it was dark, whether it was light. It didn’t make any difference. There’s gotta be more of an efficiency to his game. Rip-throughs and shot fake in the right situations, and all about not being a systematic, regimented player but a guy who plays with more freedom. If he could become a Kyle Kuric who played at Louisville, if he could become that for us, it would mean so much to our team. He’s gotta make shots, he’s gotta be efficient with what he has, he’s gotta be better on the backboards, he’s going to have to be more committed as a defender. What he doesn’t maybe have in lateral quickness, he’s gotta make up for with strength toughness and communication. He’s got to see himself as a player. That’s why him missing a year, he would’ve played for us. There’s not a doubt in my mind he would’ve played as the season went on, because he was starting to come on when he got hurt. Now, you lose all of that, how quick can you get that back to where you have that confidence level. That’s what we’re going to be searching for with him.

Peter, he’s our stretch-five. He’s the epitome of a work in progress. He’s not anywhere near where he can go up and down the court consistently there yet. He’s not a two-day-in-a-row guy at full work. It’s gonna take time. But he can make jump shots. He can block shots. He’s got to continue to move better without the ball. This year being his freshman year, we can’t expect a lot from him, we gotta find some things that he can do. In his sense, because it is going to be competitive, he’s gotta do those things really, really well so that he can get on the court and his athleticism can come and grow as he gets healthier.

Q: Talking about new guys, what do you like about what you’re getting from Evan Gordon?

A: I think Evan is what we saw on film when we started studying him. He moves the ball. We’re trying to get Evan to understand that he can be better than what he thinks he is, that he can be really good in the pick-and-roll, that he can be a very efficient shooter. Can’t live in the 30s, he’s gotta be somewhere in the 40s. Gotta make open shots, gotta get to the rim. We think he can be very good. I temper it because I haven’t been around it yet. But he knows how to play. He can make other guys better and he’s tough. So that right there puts him on the court. Can he become a lock-up defender? Can he become a mid-40s to high-40s 3-point shooter? Can he get to the foul line for us? Can we play two smaller guards together and get a lot of things done defensively? There’s a lot of what-ifs. There’s a lot of let’s sees. But as far as being able to play, as far as being a great young man, as far as wanting to win, as far as for all of those things, you can see that.

Q: How about Noah?

A: Noah’s in that 365-day-a-year mode, and he’s just turning 18 this weekend. He’s got a maturity about him. The thing I love about him is that he knows what he doesn’t know, and he’s willing to change it. He’s not one of those guys that things he’s got it figured out and he’s not one of those guys that is oblivious to what he’s got to improve upon. He wants to improve. Now, with that being said, we’ve gotta make sure that he always knows what his strengths are. When he gets to that block, he’s hard to deal with. When he’s ready to shoot, he’s hard to deal with. When he gets tired and stands up and settles, he’s easy to deal with. His length, his athleticism, his toughness, his attitude, his ability to score around the bucket, his ability to rebound, those things are tremendous, and he’s a natural-born-leader. He’s got a chance to be a tremendous leader for us.

Q: Is he a guy that can play the five? He’s like 240.

A: I don’t know if we’ll look at it like that. We really didn’t play with a five last year. The guy that guarded it was 7-foot, but we could switch so much. I think so much of that will come down to versatility defensively, who he can guard on the perimeter. That, I think is going to be a big thing. But even when you build it off of Cody, Cody guarded the post a lot, but we could switch, he could get on to a 1-man, a 2-man. Trap the pick and roll, switch the pick and roll, he could do so many things. That’s what it is to me. That’s what the positional is to me. But it’s too early for me to know. Every year, we have some things we think are really going to be good defensively or offensively, but we’re always adjusting and adding new things based on the players. It’s too early to know where he’ll fit in that. But he’s gonna fit, and he’s gonna be a guy that we can go to and hopefully sooner rather than later.

Q: Sticking with bigs, what have you seen from Luke Fischer so far?

A: Luke had a tough summer because he sublexed his knee early, so he missed a lot of time of the live contact work. But what he’s got is he’s got very good feel. He’s got a shot that’s evolving all the time. He’s got both shoulders around the basket. He can finish. He’s still not where he needs to be at dealing with length, but he’ll get better at that every day. He’s got a great attitude. He’s just got a feel. He’s got a presence about him. He’s gonna play. There’s no doubt he’s gonna play, and I think he’s going to be very effective, whether it’s a ball-screen and roll game, whether it’s a ball-screen and pop game, whether it’s a high-low game, whether you go to him in the post, he can pass the ball. Defensively will be his biggest adjustment, and can he hold his own in the rebounding game at this level, but he’s a pure winner, loves the game, he’s got toughness. He’s got a quiet toughness, it’s going to have to become a more outward toughness, but there’s a toughness there. He’s got a tremendous future.

Q: On Troy Williams. What do you guys expect from him and do you see him as more of a 2 or a 3 guy?

A: I think it will depend on where his ball-handling comes. As far as with his work this summer,  with the required work, one of the quickest-rising guys I’ve ever been a part of coaching. He’s gotta get the requirements of himself. He’s gotta become one of those 365-day-a-year guys here. Because he’s got that kind of upside. He’s just got tremendous athleticism. What I was really happy with is that he really wants to get to the offensive glass. He really wants to run the floor. He’s not afraid to attack the basket. He can really pass the ball. He’s gotta get the mechanics of his footwork and his body getting squared up right, shooting the ball. He’s gotta understand shot selection. His whole thing is going to come down to how much he gets better defensively. The athleticism, the length, the way you draw it up, it’s all there. But he’s gotta get the defensive part. When he does that, he’ll be a guy that can be a finisher for us. He’s going to have every ability offensively to be a finisher for us, but to finish games and win games, you’ve gotta have a guy that can make stops. That remains to be seen with him.

Q: We’ve heard a lot about Stanford Robinson’s motor, what have you seen with him?

A: He’s got body control. He’s got presence. He’s learned that if you don’t work on your weaknesses and you don’t work on building your complete game, they go away from you quickly. He’s gotta be a two-handed player. That’s very, very important. He’s going to have to make open jump shots. As that time comes, he’s gotta be a guy that just feels the game. He can make passes, he gets to the rim. He’s an end-to-end, coast-to-coast kind of player, which I think is going to be really important. He’s got a great attitude. He’s in the gym constantly. He’s in that 365-day-a-year mold. He’s way too quiet for what we need right now and he’s gotta make sure that he gets that right and he’s gotta have that efficiency to play with both hands.

Q: If you can’t play with both hands, that’s obviously not good for a point guard. If you had to pick a backup right now for Yogi, who would you go to in minutes you need to give him space?

A: I don’t know. The point guard to me is the guy that makes the best decisions, who’s got the ball in his hands most of the time, but he’s also the guy that you throw the ball to on the inbounds pass and he makes the best decision there. He’s the guy that throws it ahead. He’s the guy that throws it to the wing. He’s the guy that can read the pick-and-roll. It’s too early to tell. It’s too early to tell. It really is. I think the moment that any one of these guys on this team — we needed more depth at the end of the year. We did not have a consistency of depth. And I think the first time that you get a couple of guys on this team that feel like they’re gonna play no matter what, that’s not gonna be good. I would highly doubt that this season is going to be one where there’s five constant consistent starters. Now, maybe there will be, but I would highly doubt it. Last year, after we got into it. I thought early on we would have more mix-up and lineup changes, but some guys just separated themselves as the year went on. I don’t know if that will happen or not this year. I don’t know if I have that. Would it be Evan? Could Jeremy Hollowell go into a backcourt spot to keep him on the court at some points in time? Again, it’s who’s going to make the right decisions. So, who becomes a low-turnover high-decision maker guy would be those guys that are going to have the ball in their hands when we’ve got to make decisions at the end of shot clocks and of games.

Q: Devin Davis and Collin Hartman, where have you seen them progress?

A: Devin’s growing his confidence. Like Tim Buckley says, he’s the guy you face at Temple. He’s one of those guys. He’s one of those mid-size guys that’s very good around the board. Both he and Collin have to do a great job of listening. They’ve been coached well. We had three years with them where we could tell them things that they needed to get better at. Now they’ve gotta do it. There’s no excuse for Devin not to be a better free throw shooter. There’s no excuse for him to get fatigued. He’s got to be relentless on the backboards. He’s got to be a guy that is a true energy hustle player that develops a perimeter game, that can guard out on the perimeter. He had some show-stopping plays this year in our summer workouts. It’s like, ‘Wow, where did that come from?’ So you see all this upside in him. He and Collin are the same guy. They’ve got to require a what-do-they-require-of-themselves work ethic. It’s too early to tell how good they’ll be in the perimeter defense and things of that nature. Collin has got to be a great ball-mover, an open jump shooter, get in and mix it up on the boards and for what he doesn’t have necessarily with his athleticism again on the perimeter defensively or in the post he’s gotta make up for with strength and communication and intelligence. But he’s going to have to make open shots for us. No question.

Q: How has he done with the shooting so far?

A: It’s too early to tell. We haven’t done as much five-on-five, but the thing that attracted me to him the most was not his shooting, was his ball movement. His ability to pass and move the ball. He’s got some Will Sheehey traits. Now, will he have a Will Sheehey work ethic. He’s a guy that you should really be able to trust on the court. He’s not going to try to do things that aren’t there. He can get guys shots, he can make open shots and he knows offense. That’s what I think’s most important for him.

Q: Going back to Devin, the knock on him was always that he doesn’t have a position….

A: Inch for inch, he’s gotta be the toughest guy around. That’s the thing. That’s why this program is great for a guy like him. Because we’re not locked in to what position you are, we’re locked in to, ‘Are you multi-positional?’ That means, are you versatile? Can you do different things? The worst thing to happen is for us to try to say, ‘OK, he’s really gotta be a jump-shot maker.’ You know what, the best thing is he gets defensive boards and he takes off with it and he goes down the court. The best thing is he’s relentless in the alley area, the baseline area and offensive rebounding. The best thing is they find him and you drop it off to him for a dunk. The best thing is that he’ll take charges defensively. He doesn’t have any idea how good he can be. That’s one thing I noticed this summer. He doesn’t have any airs that he’s too good. He doesn’t know how good he can be, and now he’s gotta get a work ethic that makes him believe, like Vic had. Vic came in, Vic didn’t have any idea if he was good enough, but he worked every day to make sure there was no doubt. And that’s what our freshman class has gotta be like. There has to be a humbleness about them that they’re constantly trying to get.

The other guy I would add would be Johnny Marlin, because he’s got a chance to get in the mix. He’s gotta make open shots, he’s gotta play harder and better and stronger defensively and he’s just gotta deliver the ball. There’s a guy that can definitely get in the mix with it. Then the two walk-ons, Andrew Caleremis and Joe Fagan. They’ve both got toughness. We didn’t have anything with Joe Fagan this summer, but I loved him in high school. Those guys, you come in as freshmen like that, maybe your best days are in practice, well, maybe you challenge for minutes. To me, that’s what we’re going to be looking for there.

Q: I can’t imagine you have an answer for this, but if you had to pick starters and a rotation right now, what would it be?

A: I tried to do it this summer. I actually did. I said, ‘Well, what about him?’ ‘What about him.’ I really couldn’t get much past an eight. It’s too early to tell. I think what’s going to happen is the best thing that could happen is this team is none of them get too comfortable. I don’t know if we’re going to have the maturity because we’re so young to have guys that think, ‘Yeah, I’m good. I’m all set.’ I think there’s gotta be a scrap, there’s got to be a hunger, there’s got to be a competition. You always want it, but a lot of times things play themselves out where there’s guys that are just better than the other guys. I don’t know if that will happen this year. I think we’re building this team to say, ‘We’ve gotta have depth so that we can do what we want to do defensively. We’ve got to be able to pressure the ball more. We’ve got to be able to bring fatigue to the game. We brought fatigue to the game a lot last year, we didn’t bring fatigue to the game as many times as we needed to. Sometimes it was because we were so good at so many different things, we could still win doing what we do. Well this year, again, it’s going to be a little different. I think that’s the fun of coaching. We don’t know where that’s going to be yet. I can not tell you what I would view as a rotation. I can’t name who’s going to work into that. It’s not the practices that do that. It’s the extra work.  If you just got a program where everybody does what’s required and nobody does extra, then it’s a little easier. But when you have a program where guys are really hungry and the work ethic, culture in here is one where I’m going to do a lot more  and I want to work at it because I want to be something really great, you have a chance to separate from guys more. That’s what happened last year. Victor got better and better and better because his work ethic stayed consistent the entire way. And that’s what you want to have happen.

Q: Does this become a pressure team?

A: I have a lot of different thoughts for things that we can do. My offseason study has not been as much about what we did well, it’s about what was done against us that we need to get better at. A lot of it is there were times when people held the ball, we didn’t have the team that could change that. You had teams that totally changed the way they played to play against us. Not a Wisconsin, they’re going to play the way they played. But we had other teams that changed the way they’re going to play. We went back and did some studies that the average time they held the ball in a regular game versus how long they held it against us was sometimes seven, eight, nine seconds more.  That’s eternity. We’ve got to speed that up. Absolutely. My mind has been, ‘OK, the offense could change in the half court and how do we do certain things in the break. But how do we get to the foul line more. Cody was ninth in the country in free throw attempts. I look at that number, we’re darn near 1,000 free throw attempts. The best thing we did over the last couple of years is cut down our fouling. So how do we keep doing that. To me, how do we cut down our fouling? How do we pick up our pressure? How do we get more easy baskets? How do we do that. To me, that’s been the thrill of the offseason. It really has.

16 comments

  1. Very informative.

    Thank you – and I see no reason for you to apologize in advance for anything. Au contraire! Your usual fine work!

  2. So glad I found this website in the last couple years. Really appreciate the updates and informative pieces like this. Thanks Dustin, keep up the good work and GO HOOSIERS!

  3. Dustin

    Definitely a “Blue Ribbon” interview. Very well done.

    Some people may ask “where are the hard questions?”; if so, the questions you asked were more important, pertinent, informative, and interesting than any hard question could have been.

    Once again, thanks.

  4. Dustin…. Every once in a while I get pleasantly surprised. I thought this was actually extremely insightful. Maybe it’s because I’ve been listening to so many Belichick interviews lately.

    It’s funny, but at times Crean’s energy annoys me… At the beginning of this interview it was having that affect. But I battled through it and by the end I was jacked up. Made me really miss coaching… The nuances of the off-season.

    One of my favorite reads in a while D – thanks.

  5. Good job, Dustin! The harder questions can come after the season starts. It wouldn’t get you anywhere to ask him now anyway.

  6. Arnold,

    crean’s poor grammar and strange way of speaking. his unusual phrasing that soon becomes part of the vernacular of posters and journalists here.

  7. I thought the interview was ok. Not a classic, but that was stated beforehand. Enough to quench our thirst until the season starts I guess. Crean is Crean I guess. Always positive about everything, which is a great attitude to have.

  8. Ugh. So many softball questions you’d think Dustin was CTC’s press secretary.

    Dustin, to make up for this you better be called out at least 3 times this year by CTC during post game pressers.

  9. coachv, ever listen or read an interview with Wilson? Come on, we’re not hiring people with degrees in English of Public Speaking for head coaching jobs. The value of the interview is found in looking past the grammar and discerning the content of what Crean is saying. For example, I found it interesting that Sheehey was considered to have a “Lone Ranger” mentality in his workouts.

  10. Yea, those softball questions reminded of most of the interviews or press conferences conducted with our country’s current President.

  11. Wow what a rough bunch. First of all I was very happy with this article as it gave insight into these names I have been hearing about. I am excited also, we have some talent coming in and if they can come together by the end of the season should be a force to be dealt with. Go Hoosiers!! Coach is coach and seems to me to have a very good idea where his players are and where they need to go. Coach to me has proven himself by getting where we went last year with a team that had a couple of over achievers. Thank god its not going to be the 1st, 2nd or 3rd seasons the Crean had. I wish that all of you critics could be put in his position and then we would see how you would do, especially the name dropping “coaches”. I also understand that it wouldn’t matter who we had for a coach there would be arm chair coaches second guessing them. The article did what I wanted it to do, thanks for the info and thanks a million Coach Tom Crean for all that you have given us.

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