Crean, assistants talk Samford, signees

Got lots of writing to do, so I’ll just give you guys the transcript from today’s press conference, which combined discussion of both tomorrow’s Samford game and the signings of Robert Johnson and James Blackmon. Max Hoetzel also signed, but Crean said he had not received a third letter of intent as of the time of the press conference. The transcript, produced by the angels among men who work at ASAP sports,follows.

TOM CREAN

TIM BUCKLEY

STEVE McCLAIN

KENNY JOHNSON

 

COACH CREAN:  What we’ll do is we’ll talk about the game and the team first, and then we’ll talk about the recruiting, and then we’ll do Q & A twice, keep it all specific to the game or the team and then we’ll keep it all specific to recruiting.

First things first, when it comes to the game, it’s not just another game.  They never are.  But when we’re dealing with somebody like Bennie Seltzer who has had such a hand in the development and the re-establishing of this program over the past few years, Bennie was here through every tough period, through every tough moment, through all those tough years, and was just an absolute study in perseverance, in the sense of how he continued to have incredible energy every day, how he continued to make the players better, his recruiting was phenomenal.  He was the point person on some ‑‑ just some of the key people over a period of time that helped this program come back to where it is in the sense of Christian Watford and Victor Oladipo and Maurice Creek and just did so many different things to help us get this program where it needed to be.

And I had no doubt he’d be a successful head coach, and he obviously is being that.  He had the best record they’ve had in some time last year inside of the conference.  They’re recruiting well.  They’re playing well.  They do a lot of the same things we did here and they do them very well.  In fact, watching some of the plays, I think we need to get some of those back in.  They made me realize just how far away we are from having enough stuff in right now and where our program is at in the sense of trying to get things developed.

Bennie is going to do a great job.  Rarely have I ever been in a situation or played many guys ‑‑ I played against many guys that we worked with, and I get it.  I get why we don’t.  Because it’s not ‑‑ it’s a preparation, and it just feels different because you don’t ‑‑ you want somebody that you’re with like that to be extremely successful, you just don’t want them to be successful tomorrow night.

You go through your periods where you’ve been through so many things together, the highs and lows, and you’re so excited to see them get their opportunity and you don’t want to do anything to get in the way of it.  But for a couple hours tomorrow night, that’s what it is, and I’m sure that Bennie and his group will feel the same way.

They come in, Tim Williams can play in the sense that he’s averaging 14 and 14.  He’s a hard guy to deal with of the angles that he creates inside, because of the strength that he plays with.  Raijon Kelly is an excellent guard.  They’re getting deeper.  They shoot the ball well.  They’ve got numerous guys that can make threes, and they’ve already been on the road, so it’s not like we’re going to be their first road test.

We know it’s going to be a very, very competitive game.  They want to get up and down the court.  They’re not coming in to try to play slow.  We’re going to have to play much better defensively than what we did the other night.  We haven’t spent a ton of time on the court in preparation for this, but we’ve spent enough time to make sure that we’ve got our points down of how we’ve got to guard the ball, what we’ve got to do in the sense of our help defense, what we’ve got to do in transition defense, and what we’ve got to continue to do to understand how important spacing is involved when we get the ball in the lane is.

We’re excited to play.

Q.  Is it tougher to some extent for the coaches than the players to go against someone that used to work with you?

COACH CREAN:  I think it always is, yeah.  When players are going against other players that they know well, it brings a different level of juice sometimes.  I don’t think there’s any question about that.  But I mean, but we’ve been down the line.  Steve has been with Bennie.  Tim and myself were with Bennie for just countless days, and Kenny and Bennie have a ‑‑ say that five times fast.  They have a great relationship.  They’ve known each other for so long because before Kenny was in college coaching he was in high school coaching, in AAU coaching, and we were getting to know him through that process with Maurice and Victor.  Everybody is a attached that way, Jayd Grossman and Tim Garl, some of the players that aren’t here, but he was a part of the groundwork of the Yogi class and certainly was here for Will and Austin and he was a part of it.

It’s just another challenge, but it’s part of it, and you figure if you coach long enough you’re going to go against some guys that you’re like brothers with.

 

Q.  He has six new faces on the team; do you talk to him a lot about what he’s going through with all the new players?

COACH CREAN:  No, I think you always want to be supportive if you can, but you never want to get in the way, and I saw him a couple weeks ago at Victor’s first game.  He came up for that.  I thought that was pretty strong on his behalf.  We brought him back last year for the Ohio State game because we fully anticipated winning that game that night, and we wanted him to be here for it, and unfortunately as you know we didn’t win the game, but he was here, spoke to the team before the game.

So you really don’t want to get in his way on things, but I mean, when I watch them on film, I see a very quick, athletic team that is executing at a good rate.  They’re learning, they got pressed a lot the other night by Texas A&M.  They dealt with that.

I think there’s no question he could come in here and change defenses, play his own, do different things.  I mean, if anybody learned anything on our staff in the first three years, it’s there was nothing that we wouldn’t try to win a game when it came to a scheme, when it came to an X and O, when it came to a play, when it came to a defense.  I hope he never has to go through trying to have walk‑on tryouts all the way through February like we did.  Hopefully he won’t have to do that, but I think he’s doing an excellent job.

 

Q.  How often do you talk to him about being a first‑time head coach?

COACH CREAN:  No, I think he’s done a great job with that.  I think, again, he worked for Kelvin, too, and he had an unbelievable role for Kelvin Sampson when he was at Oklahoma, and he was as close to an associate head coach as you could possibly be in that environment.  So he’s been well‑versed.  We’re talking about a guy that went to Washington State from Alabama and went out there and made an impact.  He’s very, very good.  He’s got a great head on his shoulders, got an excellent mind, quick mind, innovative mind, and I think you just always want to be there in a sense if they need anything.

But it’s not like I call and say, hey, you need to do this, you need to do that.  I would if I saw something like that, but I think he’s doing an outstanding job.

 

Q.  You talked about the similarities in the way they play, but what are some of the differences?

COACH CREAN:  It’s a good question.  I think they run a lot of the same offenses.  There’s no question about that.  He’s added his own tweaks.  I think he’s got a team that he can play pressure defense with.  I think he’s got a lot of things in his playbook that he hasn’t brought out yet.  I’ve got a feeling we’re going to see some of those tomorrow night.  I don’t know if I have a great answer to that because they’ve only played a couple of games.  But I think what he’s coaching with is a tremendous spirit, and he took that team into some tough environments last year, and they did some really good things.

And they had their best‑ever conference record in that league.  He got them to .500 in his first year.  That’s pretty strong.  When you’re trying to rebuild something and you get to a point like that you know it’s just going to keep getting better and better, so I don’t know if I have a great answer on what would be different.

 

Q.  You mentioned our defense.  What are some other keys to tomorrow night’s game?

COACH CREAN:  Well, we need to understand much quicker what the game is giving us, and we could have made on the bench a few more adjustments, especially defensively in that game, but it was more important that we get out and learn how to play right now.  It’s more important that Noah Vonleh knows how to guard a guard.  If we’re going to be a team that can do multiple things, switch, we’ve got to learn how to do that, and I don’t think we could get a better I’ve got to learn at this point in the season than we did with Brickman the other night and the way that he played.

We’ve got to stay true to whatever coverage we’re in.  I think we broke coverages a lot the other night defensively because we weren’t as comfortable with them, and I get that.  I know we’re not as comfortable because it’s more about the principles and fundamentals of defense.  So when we had our coverage of we’re going to jam, get under, try to take away the outlet passes and make it hard, we didn’t trust that yet because we haven’t done it.  We haven’t had any success with it yet.  I think we’ve got to do a better job of what we’re in we’re in and continue to communicate better.  I think our transition defense has got to be way better.  We did things in that game, transition defense‑wise that we’re not coached to do that we don’t do in practice, didn’t look good on film, and I think what happened the other night is defensively we tried to take some shortcuts.  We tried to take some path‑of‑least‑resistance moments, and we can’t do that.  You can’t do that against anybody, but you can’t do it at Indiana.  We’re not going to do it at Indiana, and I think our guys will be much better there.

Offensively they really learned a great lesson.  We learned a lesson, too.  We probably in a two‑hour‑and‑10‑minute practice on Sunday spent at least an hour to an hour and 10 minutes in just offensive spacing alone with some sets, some actions, but just very importantly spacing.

But got out there on Tuesday night and it looked like it was our first night together.  I think we learned a lot as a staff about we really are young, and so you know what, we’ve got to stay with it.  We’ve got to do it again.

We’re behind in certain areas, and I get that, and it’ll get better.  But we’ve got to keep imploring guys to understand this is what the game is giving you and it starts with reversals, it starts with getting the ball inside out, it starts with penetrations in the lane, it starts with making the next pass, and then everything plays off of that, everything.  We’re trying to get players comfortable ‑‑ right now the more you can attack the basket in transition, the better you’re going to be, because it’s an offensive game right now in the sense ‑‑ and we had it cost us the other night.

I mean, it’s very, very hard to play one‑on‑one defense right now, and the more that you can create that in transition the better that you’re going to be.

So we’re going to look at certain times maybe like we’re not as under control or ‑‑ I’m okay with that.  We’ll get that figured out.  We’ve got a lot of guys doing things in college basketball that they’ve never done before, so we’ve got to grow into that.  It’s a long season.  But at the same time we’ve got to make simple plays.  We’ve got to hit the open man, make the simple play, get it inside.  A guy like Noah has got to be far more demanding with his presence and a little bit more with his voice but far more with his presence.  Hanner has got to be more demanding.  We’ve got to play through fatigue a little better.

I’m really anxious to see how we play, and I’m glad we’ve got another game Sunday and two games against next week because we need to get this experience under our belts so to speak quickly.

 

Q.  You talked about how important that game was for the players.  How important was it as coaches to get a game under your belt?

COACH CREAN:  I think it’s very important, but you don’t accept it.  I don’t think you go into the film room the next day or to practice and say, it’s okay.  We’ll be okay.  No, no, you’ve got to get it corrected.  And what we learned is that we have to stay true to the teaching, to the fundamentals, to the day after day repetitions that might seem tedious, that might get boring, but we have to do it because it’s not just engrained.  It’s just not engrained yet.  It’s not like they don’t want to, it’s just not engrained yet.

The other night, I mean, we got a dose of ‑‑ and we said this the other night, the defense packed it in.  They respected the driving, they respected the post game and we allowed them to gain confidence ‑‑ we allowed them from the very beginning to think they could win the game, and that just snowballed for them.  They just kept getting more confidence.

Well, fortunately for us we didn’t play like a young team when it came to winning the game.  We didn’t have any bad body language.  We didn’t have any pouting.  We didn’t have any woe‑is‑me.  We didn’t have any victim basketball.  We had all, we’re going to get through it, and I don’t think we win the game ‑‑ because that’s an NCAA Tournament team in my mind.  It’s a great test for us.  But we don’t win the game if any of that happens.  We just kept going and we started to figure out what the game was giving us, and by far it was not anything close to what I would call a good game, but it was a great game for learning how to compete, stay with it and figure it out.  So that was invaluable.

 

Q.  Talk about Raijon Kelly, their guard.

COACH CREAN:  Well, I think they can do multiple things.  I think they can ‑‑ they’re doing a really good job with their spacing, and next pass is way ahead of where we are right now, and I get that.  It’s going to take us a bit to get to that point.  So they know how to move the ball.  They get to the rim.  They can attack in transition.  They get the ball reversed.  They have a point guard that really tries to move the ball.  And at the same time they’ve got a good threat inside with Williams.

I don’t think it’s a game where you can look at it and say they’ve got one or two guys and we’re just going to pinpoint those guys because then all of a sudden they’re going to knock down threes.  I think what they have to do is just no matter what defense we’re in we’ve got to stay true to the coverage, be athletic and active and try to limit them to one shot.

 

COACH CREAN DISCUSSES RECRUITING

COACH CREAN:  Recruiting‑wise, and again, this is why these guys are up here, too, recruiting is always a team effort.  It’s a team effort with your players.  It’s a team effort with your support staff.  It’s a team effort with your fans and the way that they support and care about the program and the way they turned out for the Hoosier hysterias and the games.  But we wouldn’t be anywhere without what these guys are doing, because you’ve got to have ‑‑ you’re not going to win without great point guard play, and these guys really are the point guards per se of what we’re doing because they know where everybody needs to be.  They know exactly what we need.  They recruit at a high level.  They don’t just recruit in a one‑ or two‑dimension way.  They recruit the whole gamut.

For our recruiting class this year, I think it’s a sign of the times that whatever way we looked at recruiting in the past, it’s all changing now.  It’s all changing, so you’ve got to be able to adjust with it.  It’s like the new rules.  Who adjusts the best gets it.  Well, you’ve got to stay true to what you want, and we tried to stay true to getting people that have athletic upside, that had that character and work ethic upside, have that intelligence upside and that are really competitive and from winning programs, and I think we hit that.  I think we absolutely hit that.

We hit on getting people that come from winning programs, not just good teams.  We hit on getting people from excellent families, and we hit on getting people that are well coached.

I’ll start with the way that that came down in Robert Johnson, Jr.  We got a guy that plays with an edge.  He has a determination about him.  He was one of those guys that was known but relatively unknown nationally until the summer came, and he went out there and established what he could do.  And we started recruiting him even while James was committed because we felt the two of them could play together.  And even after James decommitted and during the recruiting process to get him to come back with us, we never wavered on those two together could be phenomenal.

To have it turn out this way is excellent because with where we’re at, we’re trying to get multidimensional, versatile attack, downhill players that can make shots, and Robert Johnson can do all that.  He can play off the ball, he can play ‑‑ he can handle the ball.  He can play down the middle.  He can play off the wing.  He can shoot the three.  He’s got a tenacity defensively.  He’s got a strong work ethic.  He’s got a humility that we love.  He was very, very easy for the players to enjoy when he was on a visit.  A couple of them knew him from that part of the country but most didn’t, and he fit in extremely well.

He comes from a home where they want the best for him.  They’ve preached education.  He’s done an outstanding job in school.  Year‑round winner like I said in high school and in the AAU program and wants to be a great player.  So we were very, very fortunate to get him.  His tenacity, his ability to make plays and make shots, his ability to deliver the basketball, his ability to get up into people defensively helps him right off the bat.

One of the letters isn’t in yet, and so we have to ‑‑ we’re going to have to skip that right now, but one of the other letters that’s in is James Blackmon, Jr.  This to me, I’ve known him, we’ve known him longer than we’ve known half our team, and getting to know James Blackmon from the very beginning, in June of 2010 when he came up to a camp for the first time, all the way through to today when I talked to him after he’d signed, it has been an absolute privilege to be a part of that family, because when you start to think about families, and we’ve recruited some really great families at Indiana; that’s a family right there.  His mom and dad not only are you getting a well‑coached young man but you’re getting a young man that’s coached by his dad.  And what he did with Deshaun Thomas in high school and the way he’s won at Luers High School is fantastic.  So you know you’re getting somebody that’s bringing ‑‑ James has an ability to do so much, and he’s being pushed to do a lot, and that’s going to be very, very key when he gets here.

James is a phenomenal shooter with phenomenal range.  He’s getting better every day with his ball handling, with his driving.  He is one of the best open‑court players that I have ever personally been a part of recruiting.  He’s growing.

I think the greatest thing to me about James is how he recovered from his knee injury and what he did to take that ‑‑ that chip on his shoulder of being a great player just got bigger and bigger, and sometimes when you go through an injury like that, you can go the other way.  He didn’t.  He went the way of becoming better and better.  I think he’s just scratching the surface athletically.  I think he’s just scratching the surface as a player.  In my mind we got the absolute best player in the state of Indiana, and there was no debate for us for a long, long time that he was that guy.  And not just because of what he’s doing but because of what he can do in high school, and then what I think he can do here.

He is going to become a guy that is going to be able to handle that ball.  He’s got point guard skills.  He has got versatility, and he’s got a want‑to, and again, he just knows how to play.  He knows how to win.  He can fit in any environment.  It’s like Tim Buckley would say, he can make a shot in Marion, Indiana, he’s going to be able to make a shot in Assembly Hall, he can make a shot in a third world country, not knowing anybody.  He can shoot the ball.

We knew going in that that was going to be an absolute must for us was to get better there, and so we addressed our needs with a capital N, I guess, so to speak, in the way that we recruited.  But to get the quality of young men, to get the way that they are as people and their families and to bring those families in here and to bring young men that really know how to win, that’s a big deal.

And going through the process with James, even after the decommitment, I got it.  You know, I got it at that time, why he decommitted.  He had never been anywhere else.  He had never seen another school.

A few years ago ‑‑ you grow as a parent, you grow as a coach.  I mean, I got it.  Sometimes people can decommit, and it’s the best thing that can happen for you.  That was not the case with James.  We really wanted him to be here, and we were willing to be in the fight.  We were willing to be in the fight, and that’s what it was because everybody else wanted him, too.  He’s an outstanding player.

But it helped the relationship continue to not only grow but to cement.  It gave him a different perspective, and I think it made him or helped him I should say appreciate Indiana that much more and appreciate what it means to play in the state of Indiana because he is a young man from Indiana.  He got a chance to see some great programs.  He got a chance to see them showing what they had to offer, their best.  But the great thing about him is you always knew when we didn’t have it.

 

Q.  Were you surprised that you got three guys that are known for their great shooting?

COACH CREAN:  I’ll answer the first part because I think this is big.  People know we’ve got a lot of really good parts here, and we’ve got ‑‑ young men when they come in, the one thing that continues to grow is the astute view that they take on where they fit in and how they’re going to fit, because obviously more and more, it’s about how do you play early, and especially at a place like Indiana.  I think people could come in here and say there’s a real need, these guys are really good, there’s a lot of talent here, but I think I can come in and really impact it because that’s what we needed.  So that’s my view.

TIM BUCKLEY:  I think with both James and Robert, you’ll all enjoy watching them play because they’re very good basketball players.  Even in the summertime sometimes when you watch games and they aren’t as pleasant to watch sometimes because they play so many games, both of those guys have a great feel.  They know how to play.  And it’s even neat to watch them miss shots because those shots are so nice and soft and they put it up there on the rim and every time both of them shoot it you think it’s going to go in, but they also do a great job of getting other people shots.

We felt they were really good basketball players to fit in what we already have, and not only will they do well here but they’ll also accentuate what the other guys do here.

 

Q.  Tim, did it hurt at some level for Blackmon to decommit?

TIM BUCKLEY:  Well, because of the relationship we all had with them, they all understood where it was coming from, and they explained it was because he needed to see some other things, and we felt in the long run because he was somebody we really wanted here, it would only make that bond grow stronger, and that’s exactly what it did.  Now I think he feels even more excited and positive about his decision.

 

Q.  You got what you wanted from this class obviously, but with all the twist and turns, was this one of the strangest recruiting classes?

COACH CREAN:  Well, I think to a degree.  But here again, it’s all part of the 24/7 news cycle right now.  It’s like last year with the over‑signing.  We couldn’t necessarily talk about on a daily basis what we thought was going to happen in‑house.  You just can’t do that.  You’ve got to continue to recruit, recruit and recruit, and you’d better have flexibility.  You’d better have thick skin.  You’d better not get your feelings hurt and you’d better be able to adjust on the fly, but at the same time with that being said you never get away from what the priorities are.

So I think what happens is you can’t ‑‑ you’ve got to have a plan, okay, another plan, a contingency plan and then a contingency plan for the contingent plan.  You just do.  And I think if you don’t do that, it’s like the world now, you’ve got to keep moving with it.  It’s like these new rules.  You’ve got to keep adjusting to the game.  Every game is different.  How do you adjust to it?

I think the way it has gone thus far, it was all worth it.  There’s no question it was worth it because we got the guys that we wanted to.  It was worth waiting for James.  He was that special to us, and that family epitomizes the kind of family you want in your program.  You want them around your other parents.  You want them around your program.  And at the same time we knew there was risk, so we’d better have a plan for that risk.

It’s the same thing last year with the over‑signing.  You constantly have to have ‑‑ you have to have the ability to adapt, okay, but you also have to have the stick‑to‑itiveness to say, okay, this could happen, this may not happen, we’ve got to stay with it, but this is what our priorities are, and I thought we pretty much cracked our priorities, so I feel pretty good about that.

KENNY JOHNSON:  Honestly I think it’s the people that we’re bringing in.  You’re bringing in individuals who are coming to play for the University.  They believe in what the program stands for and they’re coming to add to that, first and foremost.  You talk to those guys, the first thing they talk about is winning a championship.  Their personal goals, while you can tell by how hard they push themselves and how they continue to get better day in and day out that they have personal goals, but their personal goals are definitely secondary.  They’re as excited about the other members of the class that are coming in with them and they’re excited to see the guys that are here currently succeed as they can possibly be.  And when you have that and you’re bringing in people with their abilities, on‑court abilities, you know they’re going to fit into the culture.  And that’s the most exciting thing is you’re bringing in people that are highly skilled, highly talented, who want an education but actually fit into your current culture that you have, that’s like hitting a home run.

 

Q.  What do you like most about the class?

COACH CREAN:  You’re always recruiting, always.  I can’t give you any clearer answer than that.  And you know what, everybody is.  We’ve got a lot to offer here.  You’ve got a chance ‑‑ it’s proven that you can come in here and get better.  You can come in here and you can achieve your dreams.  You can come in here and you can be ahead of the game academically in the sense of being a three‑year graduate, three‑and‑a‑half‑year graduate.  Maybe there’s another Cody Zeller out there that can graduate in two and a half years like he would have done if he was here.

You’re going against a lot of people that take a lot of pride in their niche.  We’ve got a pretty strong niche, too, and we’ve got incredible fan base, we’ve got all the facilities and a great University with all those different things.  But you can achieve what you want to achieve here now, and for a couple of years we had to point to the past of what Indiana had always done.  Well, now we can point to the present, the most immediate present that we’ve just had this past year, and to the people that we’re recruiting.

So you always want to stay as completely open.  You have to keep having those plans.  It’s not like the recruiting period ends and you say, okay, we don’t have to worry about that.  We’re so far into it with other classes and different ‑‑ I mean, you know that.  You guys know that.

You never say never on that.  You’ve got to have your contingency plan constantly.

 

Q.  Do you anticipate signing anyone in the spring?

COACH CREAN:  Well, I think, again, recruiting is a case study because every recruit is a different person, and I think it’s the same with that.  That worked out with Evan last year, because think about it, you guys know this as well as I do, we were over‑signed by three and then all of a sudden we were under by one.  It happens, so you’d better know where they’re at.  I don’t have much of a clue on that right now, but I’m sure ‑‑ you just have to know.  That doesn’t mean you’re recruiting anybody, doesn’t mean you will, doesn’t mean you won’t, you just have to know.  You hope you don’t have to use all the late‑game plays that you have or use all the late‑game plays that the other team has, but you’d better have them.  You’d better have them there ready.

We don’t have any plans on that right now.  It’s not like we’re sitting there and have a board for that like we have a board for freshmen and sophomores and juniors, but you see what happens.

Do you got anybody in mind?  Do you know of anybody out there?  I’ve heard about your game.

 

Q.  How did the development of Victor help on the sales pitch for recruits?

STEVE McCLAIN:  Young players watched the guy, and one thing we talk about with young players is not only Victor but Cody and still Will in the program, are you ready.  And I think Victor has already shown not only was he good enough to be the No. 2 pick, what he’s already done in the NBA, he was NBA ready.  Somebody didn’t just say wake up and say, let’s go be in the draft.  When he chose to do that, he knew he was ready.  Cody was ready.

I think that is ‑‑ I know that’s one thing that these young guys looked at when they were looking at when they looked at is Indiana the best for us.  There’s no question, the development of those guys has played a big role in this.

 

Q.  Two more players from the East Coast; do you think Indiana has more reach now than it did two or three years ago?

COACH CREAN:  Well, I think the bottom line is this is one of the greatest alumni bases in the country, so that’s going to put your name in a lot of different places.  Then you tack on the fact that Indiana has had all the success it’s had for decades and the way it’s viewed as a basketball program.  Then you not only add the ESPN and CBS but now the way the Big Ten Network has taken off, that it’s in a lot more homes than just the Big Ten area, and I think the fact that the Big Ten has branched out to the East continues to enhance it.

But to us you just want to absolutely get the best fit.  We have been able to start at home, really every year but Will and Victor’s year, and I wouldn’t trade either one of those two for anybody, but you try to start at home in an inside out theory, and like I said with James, we feel like we got the best player in the state hands down.  So you want to be able to do that, but you also want to put the people that fit best into your program, best into your locker room, best into your work ethic, fit best with your families, fit best on the court because they want to be great, they have aspirations of the team being great, not just personal ambitions, and in this day and age it’s getting harder and harder to work through that because there’s so much, how quick can I do this, how quick can I do that.  You need to win, and other players want to be around other winners, and you want to get people that can really mesh like that.

Indiana is a national, international program with an international respect, just like it is academically, and again, you don’t really go into it saying we need to target this area, we need to target that area.  You have areas that you’re stronger in, but you really want to go anywhere where you’re going to find people that are absolutely going to fit what you’re trying to do.

 

 

Q.  Before James gave you the call to let you know he was coming here, how confident were you with your efforts to try to get him here?

COACH CREAN:  Oh, it changed.  It changed by the minute.  We knew we were in it.  We absolutely knew we were in it.  But it was worth it.  Not just because we got him but because how we felt about him.  We always thought this was the best place for him because we knew him pretty well and we got a pretty good idea what he needs to do to be as successful as he wants to be.  We know where he wants to go, and we have a pretty good idea with all the time we’ve spent with him of how he’s going to get there.  But to act like, to know that we had it, no.  I didn’t know we had Cody Zeller until he called.

I don’t think you ever put yourself in that position as a coach because I think the moment that you get there is the moment you let your guard down and you can’t do that.  But in these cases, it’s going to get harder and harder.  I think over a period of time now the way recruiting is going, look at all the upcoming announcements that are coming.  You’re going to find out when we find out, we’re going to find out when you find out.  It’s getting harder and harder.  So again, you just deal with the flexibility.  That’s in answer to Dustin’s question what continues to change.  Recruiting has always been a big deal, it’s always been a big business.  Now it’s at another level because of social media and because of the television opportunities.  We’re just getting closer and closer to the way it is in football more and more.

We all knew ‑‑ I felt like we were heading there, just like football is headed closer and closer to the way it is in basketball.  There’s more travel teams, there’s more unofficial visits all over the country.  It’s just the way that it is dealing with young people.

 

Q.  So you did find out when he called?

COACH CREAN:  I didn’t truly know he was coming until he got on that air that night.  I knew what our last conversations were like.  I know what those were like, without question, and I knew what he wanted to do when he got up there.  But actually going up there and doing it and pulling out that hat, I was ‑‑ I wasn’t shocked and I wasn’t ‑‑ but it wasn’t like I had the smile going into it.  We needed to see him put that hat on.  We really did.

So no, that’s the truth.  We talked ‑‑ he’ll tell you, we talked pretty close right up until about when he went on stage.

 

Q.  As you’ve gotten a bigger foothold on the East Coast, how has recruiting evolved?

KENNY JOHNSON:  I think Coach kind of touched on the national exposure of the program.  You’re talking about basketball fans.  People know the history of Indiana.  One of the things that ‑‑ one of the first things they usually talk about is the style of play that Indiana plays with.  People know Coach and the staff, and honestly Coach Buckley and Coach McClain have as many resources and connections out there on the East Coast as anyone I’ve ever met.

But the style of play that we play with, the separating factors I think are well documented, the ability to get a great education, the ability to develop not only mentally as a player on the court but through strength and development, those things are what really attracts individuals to the program.  You’re talking about playing at the highest level of college basketball, and people are trying to achieve their goals.

Like Coach said, we always start close to the home first in this great state because there’s many great basketball players here, but after that we do an exhaustive search to try to find people that we think best fits our program.  You know, and we talk a lot about the East Coast, but I would like to think in the very near future you may hear us talking about the West Coast or internationally like coach said or even down South.  It truly is more about the fit than it is the location of where the individual is.

 

Q.  Have you seen any impact of the Big Ten Network expanding?

COACH CREAN:  Oh, Big Ten Network without a doubt.  Without a doubt.  I think once ‑‑ we’ve always tried to play on the East Coast, not just because we knew that there was expansion coming but because we have so many fans there.  We have so many alums on the East Coast.  The bottom line is you want to bring people in that any Indiana fan is going to be able to identify with as having the values of an Indiana University person and Indiana University basketball player.  We spend more time on trying to make sure we’re finding people that have those characters and values along with that talent level and upside and all those different things as much as anything, and I think the way that compounds it is there’s so many opportunities for people to watch the Big Ten Network on any given night, and when you’re in a program like this where every game is on television, they’re going to be able to build an identity with you.  Do they feel like they really fit with you.

And there’s no question that we’ve had some games over the last couple years that have just been national moments for us, certainly the Kentucky game and the Michigan game and the Michigan State game and all those different things.

Well, it’s what builds up over a period of time, and when young people are watching you play on a given night because you’re on a network that they can watch you on, and then you say, you know what, your parents are going to be able to do the same thing, and your friends and family are going to be able to do the same thing, I think that’s a big deal.  I don’t think there’s any question the Big Ten Network has had a big jump for us nationally.  And I’d be surprised if other people in the league don’t feel the same way.  I’ve never really asked anybody, but I know we’re talking about the Big Ten Network a lot with people.

 

Q.  You mentioned Robert and James playing well together; can you expand on that?

COACH CREAN:  I think that first off they’re winners.  I think second off their versatility.  I think if you look at our team last year, and I know I’ve said this before, we really had two guys play the point but the third one got drafted as the point guard.  Victor went No. 2 because they saw Russell Westbrook.  Is he a 2?  Is he a 1?  Do you know what, positions are so ‑‑ I don’t want to say they’re overrated, but if you’ve got to make a choice between a position and the best player, we’re going to go for the best player and we’ll let somebody else pick the position.  It’s like experience over talent.  We’ll take the talent.  If that talent can get better, we’ll take the talent.

Well, I think it’s the same with those two.  They can play together, they can move the ball, they can play without the ball, they can play downhill, they can shoot the ball, they can get others shots.  They’ve both got to better defensively, but who doesn’t when they’re coming into college.  They’re both going to have to get stronger, but who doesn’t.  They’ve both got to learn the speed and pace of the game, but who doesn’t.

But the bottom line is when you’re skilled, and like Tim said, they play basketball and they know the game, so I don’t think there’s any question that they can play together.  And I think if people are paying attention to us, they know that one of the benchmarks of us right now is versatility and is being able to do different things and getting more guards in here was going to be extremely important because right now basically what we’re doing at the point is our starting 4 man goes back in as the point guard.  It’s the way that it is.  It’s the way that it is.

So I don’t think there’s any question that we had to make sure that we had more guard play.  Last year we basically had six guys at any given point that you could put in the backcourt.  Right now, you know, we don’t have as many, so I think those guys saw that that was a great opportunity.

I’ll say again, these guys do a phenomenal, phenomenal job, and it’s so important that you have a group of guys, and we’ve got point people, like I said, we’ve got point guards, but you’re dealing with three people that are really three interchangeable point guards up here in the way that they facilitate, the way they cover for each other.  It’s really team recruiting.  Somebody might be the point, somebody might have the relationship with this person, somebody might have the relationship with that person.  But none of it works if they can’t make them better.  None of it works if they don’t build true and real relationships.  And none of it works if they don’t communicate, and this staff does all that, and that’s why it’s ironic that Bennie has been up here with us, too, and we’re playing them tomorrow night because we wouldn’t have gotten this program back the way it was with the good people we’ve brought in here without what Bennie does, and we wouldn’t be able to sustain it without what these guys are doing.

3 comments

  1. It’s apparent Coach Crean and staff have gelled as a team and are on the same page. That’s great to see and hear. I’m also pleased Coach and his staff focus on contingency planning, adapting to the situation, ensuring players fit the IU culture, and come from great families. That’s great leadership. There’s not doubt about it. IU basketball is in good hands for years to come.

Comments are closed.