Noah Vonleh and coach Tom Crean met with the media on Thursday afternoon to discuss the IU freshman’s decision to enter the 2014 NBA Draft.
Watch the press conference in the media player below:
A complete transcript is available after the jump.
TOM CREAN: I’m going to have a couple opening remarks, then give it to Noah. I’ll make a couple more remarks after that and then we’ll open it up to Q & A.
This day is completely centered on Noah Vonleh, and he’s earned it. Noah has earned, in a period of his life, I think it became very clear to everybody that he had a chance to maybe I’m speaking on behalf of all the other people that recruited him or have been involved in his life. I know I’m speaking on behalf of us, that it became really clear when we started recruiting, we were recruiting somebody unique, not just because of his size, not just because of his abilities, not just because of his athleticism. Those things are obvious, all right. The talent in him, the skill level, it was there. There’s no question that it has grown at a pace that he’s been on with here.
But more importantly than that, it didn’t take long to see his personality, it didn’t take long to see his character, didn’t take very long at all to see his work ethic, and for someone his age, much like we’ve had with other guys that we’ve been up here with that were 20 and 21 last year when we did that, those things all really, really translate. They translate into how good you are on the court. They translate into how good you are as a teammate. They translate into how coachable you are. They translate into your upside.
And Noah, if you were taking a definition of upside, you could easily put his picture next to that definition because he has it, but it’s more than that. There’s a tremendous amount of substance to what Noah does, and that I think is why he was probably attracted to this program from the beginning, why we were attracted to him, because there is a lot of substance to this program. There’s a lot of it’s been forever, the tradition of it. But we also have a program where people are going to continually get better, and that pace that they’re developed at and the pace that they work at have to go hand in hand.
Well, we’ve put our time into helping him become better, but he has worked as hard or harder than anybody has worked with him. He has got an uncommon work ethic for his age. I’ll give you one example. I’ve never coached a freshman as an assistant coach or head coach in the time that I’ve coached that dives into the film and studies film like he does, and not just the film that we watch as a group but the film that he watches. It took Victor (Oladipo) basically his junior year before he really got that down and transferred that into a big part of how he learned and a big part of how he played. Noah started to do that this year.
Again, it’s his day. We’re extremely proud of him, and I’ll turn it over to Noah.
NOAH VONLEH: I just want to thank God for having me here today to announce that I’ll be going to take my talents to the NBA. I want to thank the whole Indiana staff, Coach Crean, Coach McClain, Coach Buckley, Coach Johnson, Coach Jackson for all helping me get to where I’m at, Coach Crean just pushing me hard every day on the court and off the court to be a better person, a better player, and just taking my game to a different level.
I want to thank Coach Jackson for pushing me in the weight room, helping me put on a lot of weight so I was able to go out there this year and play against top big guys in the country and showcase my skills.
I want to thank Marni Mooney for staying on top of me, pushing me to be determined and finish my work, finish my work and be on top of every school
TOM CREAN: Tell them how close you’ll be to graduation at the end of the semester.
NOAH VONLEH: At the end of the semester I’ll be 43 percent done with my degree and be ready to graduate, so I want to thank her a lot for pushing me to get to that point.
Starting last May when I came up here, I just came in with the right mindset and wanted to complete all my work, and she helped me out a lot and motivated me to get to this point.
I want to thank my mom, my AAU coach Ben, my high school coach Pete Hutchins, my other high school coach Mike Trovato for pushing me and helping me get to this point.
TOM CREAN: And some of these guys that you had even back before then in Massachusetts, good to throw their names out there.
NOAH VONLEH: I want to thank some of my AAU coaches like Barry Spears, who helped me start AAU basketball in like the fifth grade and helped me get a passion for basketball. That’s about it. Guys like Scott Hazelton, who mentored me and helped me build a love for the game of basketball and just keep getting better.
TOM CREAN: See, that’s important because, first off, when you talk about his mother, we knew we’ve always tried to do this. We try to recruit certain characteristics. You try to recruit year round winners, but when you can recruit a family more than just a player, you know you have a real opportunity to have some great things, and that’s exactly what you get with Noah and his mom Renell. They are as close as you can be, and the respect level is so high, and even though she didn’t get to see him every night in person, knowing that we had somebody that was raised by her has been phenomenal.
And again, you don’t get this passion and drive without a lot of people in your life along the way on the coaching side of it, which he’s had, going all the way back, like I said, to the fifth grade. His AAU coach Vin Pastore did a tremendous job with him and had an interest in him long before it was really clear that he was going to be a great player.
Certainly his coach at New Ham, Pete Hutchins, did a phenomenal job with him in our estimation, and that’s what you get because you want that. And as happy as we are for him and as much as you’d like to spend more time with him because he’s such a good person and he’s got such a good work ethic and he’s grown so much here, the bottom line is he’s had a dream, and Indiana is in a place he chose Indiana to be the place to help him get to that dream. I think the pace that he worked at and the pace that he played at and the pace that he developed at speaks a lot about everybody here at Indiana but it speaks a lot about what he’s capable of and it’s speaks a lot about his teammates.
He’s been a phenomenal teammate here. I think he’s built some lasting I’d say some lasting lifelong relationships here potentially with these guys, especially with the guys in his class.
But you can get your dreams accomplished here, and that’s a big thing. I mean, he’s going to stay in this line of lottery picks that we’ve had now over the last based on the projections, which
But bottom line is this program was able to help get that process sped up. We’re proud of him. He’s got an unlimited future because of his potential, because of his character, because of his work ethic, the talent is there, the weight and the strength that he’s put on in a short period of time. Think about it: Five weeks or go, give or take, he was the leading three point shooter in the league. The way he’s developed his shooting, the way he’s developed his defensive abilities, to be able to guard numerous people, to get in switch situations, to be able to guard guards. His rebounding speaks for itself; freshman of the year in the league, leading rebounder in the league, third leading offensive rebounder, first leading defensive rebounder, his shooting percentages, his free throw percentages. We mentioned the three point percentage. All those things are really, really strong.
Proud that he chose us to come in here and help realize his potential, and now it’s going to be fun to watch him continue to grow, develop and let the next coach at the next level and that coaching staff take the next step with his potential, all remembering that he’s basically 18 and a half years of age and could easily be a senior in high school.
We’re proud of him, and he has cemented himself in here in the Hoosier tradition because he’s come in here and he’s done a fantastic job. He’s touched a lot of lives in a short period of time, and he is always going to have a home here, there’s no doubt about that.
Q. Noah, how difficult a decision was this? Who did you talk to or what factored into it?
NOAH VONLEH: It was a pretty difficult decision, but ever since I was a little kid I always had a dream of playing in the NBA, so I said, why not. Why not go for it? I went home, I talked to my mom. She’s like, if that’s what you want to do we sat down and talked for a while, and she’s like, if that’s what you want to do, it’s always been a dream of yours, why not go for it. So I just stuck with my heart and went with it. I talked to a few other people. I talked to my AAU coach, Vin Pastore. I talked to Coach Crean. I talked to Scott Hazelton and a few other people, and I thought that was the best decision.
TOM CREAN: And what we did during spring break time was we did research like we’ve done for others and went straight to the decision makers, not the opinion givers, which is so easily sometimes to get caught up in that and get caught up in what you read or what somebody is projecting him to be. The projections were never the question and the projections have come back from the NBA at an extremely high level. They just came back today. It was never about his projections or where he might be drafted. It was about what do they see, what could his contributions be, and there’s no question that from the decision makers they see all that we see. They see the development. They see a young man, and when they get to know his work ethic and his desire to be great and what kind of person he is, he’s going to have the same attachment to his coach he had here and the same thing with his teammates. He’s got a chance because of his abilities and his skill levels and his desire to get better at the things he’s got to get better at. He’ll flourish, and I think the next level sees that. I don’t think there’ll be any doubt that’ll happen.
Q. What did you hear? What did you find out that told you now this year was the time to go?
NOAH VONLEH: Like Coach Crean said, we got the information from the teams and we got the feedback from what they said, and I just felt like I’d be ready to go, and it’s always been a dream of mine to play in the NBA. The chance was there, and I just went with it.
Q. Is that based upon some confidence on where you might be drafted? Is that a pretty decent consideration?
NOAH VONLEH: I heard I’ll be somewhere in the lottery, but that’s unknown. I’ve got to go into workouts and showcase my skills and hopefully end up where I want to be.
Q. Do you become a facilitator in terms of you give your suggestion do you stay or go, or do you just provide information?
TOM CREAN: No, no, you can’t have a truth based relationship if you don’t tell him the truth and you don’t tell him what you see. But again, you work very hard to not have people get caught up in the opinion giving because everybody has got one. I mean, it’s the way that it is, and all you have to do is pick up a dot com or see some scouting analyst, and what I try to get across to these guys is the people that are making the decisions aren’t talking to those people because they’re not going to be quoted, and they’re not talking the unnamed sources are usually not going to be the GMs or the directors of scouting and things like that. You have to have an ability to get to those people, and I think we do and we have, and I think there’s a respect level for this program that the way they get better so they can project them.
I think that was certainly the case with Victor last year and with Cody. But the bottom line is the projections are high no matter who’s looking at them. It was really based on what will he go and contribute, because he needs to play. He absolutely needs to play.
The bottom line is this: I mean, you’ve got every country represented here. You’ve got the third largest alumni base. People come here to realize their dreams. They come here to build on their goals, and where everybody has something in common, nobody comes here nobody goes to a university like Indiana just to get by, and you know what, I really don’t want to do anything. I guess occasionally somebody might, but they figure it out a couple years later when their parents can’t pay for them any longer. Noah is realizing his dreams one year in.
Think about what he said now. Last year we had Victor graduating on his 21st birthday, graduating in three years. Cody left, he would have graduated in December this year, so he would have graduated in two and a half years, and this young guy who was in college a year earlier than most everybody else that he’s gone to school with during his life is going to be 43 percent of the way there, okay, and the summer it would have been even that much higher, and I know that’s important to his mother and to him, and we’ve got to keep it important to him to get that someday.
But here’s the point: He did a phenomenal job. Grade point, class choices, the way he’s handled his tutoring, the mentoring, everything that goes on there, what he’s done in his classes. It’s phenomenal. He’s on a great track.
Facilitating is pretty simple, and they don’t ever stop being you don’t ever stop telling them the truth. It doesn’t matter who it is. Dwyane Wade was here almost two years ago; you don’t ever stop telling them the truth. Maybe they didn’t even play here. You always tell them the truth, but you always support them in every way, and I think that’s exactly what we have, and the truth is that he’s got tremendous potential to go and do what he wants to do, no question about it.
Q. Coach Crean talked about obviously the things he saw this season. What do you feel like you have proved and what do you feel like you need to improve on as you go through this process?
NOAH VONLEH: I think I proved that I’ve got a pretty good skill set. I can step out, shoot threes. My post game has gotten a lot better, still a work in progress. I can still improve on it. I can still improve on a lot of things in my shot, getting my release quicker, being able to push the dribble out and do different things like that, just to make myself an overall better player.
Q. What’s the biggest memory you’ll take away from here?
NOAH VONLEH: I’m going to miss being in the gym with the team, guys like Troy, Stan, Yogi, Hanner, always being in the gym with those guys, just getting better working on different things to help our team be better. I’m going to miss that a lot. I’m going to miss playing in Assembly Hall in front of all those fans, just being coached by Coach Crean. He pushed me hard every day, and I’m going to miss being in the weight room with Coach Jackson and things like that.
Q. At what point do you feel like you realized this was something that could happen this fast?
NOAH VONLEH: I really started to realize it towards the end of the season. A lot of people were like, he could possibly leave after this year, but I tried not to pay too much attention to that, and then when the season was over, I talked to a few people and saw where they could see me going, and I thought it was the right time to go.
Q. What’s next? Obviously finishing up the semester, but from the draft side, what’s next for you and how much is Indiana involved?
NOAH VONLEH: I’ve been working out a lot this week …
TOM CREAN: He’s trying to let his foot heal up a little bit and get that recovery in.
NOAH VONLEH: Yeah, I’ve been getting treatment trying to get my foot right. It’s feeling a lot better. I’ve been resting it. So I’m back on the court, doing some stationary shooting, some ball handling drills and things like that and keeping my conditioning up with riding the bike and doing the StairMaster and things like that, and I’m going to start doing individuals with the team and just doing some conditioning and stuff when my foot feels 100 percent. I’m going to probably sign an agent in the next couple weeks. That’s about it. One of the managers (Seth Cooper), he’s real good, I like working with him, and work out with some of the guys here like Troy, Stan, Devin, Yogi, Hanner, just keep getting better.
TOM CREAN: The process will be we’ll continue to work hard so he continues to finish what he started academically, leaves nothing on the table there, and he’s got all the benefits of whatever he needs in the sense of continuing to get his foot where it’s 100 percent, and there’s really not much he can do right now in the line of the next level as far as doing things with that process because it’s much too early for that process to totally start with the teams. But he’ll be well prepared for it, and all he’s got to do is keep doing what he’s done since he got here: Keep getting better every day.
He literally came in the first day that he was here and started in the gym, came back to the gym that night and has never stopped. It’s amazing how that works. Victor Oladipo did the same thing. It’s amazing how it works. The guys that come in, Cody Zeller grew to absolutely love doing extra things, was such a talented player and realized that he could get so much better because of that talent, and now he’s on the way to being in the Playoffs.
Our team is working at a great rate right now. We’ve had six individuals, we’ll have our seventh tomorrow. I think we’ve had eight weight workouts, and we’re well underway in our off season program. The spirits are excellent. The work ethic is excellent. And now Noah gets to participate in that as we go and get ready for his next step, too, just like the team is.
Q. Tom, obviously with Noah’s departure, how concerned are you about the gap that you have in your team?
TOM CREAN: Not concerned at all, not concerned one bit. You’re always going to miss Noah because he’s such a just like you work at your job to be the best you can be, that’s exactly what we’re doing here. There’s a lot of things that go on that you’re building towards and that you’re working at in recruiting. It’s not always public, and that’s the way that it is. But we have great confidence in what we have great confidence in the guys that are here. We’ll miss our seniors. We’ll miss him. I mean, come on.
But you know what, this is a place where dreams can be fulfilled, and I know that sounds kind of trite, but it’s true, and that’s exactly what we’re doing, and anybody that would look at it any differently is selfish, and certainly from a selfish standpoint, we’d love to have him back. But selfish is not how you get to this point. Being truthful, helping him get better and being there every step of the way with him is how you get to this point, and that’s what we’re going to continue to do in recruiting. We’re excited about the guys that are coming in, and we’re excited about the prospects of what could potentially happen for us in recruiting and absolutely love the way the guys are working here. There’s no long faces anywhere, and that’s no offense to anybody. There’s no long faces. We’re good. We’re working at a very good rate.
FastScripts by ASAP Sports