IU head coach Tom Crean met with reporters following Friday’s Hoosier Hysteria at Assembly Hall. A complete transcript of Crean’s comments is available below:
“The energy of the crowd was non-stop. It was just fantastic. I know our players and the whole program appreciates that when you come out there and see that. This is the last fun time of the year when they get to come out, there’s no real coaching going on. Not taking anything away from the honorary coaches, but we’d had a hour and forty minute workout before we came out. Maurice, we’re just going to go very, very careful with Maurice. He’s not injured, but he’s also not ready to go every day the way that we need to. We’ve been going pretty hard the last few days and we’ll go twice tomorrow and it’s just kind of where we’re at. We always take the last two hours that we get and we put those in at the end of the week right before we start practice because it’s so hard to go from a forty or sixty minute workout to now all of the sudden, you expect them to go a couple of hours. We’re going to try to be very moderate with him and at the same time, building our team.”
On the crowd’s first impression of Victor Oladipo
“I didn’t have any doubt that they’d fall in love with him quickly. He’s got a tremendous personality. We’re talking about a kid that there’s 380 young men in his school in Hyattsville, Maryland, he was one of ten people picked out of the whole school as a junior to go have lunch at the White House with the President. He’s got some special qualities and I think people will see that in him. I think the same thing with Will and with Guy. Those are three guys that have come in and set a standard for what young guys should look like with the way that they work on their bodies and the way that they should work on their games and certainly with what they’re doing academically. And Victor, I think the crowd got a chance to see some of that.”
On Matt Roth being ready to go
“I think he is. And he’s only been back a week because he had a concussion that he got trying to draw a charge in one of our four-on-four games and he missed two weeks. There’s a huge amount of confidence when he’s on the court and he gets that ball in his hands. He’s got range and I didn’t know Christian (Watford) had that kind of range, but then Christian’s legs left him quick, but Matt, he’s got a feel for it and he knows how to get open and I think he’s going to be a bigger part of what we do. When you sit there and you watch him shoot the ball you realize how much we missed him last year.”
On expectations for Guy-Marc Michel
“I just think improvement. He really wants it. He really, really wants to be good. And I don’t think there’s any doubt he’s going to get a lot better. He’s got a good feel, he’s got the jump hook and we want to continue to develop that. We’ve got to get him tighter in every area of his game with getting the ball below his knee on his crab dribble, sealing with his back side, not his back and continue getting him in shape. This is hard for those guys. We’ve had a very challenging preseason by design and it’s not like we’ve put a lot of offense in and it’s not like you can run any offense in this first one anyways. We expect a lot out of him and he expects a lot out of himself.”
BLOOMINGTON — They came, as they always do, from all over the state, to see 16 college-age basketball players. They found a recovering record-setter, a 95-percent star and a 7-foot-1 giant born closer to Brazil than to Bloomington.
Hoosier Hysteria — we’re going to refrain from calling it Midnight Madness, because as I type the first words in this column it is 11:15 — is so often defined by optimism and hope.
For Matt Roth, Guy-Marc Michel and Maurice Creek, Friday offered one combined stage to prove three individual things.
Much of the focus of IU basketball fans Friday, at least based on the enthusiasm behind the applause he got from the crowd, was on Creek, and his left knee. Creek’s rehabilitation has been a popular topic in the offseason, and coming into this night’s festivities, all appeared on schedule. Tom Crean said afterward that’s where Indiana left it, as well.
“You don’t just pick up from where you left off. He’s still going through a very strenuous rehab,” Crean said afterward. “I just don’t want to rush it too quick for him.”
Creek came down the stairs of the south bleachers, through the students’ section, apparently favoring that left knee, if only slightly. During warm-ups and layup drills, while his teammates spun and moved nimbly with the ball, Creek often chose to shoot spot-up jumpers.
He did not participate in the scrimmage at the end of the night.
“Me coming back from a tough injury is perfect right now. I’m walking, shooting and working out in the gym,” Creek said, describing himself as “about 95 percent.”
“It’s gonna take some time to get to 100, but I feel real good about myself.”
Both coach and player were confident that Creek will be good to go once the season begins in just less than a month.
While Creek worked quietly, Matt Roth was trying to prove himself all over again. The best 3-point shooter in Illinois history came into last season hoping to show off improved athleticism and defense. Instead, he was saddled with a season-ending injury after just two games, and Friday night might have felt like something of a forgotten man.
Apparently, I’m not the only one that still has a bad taste in my mouth from this. Tom Crean says the home loss to Iowa last January is the one loss that continues to make him sick to his stomach. Watch and listen to what Crean has to say about IU’s toughness in this video clip following last week’s Cream and Crimson Survivor Media Challenge, courtesy of Rick Bozich of The Courier-Journal. And when you’re done, raise your hand if you’d be willing to run through a brick wall if Tom Crean asked you to. (Raises hand.)
BLOOMINGTON — Tom Crean has started speaking in past tense. It’s reasoned, measured and cautious, sure, but when Crean preached the rebuilding gospel that has endeared him to IU fans over the past 2 1/2 years Thursday night at the IU Auditorium, he suddenly began referring to so many of the Hoosiers’ obstacles much the same way America is supposed to now refer to the recession.
“Every day it’s been about rebuilding or restoring, however you want to look at it, this great program back to those great heights,” Crean said.
By this point, there’s no need for me to rehash or you to relive what’s gone on since February of 2008. That would be wasted space. But as his team has taken various steps — and often stumbled between them — Crean has offered both rallying cries and sobering, realistic assessments of the Hoosiers trials, in measures almost equal.
Thursday night, he began to speak like a man who knows that, at some important levels, his team has turned a corner.
“People have gotten used to seeing Indiana being down. … Our opponents, they don’t want it to come back,” Crean said. “They like knocking Indiana. They like the 19 Fs and all the drug tests failed. They like that Indiana.”
Perhaps Crean’s point, albeit one made abstractly, is that “that Indiana” is finally becoming a thing of the past.
There’s significant reason for optimism in Bloomington this fall. The non-conference schedule, while respectable, is by no means unbearable, and it’s easy to envision Indiana entering Big Ten play with 10 wins already on its ledger. The roster turnover and inexperience that marked the last two seasons is significantly lessened by the return of all but three players from last year’s team, and both Crean and his charges have talked of a productive offseason in the weight room.