Tom Crean, Tim Buckley, Steve McClain, Kenny Johnson and Calbert Cheaney met with the media on Thursday afternoon to discuss Indiana’s six signees for the 2013 recruiting class.
Watch and listen to the lengthy press conference in the embedded media player below:
Transcript after the jump.
“Thank you everyone for coming. I know it’s been a long while to get to this point, but we’re very, very excited about this recruiting class for many reasons. A couple of the ones that really stand out, sometimes the metrics of the position change, but the criteria really doesn’t, and the criteria that you want to have in your class above all else is that they win. Are they good people? Do they have really strong character? Are their upsides athletically and intelligence-wise, but do they win? Are they year-round winners? Well, these six are. There is no question that they are. They are very well coached, and some we’ve had a chance to follow longer than others, but the bottom line is that they know how to be coached, they are being coached and they receive coaching; they absorb it, which is really important.
“We’ll go through the class in the order that they committed. Going back to the first two, it was almost like having twins. They committed within about 20 minutes of each other after a game a couple of years ago.
“Devin Davis really has tremendous athleticism and plays with great energy. It’s fun to watch him do the things that he’s capable of doing and has stayed injury-free. He can get to the basket, can go coast-to-coast with the ball, can score on both sides of the rim and can be a pretty good shooter. We think he can be an outstanding defender and just epitomizes versatility. There’s a multi-dimensional ability that he possesses at both ends of the floor.
“Collin Hartman brings something that we are really going to need, based on who we’re losing in this class of seniors, and that is outside shooting ability. The first thing that grabs you about Collin is his ability to make outside shots. The more you watch him, and we were able to see this from his ninth grade season on, is that he has a tremendous court sense. He can really pass the ball, he can read situations and he can find cutters. He is a very, very intelligent player. As he remains injury free, his talents continue to flourish.
“We feel like in the state of Indiana right there, when they committed, we ended up with two of the best guys in this state for what we want to do, for how we want to play and for how we want to run the program here. I think those guys fit in extremely well with that. Collin has got a chance to spread the defense right away for us when he gets here, and the outside shooting will be important, along with his ability to pass the ball. He’s got some similarities to Will [Sheehey]. They both have different strengths – Collin comes in as a more polished shooter, where Will was maybe just a little bit better without the ball. But both of them have that ability to make everybody else better not only with their offense, but their ability to cut, move and pass.
“When you really want to draw up somebody that fits what you want to do at a high level on the inside, you really don’t have to look much further than Cody [Zeller], and that’s somebody we get a chance to see everyday. The comparisons I would give Luke Fischer to Cody is that their approach is very similar, their demeanor, their ability to figure things out and not get rattled. I would at the same age, there is a somewhat similar skill set, but until we coach Luke day after day, we won’t know exactly where that stands. Those are my comparisons with Cody because they relatively play the same type of position.
“Luke is a basketball player, a 7-foot basketball player. He can play with his back to the basket. He can play facing up. He is a winner. He hasn’t lost since his sophomore year and he’s won in the summertime. We’re excited about him, and right now on his team he is doing a great job of being the focal point. It is hard to be the focal point of the other teams’ defense, and at the same time have to be responsible to help everybody else. I think that’s got some of Cody similarities as well, because obviously you can go to Cody and you can play through Cody. Luke is learning to do that, and I love when I hear he is trying to pattern those things after Cody. I think any young player would be trying some of the things that Cody does, especially with his ability to play end-to-end and run the floor, pass the ball, all of those types of things. Luke brings that and is extremely well coached, judging by the fact that they won a state championship last year.
“Stanford Robinson is somebody that we paid attention to in the past, and shortly after we hired assistant coach Kenny [Johnson], it became a priority because we become a place where he could see himself. We always saw Victor [Oladipo] in him, but then it became different. I say Victor in the sense of his character, his charisma, a happy person who tries to make other people better. Those things really, really matter before you ever get to the basketball. You’ve got to have a certain amount of talent, or we really can’t be in the consideration stage; but once that talent is there, you see all of those other intangibles and qualifications that really separate people. Stan has that.
“This summer he was fantastic in the sense of the way he played with both hands, his ability to go end-to-end, rim-to-rim. His 3-point shooting continues to improve. He did a great job at Paul VI, and now he’s doing a very good job at Findlay Prep inside some of the best competition that you’re going to face in the country. He passes the ball well. He’s very, very hungry to be a great player, very introspective, and always wanting to improve. We’re excited about the upside of him and his ability to have that versatility on both ends and to play in a fast-paced game.
“As far as Troy Williams, when we found out we had the opportunity to recruit him and that there was a small window to get in, Kenny [Johnson] and our staff did a fantastic job of really pinpointing what guys would really fit us. That window kept getting bigger and we kept staying after it. Troy was a guy that we were already fans of, and once we got the opportunity to recruit him and see how he would fit, we couldn’t have drawn it up much better. He is a cross between Will [Sheehey] and Victor [Oladipo]. I’m using comparisons to try to get a feel for where these guys are at. When you combine the height, when you combine the athleticism, the incredible leaping ability, the explosiveness, the ability to run end-to-end. I think we’re going to be great for Troy. I think we’re going to help him get much better in the half-court, in the ball screens and become a more confident shooter; but what he brings to this table when it comes to energy, edge, movement up and down the floor, ability to offensive rebound with his size, those are crucial things.
“In order to be a great basketball team, and we are harping on it daily in here, you’ve got to have great wing rebounding, guard rebounding. Guard rebounds on the defensive end lead to baskets. Offensive rebounding for your wings give you a real edge, and we think Troy will bring that. He’s another guy that has had really good success in high school and wants to challenge himself against the best in the country. So whether it be his Uncle Boo Williams, his aunt Terri Williams-Flournoy, who coaches at Auburn, his grandmother, his mother, or now Steve Smith, he has been well coached and he is going to be well prepared coming in here and it’s exciting. He’s a `stat sheet stuffer’ without even really understanding just yet how to do all of that, and it’s his ability to read defenses and play in the half court improving, he’ll be tremendous.
“Noah is a dream recruit in this sense: to have somebody who is that humble, that grounded and that talented at that young of an age and have opportunity to not only recruit him but to also sign him, you can’t expect that. You can’t go into a recruiting time period and think that you’re going to be able to get somebody like that. The stars were aligned for us, and again this staff did a great job. Kenny spearheaded that, and the staff did a great job of getting to know him. He’s exactly the kind of player you want to have in the program, because the upside is just enormous. We saw that through the summer. As talented and as skilled as he is, the upside is hard to imagine. He’s got incredible length. I think he’s 6′-8″ with a 7′-4.5” wingspan. Again, it just fits with what we are trying to do with that length and versatility in our program right now to have a guy like that.
“He’s incredibly unselfish. They can give him the ball at the top of the key in a 1-4, 1-2-2 type situation, and he just delivers the ball. He’s like Cody [Zeller] in the sense that he doesn’t look for his offense enough. He’s another one of those young guys that we’ve got here and we think is untapped, in the sense that he has no idea how good he can be. It’s our job and their teammates jobs to pull that out of them.
“Noah, again, the humbleness, the desire to get better, the desire to learn. When you use the term `sponge’, which I don’t use the term lightly in terms of learning, when I call him a `sponge’ he really is. He has high goals, he’s very confident, yet there’s not an entitlement, there’s not an enablement. He’s not wired to think it’s supposed to happen overnight. He knows it’s a process, and we’re fortunate to have him.
“I brought this staff up here because they deserve it, and I try to give them credit. They are all big-time people. Calbert [Cheaney], although he can’t go off campus, is as invaluable on-campus as he is off. Marni Mooney and Je’Ney Jackson are our x-factors in the program and are x-factors in recruiting. We don’t have a recruiting meal that they wouldn’t be at. We don’t have an unofficial visit or a two-day visit where they don’t spend ample and quality time, because that’s when the program sells itself. It really sells itself when they can see the environment, when they can see us play, when they can see the crowd, when they can see Hoosier Hysteria. It helps sell it when they can see us practice and can see the player development that is going on, but when they get on this campus and they spend time with the staff and then they get around these players and they see the humbleness, the togetherness, and the humility that our team is trying to embrace. That is what I think comes across and our coaching staff leads the way on that. They make the job so much easier for me, for the players, for the university because of the work that they do. It’s top-to-bottom.
“Someone might be the point person for recruiting. You’ve got to have the one who spearheads it and puts it all together, but when it comes down to how we separate the recruiting, it’s everybody. I never worked in an environment where it was my guy, or this person’s guy. I would never coach in that environment because that’s not how we coach them when they’re here. This is a staff that’s out there to sell something that is real, and that’s a family atmosphere.”
On if being ranked No. 1 helped open up recruiting nationally:
“No question that it did. I can even go back to the Kentucky game last year. That had huge value nationally for us. The Ohio State game, going into the NCAA tournament, all of those things helped. There’s no question that the Kentucky game here in December got people’s attention, and fortunately we were able to hold that attention. There’s no question that the projections in the summer and being No. 1 played into it.
“People want to go where they will get a change to gain notoriety and win, but they really want to go where there’s going to be tradition. When they get here and see this, they see tradition. They see that it is real, and that is huge. These coaches here, they’re great recruiters because they’re great coaches. It’s one thing to be able to talk on the phone to a guy, text and e-mail, but if those kids get in here, and they watch 15-20 minutes of practice and they don’t see it, they’re perceptive and you’re going to lose them. It’s important for them to see that coaches really are developing players, and that’s that kind of staff we have.”
If the Big Ten expansion helps with Indiana’s national recruiting east coast reach:
“I don’t think the expansion had anything to do with it. It might down the road and in the future. We’ve always appreciated the east, me coming from the BIG EAST at Marquette, Steve [McClain] has been a national program guy where he’s coached. Tim [Buckley] has done a majority of what he’s done in the Midwest, but he’s respected nationally, no doubt about it, and Kenny [Johnson] with his knowledge and his base, people believe in him. These young athletes see it. We have always said from day one of the job, we’re starting inside out, and we’ve never waivered.
“Where would this program be without Jordan Hulls and Derek Elston? Especially getting Jordan to stay close to home. That being said, it’s not necessarily where you go, but it’s about who fits. We went to Florida to get Will [Sheehey], Maryland to get Victor [Oladipo], and those two fit extremely well. Christian [Watford] from Birmingham, Maurice Creek from Maryland, I mean, they all fit. It’s not so much as your national reach as it is about who fits your program.
On how Indiana is viewed nationally:
Crean: “I will let these guys answer as well because they are in the trenches with it too. My opinion would be that we have never felt it like this. We felt it because we were selling not only Indiana, but the state of Indiana and part of the Big Ten, but as a national program, a five-time national championship winner with eight Final Fours. And we were on television all the time, but I’m not sure it was being sold that way.
“On thing this program has had to do is earn its way back on everything. It had to earn its way back on CBS. ESPN stuck with us through certain periods of time but this is going to be our first GameDay since we have been here. The opportunities come because you win. You never apologize for what you earn. I think this program has earned the right to really be able to go anywhere because geography-wise is not nearly as important as `are they going to come here and get a great education, fit into the program, get better?’… all those things that they want. Now it is just more apparent, nationally, that that can and will happen.
Buckley: “I would say that now everybody is able to see what our product is, whereas before we would have to describe it. We had to describe what it was going to look like. I think another thing that is a key component, especially where Coach Crena is concerned, is that everybody graduates that comes through the program. Now more and more of them are graduating early and that’s important to families. But then also the second contract guys in the NBA. Some guys just want to get to the NBA, and if that’s the case, that doesn’t mean you are going to last. His guys have lasted in the NBA and they have made it when maybe they were looked at as underdogs. The player-development is obviously there, and now it is showing with our Indiana guys as well.”
On the development that Will Sheehey and Victor Oladipo have made helps see the player development at Indiana:
Crean: “I will answer part of this and then hand it over to Steve.
“I would say this – it helps a great deal. Some of the people that rank players for a living are some of my closest friends. I read it non-stop, but we don’t make our decisions on it. You just can’t. It is part of the tools that are available, so to speak. When we signed Dwyane Wade at Marquette, Tim Buckley and I, he was in one Top 100 list by the end of the year, two at the most, and was seventh in the state for Mr. Basketball. So you always go back to that.
“Beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder. And you recruit that way. Sometimes it is hard for your fanbase to see it that way, but you have to stay true to that. And we do. But the other thing we did this year, (graduate manager) Seth Cooper did a great study. He went back through the last 12 years and he found out that 28 percent of the consensus Top 100 players had played in at least one NBA game.
“So you start selling that the rankings and the Top 100 mean absolutely nothing when it comes to the next level. They may track you earlier but it doesn’t have anything to do with where you get picked or who you play for.
“I truly believe that Victor and Will are going to play in the NBA for a long time, and they were in the 130s and 140 (in the rankings). You look at it and what we were able to do with the track record … some of the guys we had at Marquette – six of those nine – played in the NBA. So we are going to help you develop. Once you get here, it is a clean slate no matter what. The ranking doesn’t help you win a game or lose a game. It doesn’t carry you through the next practice, but sometimes it is a burden. But getting better daily and having a plan to get better daily and absorbing what it means to get better daily is what we are trying to do at a high level.
McClain: “I think Tim said it. That is the other part that, as we recruit, that when guys walk in and see Will and Vic and see the development. We can sell it, but people and parents have to see it. It is real. It isn’t something that is made up, it is right there for them to see. It’s not just those two.
“We can’t talk about names, but to walk in with a player on an unofficial visit on a Friday night, sit in the conference room, hear a ball bouncing, walk out with the kid at 10:00 p.m. on a Friday night and Cody Zeller is in Cook Hall working on his game. That is real. It was setup or make-believe, it was a young guy watching one of the best players in the country working on his game on a Friday night. That is what kids and parents are seeing.”
On whether the recruiting landscape has become more challenging in recent years with realignment, etc.:
Crean: No, it’s not anymore challenging. We didn’t start at Indiana trying to finish in ninth place. We didn’t recruit to be in ninth, 10th or 11th place. You recruit to get to a point where you can win your league. A lot of things have to go right – injuries and all those factors go into it.
“Being short a player or players would be a challenge and we have been down that road here and I have been down that road at Marquette. Not just short players but short at key positions. That’s when it’s hard. That’s when it’s really hard.
“In the sense of trying to recruit, it is what you make of it. Sometimes it can be really hard. You have to have a plan but you have to allow it to be flexible and you have to make adjustments constantly. It’s like coaching in a game – if you wait until after the game to say `I wish I would have done this’ or if you wait until halftime, you are usually going to be behind and have a chance to lose. It’s the same thing in recruiting. You have a gameplan and you try to make it as flexible as possible. There are a lot of things that go on in recruiting and everyone knows that. So you just deal with everything as best you can.
“Personally, I don’t think it’s any harder now. But I also don’t think its any easier just because we are winning, I don’t mean that. We are always dealing with other programs, but I don’t think it’s any harder.”
On what impressed him with the staff already in place when he arrived at Indiana:
Johnson: “There is a culture that has been established here and there is also a standard that is easy to see when you become part of the program. The first thing you want to do is make sure that you have a great understanding, first and foremost, of what Coach Crean sees, and then through two great mentors like Coach McClain and Coach Buckley, and also understanding the work that (academic advisor) Marni Mooney, (strength coach) Je’Ney Jackson and (director of internal and external player development/director of operations) Calbert Cheaney have done and are doing with the guys. Through that, you go through the process of trying to find guys that fit that culture. When you are doing that and have that baseline information, it is pretty easy to see the type of individuals that will fit into the program. Then you have to go out and identify if they have the same interest in the program. When yo meet the family and understand what their value system is, you see the players and understand what their goals are – do they want to be developed? Do they want to work? How much do they value their education? When you have people that have all those common threads, you try to introduce them to the program.
On how Coach Johnson has made the recruiting efforts better at IU:
Crean: “It’s like recruiting a great player that you know is going to be pretty good but you don’t know how good until you get him on campus. I think Kenny is like that and I think everyone would agree with that.
“First off, Kenny fits (with the staff). The only other person that we even considered for this job (when Bennie Seltzer left to be the head coach at Samford) was Calbert Cheaney, and I think everybody knows that. If Calbert would have wanted it, he would have been the guy, there was nobody else that I even had ample conversations with. And that’s not any offense to all the guys that are out there. I wanted someone that was really going to fit with this staff and this program. Kenny has his own ideas, certainly, and his own thoughts, certainly, but he was still relatively new to this business and he didn’t have the scars that come with it. We didn’t need someone coming in here (with those scars) with this team. Kenny has come in here and been hungry and humble and made all of our jobs easier and better because of his personality. And I include his wife and the wives of all of our staff – they are truly all involved when it comes down to it. Whether it is on campus, at meals, at our homes when we have recruits and players over for a dinner – they are all involved. The Johnson family has come in and really blended into this whole Indiana family in a really strong way. It’s just like Steve McClain and his family did three years ago and Tim Buckley and his family did from the beginning and Calbert did two years ago. That is what you want. You don’t have anything if you don’t have staff harmony and staff chemistry. No matter how good your team is, there will be cracks at some point if you don’t have it right with your staff, and we do. It is like anything else, you could lose it, but you want to keep fighting and building for it everyday. So when you have a bunch of people that know what it looks like, it works out and Kenny has done a great job with that.”
On Troy Williams and his development during high school:
Johnson: “I think one of the things that people may not understand about Troy is that he is not only a heck of a competitor, but he has a desire to be coached and get better. He has a great self-awareness as far as what his limitations are and what he needs to elevate his game to the next level. He has actually been on a constant push to try to find that next level. He works tremendously in the summer on skill development and I think that is one of the things that attracted him to our program. In getting to know, what I call `The Separating Factors’, whether it be Coach Crean’s great track record for player development, our strength and conditioning program, the individuals that will work with him during his `off time’ from the program and that really attracted him to the program. As he has progressed, you are seeing his own self-awareness and him attacking his own deficiencies.”
On the potential of Noah Vonleh:
Johnson: “How good he can be is to be seen, I don’t think we have ever put limitations on how high a players ceiling can be.”
On the impressions that players along the East Coast have of Indiana and how they may have changed since he arrived at Indiana:
Johnson: “Not being too far removed from being a high school basketball coach, guys in the eighth, ninth or 10th grade don’t really watch basketball like they used to. If they were an X Box character they would probably have a lot more familiarity to what is going on.
“One of the first things I would do as a high school coach was to ask players `what programs are you interested in around the country?’ They would throw out a slew of 10 names and you can almost guarantee that you saw those 10 names on ESPN in the previous couple weeks. I would tell them to not tell me that you want to be recruited by a program if you have never seen that program play basketball before or what that program is about or can offer besides a name on the jersey. They were familiar with Maurice Creek and Victor Oladipo being here in that region. But other than that, they had not had a chance to dive into the separating factors of the program. Now, they have been introduced to hit.”
On how the guys coming in next year compare to IU players of the past:
Cheaney: “Without a doubt. The six guys that will be here bring a lot of great skills to the game – size, length, skill, athleticism. But more importantly, as coach has already talked about, they are great kids and they have great character. That is what this program is all about.
“One of the great things that I respect about coach Crean is his ability to go beyond basketball. Whether they play at the next level or not, that is the dream of some of these guys. Coach is all about trying to make them better people, whether they play at the next level or not. Or if they become a rocket scientist, a doctor or a lawyer, he just wants them to be the best people they can be when it is all said and done when they graduate.”