Crean looking for Hoosiers to establish identity

  • 11/04/2013 9:26 am in

Tom Crean is anxious to get his team back on the court. He said it last week before Indiana’s exhibition opener and said it again Sunday night before the Hoosiers’ exhibition against Division II Hillsdale (Mich.) College tonight.

Heading into a 2013-2014 season in which the Hoosiers have only two upperclassmen on scholarship, Crean has been dealt a challenge he hasn’t faced in multiple years: a young team that, he says, has a long way to go.

“We’ve got a ton of upside,” Crean said Sunday night, “But we’ve got a long way to go to get to that upside.”

Despite beating Southern Indiana, 83-68, on Oct. 26, Crean has had his fair share of frustrations through the first few weeks of practice. Trying to unlock athleticism and defensive effort hasn’t been easy, yet he emphasized the need for those two aspects of Indiana’s game to be successful if they want to win.

Faced with that challenge, Crean said he already wants this team to establish an identity. Yes, it’s early, “probably very early” according to Crean, but it’s one of the only ways he thinks the team will improve. That is, if they can lock into it.

“I’ve got to establish, for them, what their roles are right now,” Crean said. “And it’s a little early for that — it’s probably very early for that — but get ourselves a sense of what our expectation level is when it comes to shooting the ball, who’s shooting the ball from where, the ball handling, the level of screening we have to have, the level of rebounding that we have to be at, all of that.

“With a young team, it’s really important that we do that. But I have to put my hands up sometimes with no idea where to go with some of that right now because we really are so young. They’re working hard, but they just have to understand how to compete just a little bit longer.”

Building an identity, Crean hopes, will also help eliminate some of the other major holes he thinks he sees in this team. In practice, players aren’t pursuing the ball to the level he wants. The physicality isn’t there. The offense is creating the defense.

In fact, heading into tonight’s exhibition, he believes turnovers will be the biggest issue. Against Southern Indiana, the Hoosiers turned the ball over 17 times. Compared to last season, Indiana reached that number in only five games.

“Like I told the team, you’re never going to dominate the games on fast-break points, but now you add the fast-break points, you add the hustle points and you get the points off turnovers and now you’ve got a really good chance to be good,” Crean said. “But at the same time, we’re trying to be fast. We’re trying to be very, very up-tempo, so there are certain turnovers that are going to come with that.

“But it can’t come from trying to do things that aren’t there. It can’t come from trying to make plays that can’t be made. And we’ve got to learn and understand the difference.”

Even though the Hoosiers lost 77 percent of their 3-point production from year ago, that doesn’t mean Crean wants his players creating their own shot. In fact, as Crean tries to clean bad habits from the roster, selfish play is the last thing he wants to see.

“That’s not what our team does,” senior Will Sheehey said. “No one is going to try to create their own shot. If it’s a shot-clock situation or something, Yogi’s going to be the guy with the ball at the end of that. So I really don’t think either of us are really going to be doing any isos or creating our own shots because that’s not how our team plays.”

As Crean tries to build this team, one in which they challenge shots better, use their athleticism to their advantage, show more accountability and leadership, limit turnovers and yet continue to play at a furious pace, Hillsdale presents the perfect challenge at the moment.

The Chargers are coming off an 85-84 overtime loss to Toledo on Sunday in which they attempted 30 3-pointers and made 13 of them. Against Valparaiso, they attempted 25 3-point shots. Valparaiso only beat Hillsdale by single digits. Toledo needed a buzzer-beater to sink the Chargers.

Tonight’s exhibition won’t be easy, Crean said. But then again, he wouldn’t want it any other way.

“There’s certain things we’re going to want to take away in the game, and how we do that is going to say a lot about our improvement level because that’s something they haven’t had to do,” Crean said. “How we play certain screens, how we play certain plays, how we play certain players, and that’s something they’re going to have to be very good at doing down the line.

“The old, corny term of ‘play the right way’ is really important right now, too. And our ‘play the right way’ may be a little bit different than some others because we want to play so fast, but we’ve got to take care of the ball and make the right decisions.”

Other notes:

· Crean said that both Devin Davis (undisclosed) and Stanford Robinson (knee) have been cleared to play in tonight’s exhibition. Last week was the first this preseason that each player fully participated in practice.

· In Sunday’s game against Toledo, Hillsdale forward Tim Dezelski went 8-of-9 from beyond the arc and led all scorers with 29 points. The 6-foot-6 senior was the Chargers’ leading scorer last season, as well, and averaged 16 points per game.

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  • HannerTime Hoosier

    CTC is Picasso sculpting this raw team into a juggernaut! They will become a masterpiece this year.

  • VanPastorMan

    I’d like to see Vonleh with his height and mass get the ball down low, and then be able to pass out of double teams to waiting shooters who can stroke it. This worked well when we had Jeffries.


    This is one of those games where I’ll be watching just as closely, or even more closely, what goes on away from the ball and who does what successfully with who than what is going on with where the ball is. Coach Crean often makes a very important, and often overlooked, point when he talks about players working as hard away from the ball as they do with or close by the ball.

  • CreamandCrimson

    I’m of the opinion that having an identity is fairly important. So, I’ll ask the group…what do you guys think this team’s identity should be? We don’t have a ton of information but based on what we have seen and read, what should this team’s identity be?

  • Ole Man

    As much as I’d like to believe you, I think the team is a year away.
    Not to say they won’t have some outstanding moments this year, but I think “the gold must be smelted in the fire of competition”, both to remove “impurities” and to refine its quality. Then CTC will “pour” it into the mold he desires the team to become.

  • Gregory Spera

    I am of the opinion, that any good team, especially one with the length and athleticism of this one, establishes it’s identity on the defensive end.

  • Gregory Spera

    “I have to put my hands up sometimes with no idea where to go…”
    Never want to hear THAT from your coach.

  • banarish

    It is what it is. Coach Crean is always reading, studying, learning… always looking to better himself. He’ll figure it out. That he can admit his own concerns is a sign of confidence, IMO. I’m much more leery of the coach who seems to know everything & have all the answers all the time – those guys never seem to grow or improve.

  • TomJameson

    I really believe this team will have a completely different look between the beginning and end of the season. Ole Man is right, next year’s team is going to be great, but I also think we’ll see some pretty good play come March.

  • Aiken_Hoosier

    I would be pleasantly surprised if this team’s identity is “scrappy.” We’ve got a ton of talent, but it’s raw. I don’t think this team is ever going to out-execute others in half-court sets or in disciplined play in general.

    But, you add this level of talent to a team that gets after it on the defensive end, dives for loose balls, etc. and you can make up for some of the other areas where you aren’t “polished.”

    I think being an aggressive, feisty team is the way this team wins 20 ballgames and makes the tournament.

    If they don’t play that way, it could be a long season….

  • Hoosier Hall

    Have to agree here. Defense is about 30% talent and 70% hard work and I think we can make a difference on the defensive end this season. IMO, there is nothing better than seeing an opponents ball stuffed down their throat or swatted into the 10th row! Oladipo did it plenty of times and Troy is going to have several this season.

  • IUfanPurduePhD

    Your mixed analogy of Picasso as sculptor might actually apply here; people didn’t “get” his paintings at first, but over time, items that had once appeared baffling began to coalesce (although I think we’ll need to add RJ and JBJ before we can get to “masterpiece” levels).

  • TomJameson

    I think 3 things. Defense, rebounding, and a running team.

  • Guest

    Picasso did actually sculpt, but he was Spanish and “juggernaut” is German. 😉

  • banarish

    Picasso did actually sculpt, but he was Spanish and “juggernaut” is Sanskrit. 😉 (Glad I looked it up; I thought it was German.)

  • Ole Man



    Well put and great point !


    Yep. That was exactly the first 3 things that came to my mind. Become accomplished at those things and it means you have mastered, at least somewhat, several other smaller, but still important, parts of the game and the offense will effectively flow.


    It was wasn’t it ? Look at Ole Man getting all philosophical on us, wth. Up vote given. Guess it was also inspiring as well cause I soon as I read that metaphor, ” baptism under fire ” came to mind and I probably couldn’t think of that all by myself, or not that fast anyway, or maybe I can, hell who knows. I gotta start remembering that everything my ex-wife said about me isn’t true. lol

  • TomJameson

    Exactly what I meant to say! lol Well put.

  • Ole Man

    LOL. Hard enough to listen to a bad woman when she’s still with ya. It’s time to stop listening once they’re gone. If she’s out of your life, put her our of your head. (Said by the man who had to learn this the hard way.)

  • unclekerfuffle

    Yeah, Mike, I know what you mean. I have never understood how one segment of the population (ex-wifes) could be so wrong so many times about so many things in this world–LOL


    I don’t know but I would be willing to say that if there is any other way than the hard way you probably have had the same problem too many times. LOL