Inside IU basketball with Tom Crean was live on Monday evening from the Holiday Inn in Bloomington. Derek Elston, director of player development, was the special guest.
Crean diagnosed and discussed possible solutions for the litany of issues currently plaguing the Hoosiers, spoke for the first time about the incoming recruiting class, and even joked about late night fast food.
Below are news and notes from Crean and Elston (all quotes are from Crean unless noted otherwise):
· “At the end of the day, the thing that you put at the top of the umbrella, and I should say it’s defense, but we’re not making open shots,” Crean said at the top of the show. “I mean, literally, we’re not making open shots. We’ve taken a few challenged ones too, there’s no question about that. Especially the pull-ups. We’re shooting too many pull-ups because we’re not getting enough separation from the defense. Some of it is in our set-ups, some of it is in not waiting for the screen, rushing, those types of things, rather than doing our work early.”
· On maturity, “The maturity issue for us, which we’ve fought all year, has really discombobulated us a bit. When we’re not making shots, you’ve gotta have the mental toughness to come back down and string multiple stops together. You can’t lose your focus and energy because you’re not seeing the ball go through the basket.”
· On why IU has been so inconsistent this season, “Mental toughness in reading the situation and trying to make things happen that aren’t there. Not as much out of selfishness, sometimes out of sloppiness. It’s too much. Thomas (Bryant) and Rob (Johnson) are committing too many turnovers that lead to baskets. They both bring a lot of value to the team, there’s no question about that, and we’ve gotta have them on the court, but there are too many turnovers that are leading to baskets. What happens is, when we’re really aggressive defensively, we’re creating more turnovers. Yesterday, we were a step slow in our rotations defensively. When I really look back at the film from yesterday, it’s just obvious. It’s semi-obvious when you’re watching the game, but it’s really obvious when you’re watching the film. There are certainly things that we can be doing a lot better – there are things that James (Blackmon) could be doing better, especially on the defensive end, with the rebounding. Same thing with Juwan (Morgan).”
· On the rash of injuries, especially with regards to Blackmon and Morgan, “James and Juwan are not close. They’re not close to where they are capable of being healthwise … James doesn’t have the – when he played against Michigan State, I personally thought, with all the injuries that he’s had, with the surgeries and things of that nature, he was as explosive and was separating from the defense as well as at any point in time that we’ve had him (at Indiana) … Then, all of a sudden at Michigan, he’s hurting and we’re back to square one. That part of it is not his fault. That’s a matter of the injury. What he’s gotta be able to do is to overcome that and make up for it with separation and running his man into the screen, or setting it up and waiting for the screen, using his shot-fake, things of that nature. Defending and blocking out at a better rate – things he can control while we try to get the athleticism back … I don’t think anybody realizes just how hurt Juwan was. I mean, literally, a referee ran into him in the Rutgers game and he’s never been the same since. Fluke accident? Absolutely. Just like it is when Devonte Green lifts up a 35-pound bar and creates a back spasm in his back and he’s out for a couple days. Then he ended up getting the flu last week, which really affected him. We’ve dealt with all those different things, but at the end of the day, it is what it is. We’re not close to as healthy as we need to be and we need to figure out ways around it. We need to figure out ways to mask it. That’s what’s taking up a lot of our time right now, to figure this out.”
· On the turnover issues, “There is no excuse for that. If I had a clear answer on substitutions, I’d make them abundantly. I get it to a degree, because some of the young guys are trying to make home run plays. That’s not what we need. They’re not trying to make a mistake, they’re just trying to make something happen. That’s when the veterans need to come in and say ‘We’ve gotta get this.’”
· On the team’s lack of basketball IQ over the latest stretch of games, “In all honesty, what really bothers me the most is I think we’ve done a pretty good job over a period of time of really teaching basketball IQ. There’s times it (looks like) we haven’t done it at all. That I take very personally. I take it hard, and that’s why we just come back every day. We practiced some things today that we probably shouldn’t be practicing in the middle of February, but we did, because we’re not doing it very well. It’s like anything else – when you’ve got a team that doesn’t have that natural leadership, the moment you don’t do something for a couple days, it’s like you didn’t do it for a couple of weeks. We’ve gotta keep working through that.”
· On the three signees of the 2017 class;
Al Durham – “Playing well in Georgia, very well. He looks like he’s about 165 pounds but he’s got toughness, he takes charges, he can get to the rim, he’s improving his shooting, he’s got good downhill ability. He’s got a toughness about him. When you first see him and see that smile, he’s so soft-spoken. Then you see him play, and he brings a high level of toughness to the game.”
Clifton Moore – “(He’s) definitely catching the east coast by surprise. Probably even some national people that have seen him. Chuck Martin did a great job on both (Durham & Moore). In the case of Clifton, we were actually seeing another player that we were recruiting, and Chuck comes out and says, ‘I think Clifton is better. I think he does this, I think he does that.’ He ended up, in my opinion, being exactly right. Chuck did a fantastic job, I went in and saw (Clifton), and it was a no-brainer to me … he’s having a fantastic year, he’s 6-foot-11, can make shots, can handle the ball, tremendous coaching, and just keeps getting better and better.”
Justin Smith – “I have a friend of mine that’s an NFL scout that saw him play the other day, and he described (Smith) as an NFL scout would describe a prospect. I was kind of pumped. Because it wasn’t about his jump shot or things like that – he had 26 points – but it was about his toughness, it was about his versatility, it was about his quickness, the way he exploded, those kinds of things. Which is exactly what we need.”
· On potentially adding another recruit, Crean mentioned that Hartman may not seek a medical redshirt, “So we’re definitely active, continuing our recruiting right now, and Collin could easily make the decision that he doesn’t want to play anymore. He’ll have his masters after this summer. we have to be prepared for a lot of different things, and that’s only doing good business. But those three (recruits we have signed), we really feel good about.”
The best exchange of the night came when Crean turned a Don Fischer live read for Subway into a conversation about late night fast food. Here is the full transcript:
Fischer – You can choose any one of six delicious six-inch subs and Subway will serve it up in a made just for you meal, all for just $6, every day. Subway, eat fresh.
Crean – They need to stay open later. I’ve tried to go there on a few late nights, like last night. And to no avail.
Fischer: Do you think we could extend their hours, somehow?
Crean: Not if I’m the only one going in after dark.
Fischer: (chuckling) Well, of course, you can always come down here to the Holiday Inn Burger Theory Restaurant and have some great burgers…
Crean: They’re probably not open late. Let’s go to Taco Bell.
· On how Indiana needs to work off Josh Newkirk, especially on the break, “There are numerous things that I think we’ve gotta attempt to do to get better, to make things easier. But one thing is we’ve got to get on the break better. I mean we’ve gotta get out way better. And not just on misses. And not just on turnovers. But we’ve gotta get out (on the break). And we’ve gotta find ways to get (Newkirk) the ball where there is less traffic. Because the one thing – he’s not putting nearly enough pressure on the rim on the break. Because, frankly, we’re not exerting enough energy with some of our wings on running the court. And we’ve been addressing that. We’re running to catch the ball rather than running to get a layup. There’s a huge difference between running to catch the ball on the wing and running to get a layup. It’s a whole different level of exertion that you use … that hurts our ability to get to the basket on the break. We’ve gotta either move some of those guys around that are on the wings, or we’ve gotta find a way to get (Newkirk) the ball in transition, not necessarily just when he’s coming down the court. We need him to put pressure on the rim, to be able to break down and get his shoulders – because he’s very, very strong. We’re still dealing with him on a daily basis trying to recover from the microfracture surgery a year ago. He plays very hard, he plays very well, but we have to keep an eye on his practices because he does get sore. So (we make sure) that he’s ready for the games. That’s really, really important. But he’s shooting the ball with much more confidence. Probably didn’t look for (his shot) enough yesterday.”
· On the strengths and weaknesses of playing De’Ron Davis and Bryant together, “It comes down to matchups and what that other four man is like. Thomas is certainly getting better there, in being able to guard those people. But it also comes down to ball-screen defense, in all honesty. Yesterday, Thomas’ ball-screen defense was not close to up to par. De’Ron is still learning how to defend quicker people, how to be up in the – we had to change coverages yesterday because we were up too high. We were letting the ball out of the trap, and (Derrick) Walton was making too many quick passes … You can’t put two men on the ball and not make the ball get picked up. That’s what was happening a little bit yesterday because we weren’t aggressive with our hands enough. That’s one area where De’Ron struggles a little bit. He’s really made a lot of strides and he’s grown, but we’ve gotta figure out – there’s no question that has to happen better, because Thomas can step away from the basket in a good way and De’Ron is really hard to guard down there. When they decided to guard De’Ron with one guy, he got whatever he wanted.”
· On the possibility of shaking things up as a result of the current skid, “We’re going to be very matter of fact, but I’m going to coach positive. There’s demanding, and sometimes demanding can seem negative. If there’s anyone that’s going to bring negative energy to the court, it’s going to be me. It’s not going to be anybody else. Because that’s my job. We don’t need it from other people. We need it from me. We need the rest of everybody else to be demanding and to hold people accountable. They’re not trying to miss shots. It’s not like they’re trying to miss. We’ve gotta do a better job of continuing to shoot, to help them build their confidence back up with that, and then find different ways to get them open easier. Especially when we’re navigating the injuries. Because, frankly, we are … The guys have gotta be responsible for what they can control. Their setups, moving without the ball, the screening – the partnership of screening that comes in – I’ve gotta do more to maybe be a little bit more creative to find ways that they can get open. And we’ve gotta use the shot-fake more.”
· Elston, when asked by Fischer about his job, said he takes on many roles. On Friday’s, Elston said he hosts what he calls ‘Friday Night Lights,’ where he helps players with their schoolwork. Elston also helps set the players up with community service opportunities.
· Elston said many of his mornings are spent helping with edits in the film room. From 11 am to 1 pm, Elston makes sure players are doing their necessary treatments and talks to ‘Timmy G’ (Elston’s nickname for head athletic trainer Tim Garl).
· Elston, on keeping players’ spirits up, “I know things aren’t going the right way … it’s easy to lose a game and put your head down and not want to be seen and not want to talk to anybody and go through practice. That’s easy. The hard part is cheering everybody up. Life goes on. The game, we’re rolling the balls up the next day. You can’t dwell on the past. We’ve got Minnesota coming up, let’s go in there, let’s work on our games, let’s make some shots, let’s get our camaraderie back, and let’s go back out there and win.”
· Elston, on how the times have changed, “Trust me guys, things have changed since my four years here. Already – apps and games and all this stuff they’ve got going on on their phones. The games changed. To be able to keep up with the music, oh my God, the music is just – I thought I’d never say that. But the stuff they listen to, it’s all changed. So to be down there every day and just ask ‘What’s new?’ ‘What’s Cool?’ ‘What do you guys like?’ One of the things I do, I grab gear. You’d be surprised, guys won’t put things on because it doesn’t look cool. I have a hand in that. It’s fun. It’s just fun to see what these guys like.”
Filed to: Tom Crean